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John Orr 1968

The second semester of my freshman year, I pledged the Phi Delta Tau fraternity. That one was an easy decision. A very classy group of fraternity brothers! In addition, most of the brothers were from other states than Iowa. That offered me a broader feel. Did we get in trouble at the Phi Delt house (located next to Gaass Hall)? I guess we did…As social chairman my senior year, I thought we needed a beach party in the house in January. So, we borrowed a pickup from the college, went out and filled it with sand from a nearby river and filled the living room of the fraternity house with sand. Structural engineering was not my field. The floor bent dramatically, and the college did not see the Phi Delt’s fondly after that.

During my sophomore year, my wife Carolyn McWilliams (’69) entered as a freshman from Deep River, Iowa. We began dating then and continued throughout college. After we both graduated in 1968 and 1969, we became Iowa school teachers. I coached football and track and taught high school psychology. Carolyn taught first grade at Mid Prairie in Wellman, Iowa. Four years of teaching and being paid $6,000 for teaching and $400 for coaching football, led me to look at another profession–selling television advertising at the ABC affiliate in the Quad Cities. From there up the chain, I went to TV in New York City. Now we have been married for 49 years, two children and 6 grandchildren.

Over the years, my hobbies and activities have included being the national tournament director/master of ceremonies of Compass Rose (CIA) Charity Golf Gala, Langley, Virginia. I handled worldwide press and Today Show for the Charla Nash (chimpanzee attack in Connecticut) face and double hand transplant. I am the co-owner of a Russian submersible for private deep-sea exploration. I traveled the world with my career in television.

After a four-year period of teaching High School Psychology and coaching football in Iowa, I entered television in Illinois, selling TV advertising. We started the Iowa television network for delayed broadcast of University of Iowa football and basketball in the ’70s – 80’s. I joined Lorimar Productions in Hollywood (Dallas, Falcon Crest, Knott’s Landing, and Alf) to work throughout their television stations around the country. Lorimar became Warner Brothers and Warner Brothers became Time Warner.

In the early years, I produced many sporting events including golf, football, basketball, and regular programming. My career led me to New York City, where I was chosen by Time Warner to launch local cable news in the United States. I commuted weekly to London from my office in New York City to launch cable television and news in the United Kingdom.

After retirement from television, a friend of mine in Chicago, who was CEO of a national healthcare company, asked me if I could reinvent his sales organization like he had seen me do before in television. I told him I knew nothing about healthcare, I was a TV guy. He said perfect, I will teach you healthcare. So, off to Chicago, we went. Today I remain active in consulting and public speaking.

I’m pictured here with the late Glen Campbell, who I convinced to don a Central College ball cap for the photo opp.

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  • Kathie Flood '86


    11:55 pm on January 8, 2019

    Hi John – great stories! I am curious about your submersible. Would you mind sharing the brand and model, and where you have taken it? My company creates a scuba simulation game, VR dive experience, VR submersible training, etc. to encourage good ocean stewardship, so I’m always curious to learn about other people’s underwater adventures. Thank you!

  • Harley Riak


    8:53 am on December 26, 2018

    John was one of the “good Guys” on campus. I wish you success and good health.

  • John Cobb


    9:42 pm on December 13, 2018

    Good to hear of John Orr’s Successes in business working in NYC and Chicago were two of my best experiences one with CBS the other McGraw-Hill Companies.

    The Phi Delta Tau Fraternity was also a highlight of my time at Central College and I still keep in touch with many of my brothers today.

    Great story on the Sand in the Phi Delta Tau House… I remember very clearly winning that house for the Fraternity in a coin toss in Dean Jim Graham’s Office.

    It Could have gone to the Beaks but.I called it heads and while the coin was in the air I turned and was walking out of the office and I said I will take the Phi Delt House and it was heads! Great Memories of Central College.