He was raised in a stereotypical Southern California setting, comfortable ranch style home with a pool in the backyard and an active social life centered on the various attractions of the Los Angeles basin. He attended Marshall High School in the mid 1960s, a time when it was going through a transition from a predominantly Anglo student body to a more diverse ethnic mix. Rocky graduated from Marshall High School in 1964 and initially attended Menlo Park College in the Santa Clara Valley near San Francisco.
In 1965, deciding that this setting was too "rural" for his tastes, he returned to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California, his mother's Alma Mater. He loved the politically charged environments found on many college campuses in the mid to late 1960s even at a relatively conservative campus such as USC. In keeping with his political roots-democrat and liberal-he was one of the founders of USC's SDS Chapter in 1967. While at USC he majored in history but also discovered his love and talent for writing. For the remainder of his life, these two intellectual passions and gifts-a deeply rooted grasp of history, especially American history-and a magical writing ability were a constant reminder to all of us who knew Rocky that we were indeed fortunate to have met a truly special person in our journey through life.
Following graduation from USC in 1968, Rocky took a brief "hippie" sabbatical from the rigorous demands of the work world and lived for a time in both Hawaii and Mexico. Rocky always referred to this period as one of the more productive times of his life as he honed a lifelong appreciation of good food, drink (preferably an exceptional red wine) and most importantly the energizing impact of robust conversations with his fellow human travelers. As any of us who ever spent an evening over dinner, wine and conversation with Rocky can attest, this was the social setting in which most of us experienced the sheer power of his physical and intellectual presence. An evening with Rocky was not for the faint of heart as, alas, many dinner hostesses and fellow dinner companions discovered.
Rocky spent most of his professional life in the world of TV and video production. His first TV experience occurred in 1970 as a writer for KHJ, a Los Angeles independent station. In 1972 with the assistance of Clayton Vaughn, he traveled for the first time to Tulsa for a summer internship at Channel 6. In 1973 he accepted a permanent position at Channel 6 working in a number of areas including reporting, writing and producing. Rocky was attracted to television work in the Tulsa market because he sensed greater opportunity here than in his hometown of Los Angeles. From the time he moved here in the early 1970s he developed of genuine fondness for Tulsa, its residents, its brief history, and especially its robust and ever changing weather. Growing up in Southern California with its nice but rather bland weather, Rocky was mesmerized by Oklahoma's thunderstorms. He loved nature but never more than when experiencing it in its most untamed, powerful presentation-an Oklahoma storm with liberal amounts of lightning, thunder and rain.
In 1975 Rocky left Channel 6 to start his own production company in the then new world of taped video. One of the first Tulsa companies to utilize the services of Stegman Production was Dowell, an oil field service company. While Stegman Production operated out of a suite in the old Mayo Hotel, much of the footage used for Dowell was shot in the oil fields of Oklahoma and West Texas by Rocky or his long time business partner, Charles Alsip. In creating a training video in such a rich and rugged setting, Rocky would always attempt to introduce an historical and even romantic dimension to the oil service industry. This, combined with some spectacular sunset or sunrise setting for the video shooting, resulted in training videos that were often described as assuming virtually a documentary or poetic art form. Such was Rocky's unique creative genius.
Stegman Production's client list included some of Tulsa's most famous businesses such as the Spartan School of Aeronautics. No matter the content of the clients business-oil field servicing or aircraft maintenance-most who knew Rocky were amazed at how quickly he could do a quick yet intensive read of a particular business activity. Because of this skill his work was always seen as credible.
Rocky's life in Tulsa was also intimately tied to the Unitarian church community of Tulsa. He had a deeply experienced appreciation for Unitarians' commitment to the freedom of the mind as well as their long and cherished tradition of acceptance and tolerances of others. For Rocky, commitment to the free religion Unitarians espouse was one of the most powerful and moving aspects of his own life. Rocky had few peers in his remarkable knowledge about the history of the Unitarian Church in general as well as specific Unitarian churches and congregations throughout America. He coupled his profound love of American History with his knowledge of the place Unitarianism played in it.
His love of All Souls Unitarian Church was and is explained in part by his long and cherished relationship with Dr. John Wolf, who for many years was the lead minister at All Souls. Among friends of both men it was said that either could easily fill a room with their wit, their wisdom, and especially their laughter. For those of us who had the enviable opportunity of finding ourselves in a situation in which both were present, it was, invariably an exhilarating and even spiritual experience for most as well as an intimidating experience for a few!
Some of Rocky's most memorable video productions were created for use by the local as well as the national Unitarian/Universalists churches. The most acclaimed of these was a series of 23 programs called FAITH IN THE FREE CHURCH which Rocky produced locally but which were distributed and shown throughout the United States on VISN, the Faith and Values Network. Rocky also produced a number of other videos on the Unitarian/Universalists religion many of which were used to support religious education programs in Unitarian churches throughout America.
Many Tulsans and Oklahomans met and knew Rocky through his many years of dedication and work with The Nature Conservancy. Rocky's commitment to environmental preservation, coupled with his creative capacity were most obviously demonstrated in a series of programs called The Last Great Places in Oklahoma, a program which Rocky and his associates produced and which were featured on the CBS affiliates here and in Oklahoma City. The series focused on a number of unique physical locations throughout Oklahoma where preservation was of critical importance for generations to come.
The most acclaimed program in this series examined in historical and ecological detail that part of Osage County grasslands that was eventually set aside as The Tall Grass Prairie Reserve, an area now recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the most obvious successes of public and private partnerships dedicated to the support of ecological preservation. Herb Beattie, longtime director of The Nature Conservancy in Oklahoma, attributes much of the commitment and enthusiasm of a broad spectrum of Oklahoma citizens for the Conservancy's preservation efforts to those TV programs largely created by Rocky Stegman. Any who have seen these programs and who sense their inspirational and magical appeal are experiencing the soul of Rocky Stegman.
We would be remiss in our attempts at remembering Rocky if we failed to recognize one last memorable cultural contribution he made to our lives and to the lives of many others in the larger Tulsa community. Rocky was a fashion trailblazer! Years before the concept of "business casual" had become institutionalized throughout corporate America, Rocky introduced what could best be called "Stegman Southern-California- by-way-of-Hawaii-and-Mexico-casual, real casual dress." On what at times must have been a lonesome, but in Rocky's eyes a necessary journey he carried his fashion message into every Tulsa venue-BUSINESS, SOCIAL, COUNTRY CLUB, AND EVEN CHURCH SETTINGS. As we all know in the year 2000, with few exceptions Rocky's vision of appropriate attire for all occasions has largely triumphed. For this Rocky, we will remain a grateful community and society.
Rocky Stegman is survived by: his wife, Robin Ballenger; sons, Zachary and Evan; 2 great Golden Retreivers-Jasper and Catcher, all of the home. His mother, Joan Stegman, lives in Seal Beach, CA; sister, Cammie, lives in Pacific Palisades, CA; and 1 brother, Geno, also resides in Seal Beach. Also surviving are a large number of grieving friends who will all miss Rocky tremendously. Among them are a core group of golf cronies at Tulsa Country Club, a large number of the congregations at both All Souls and Hope Unitarian churches, the workers at Alsip-Gilling, many friends and acquaintances in the dog/training community in Tulsa, and finally, any number of Tulsans who experienced the profound enjoyment of simply knowing Rocky Stegman.
Rocky, no one can fill the treasured space you occupied in our lives. Thank you for an all-too-short, but memorable journey you shared with us.
Service 4 p.m., Thursday, September 28, 2000, All Souls Unitarian Church. Friends are contributing to The Rocky Stegman Fund for Unitarian Outreach. Contributions may be sent to All Souls Church, 2952 S. Peoria, Tulsa, OK 74144. Other friends are contributing to the Rocky Stegman Fund at PARK FRIENDS, 717 S. Houston, Tulsa, OK 74127.
It was a pleasure to read of Rocky's lifelong accomplishments, as I only knew him for the brief period when he and Dino Economos were teaching the video class at Booker T. Washington.
They only taught the one year, September 1973 through May 1974, and it must have been on a somewhat unofficial status, as there is no mention of either Rocky or Dino in the BTW yearbook from that year.
Reading what I did about Rocky, especially in the years proceeding my encountering him at BTW, certainly explains why I found him to be such an inspiring individual. He was a free thinker and very much the most non-conforming teacher I probably ever had.
It may not be a well known fact by many that he ever even taught at all, but I know he had a profound effect on all the students who were privileged enough to be in the right place at the right time!
Media People in the 1970s Made Major Difference in Race Relations
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