E38: Donna Halper on Rush and a Better Life

E38: Donna Halper on RUSH and a Better Life

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be successful, live by your own terms, and do it with integrity? In this episode, I have a very special guest, Donna Halper, who has been credited with initially catapulting the success of the band RUSH in the United States back in the early ’70s.

As some of you know, RUSH is my all-time favorite band, for many reasons, but mainly because they did it with hard work and never conforming to what the music industry wanted them to be. RUSH has taught me many lessons over my life, pretty crazy for a prog-rock band, but that is what makes them unique. Even if you are not a RUSH fan, I highly encourage you to listen to the episode, because we get into a whole host of topics about living a life of passion and integrity.

Donna Halper is an author, educator, media historian, and radio consultant. 

Donna L. Halper, PhD is an associate professor of Communication and Media Studies at Lesley University, Cambridge MA.  She is the author of six books and many articles.  Her most recent book is a newly revised and expanded second edition of “Invisible Stars:  A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting,” published in March 2014.  She is also the author of a well-received local history, “Boston Radio 1920-2010,” which tells the story of Boston radio in words and pictures.  

Dr. Halper is a frequently published and widely quoted media historian. Among her many published articles is one about early radio in Boston, “Preserving the Story of Greater Boston’s Pioneering Broadcast Stations 1XE and WGI,” which appeared in the AWA Review in 2018; and one about a priest who used radio to teach religious tolerance, “Father Michael J. Ahern: Boston’s First Radio Priest,” which appeared in Boston’s Catholic newspaper, The Pilot, in 2017. A collector of rare memorabilia related to the history of radio, she was awarded the 9th Annual Collectors’ Prize by Historic New England in 2018. 

Dr. Halper also writes about baseball history.  A talk she gave at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, “Written Out of History: Women Baseball Writers, 1905–1945,” was published in 2019 in The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2017–2018, ed. William Simons. McFarland & Co. And she has provided chapters for numerous books published by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), including “Opening Fenway Park in Style:  The 1912 World Champion Red Sox,” and “The Miracle Braves of 1914.”  

In addition to researching radio and baseball, Dr. Halper is a free-lance writer for numerous magazines, journals, encyclopedias, and websites.  One of her published essays, “How to Be a Skeptical News Consumer,” about the importance of fact-checking, was the #5 most-shared article of 2013 on the Skeptic Magazine website. 

Dr. Halper’s research on media history and popular culture has resulted in appearances on both radio and TV.  These include CBS Sunday Morning (where she was part of a segment on car radios), PBS/NewsHour, CTV News (Toronto), National Public Radio/Weekend America, History Channel, ABC Nightline, WBZ Radio and WBZ-TV (Boston), WGBH-FM and WGBH-TV (Boston), WBUR-FM (Boston), and a number of podcasts. Her appearance on the Sound Off Podcast, discussing her discovery of the rock band Rush, was the site’s most downloaded podcast of 2017. 

Dr. Halper attended Northeastern University in Boston, where she was the first woman announcer in the school’s history, broadcasting a nightly show on the campus radio station beginning in October 1968.  She completed a BA (English), M.Ed (Counseling), and MA (English) at Northeastern; she received her doctorate in Communication from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in May 2011, writing her dissertation on how early radio changed American society.  

She has spent over four decades in broadcasting, including more than 29 years as a radio programming and management consultant in markets of all sizes, both college and commercial stations, all over North America. Prior to becoming a consultant, she spent thirteen years as an announcer, music director and assistant program director in four major markets.  In addition to her long career in both radio and print, she is well-known for discovering the rock band Rush, who dedicated their first two albums to her.  She is seen four times in the 2010 documentary about them, “Beyond the Lighted Stage.”     

Donna Halper has been a professor at Lesley University, Cambridge MA, since 2008.  In addition to teaching courses in media and communication-related subjects, she also advises the student newspaper, the Lesley Public Post, which she helped to create.  Prior to Lesley, she spent 18 years as an instructor at Emerson College in Boston, where she taught in the Journalism Department and in the Institute for Liberal Arts.   

Dr. Halper is a frequent public speaker, giving presentations on such topics as the history of broadcasting, ham radio history, women’s history, baseball history, and popular culture to interested groups at museums, schools, civic organizations, libraries, and historical societies. Since 1984, she has been the advocate for an adult with autism and has also worked as a mentor, a tutor, and a Big Sister. 

Topics Discussed:

  • Donna Halper
  • How did RUSH come on her radar, as a radio DJ/Music Director back in the 70s
  • What made RUSH so different from other bands
  • Gary talks about how RUSH became his favorite band at an early age
  • How did RUSH shape her philosophy as a self-help speaker and motivator
  • Why the passing of RUSH’s drummer Neil Peart affected so many fans 
  • What are the keys to living a life of happiness and integrity
  • Why perseverance is the key to a successful life
  • Life is hard, you just have to deal with it and move on

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