Rhea on Retirement? The Maryland Public Television Celeb Is Busier Than Ever


Fortunately for Baltimore, Rhea Feikin’s stellar career at MPT (Maryland Public Television) has come full-circle.


The on-air personality, best known for her many MPT productions and her decades of appearances as a pledge host for the network’s on-air fundraising campaigns, was recently appointed as vice chair of the board of the MPT Foundation. She first joined its board of directors in 2020.

“I was truly surprised and delighted,” said Feikin in a recent phone interview from her home in Baltimore. “It is a whole new role for me!”

While Feikin technically ended more than four decades of service to MPT and its viewers with the March 2020 final pledge drive, she will continue to be part of the MPT family.

In her current role with MPT, Feikin will serve on various committees. “It is not surprising that I will be on the fundraising committee. It is a whole different thing!”

She noted that raising money on the air is different from soliciting individuals, and that the new role may require some getting used to. “I have been an on-air personality for 45 years, and I absolutely loved it. My role was to raise money both on air and digitally. Now, I am working in a whole new area.”

Feikin is already learning about areas of MPT’s work with which she had been less familiar. “Most people think of the programs they watch, but there are whole other areas they may be surprised about,” she said. “Their education division supports parents and teachers through online courses.”

She enthusiastically shared the work of Thinkport, MPT’s educational offerings for pre-kindergarten through grade 12 teachers and students, child-care providers and families. The site (www.thinkport.org) features hundreds of standards-aligned, high-quality resources. She is particularly proud of “Becoming Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom,” materials and companion films that honor the two Maryland natives and examines social-justice topics. “It was a really big deal. It is so well done!”

Maryland Public Television is a public-supported statewide TV network and Public Broadcasting Service member offering entertaining, educational and inspiring content. It creates local, regional and national programs and material for educators, parents, caregivers and learners of all ages.

The MPT Foundation, Inc., is the 501(c)(3) fundraising affiliate of Maryland Public Television.

Feikin also recently learned that she will be inducted to the Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame (HOF).

The HOF honors and celebrates Jewish Marylanders who have initiated and led change in the fields of science, education, business, medicine, law, politics, community service, sports and the arts. “I was absolutely shocked when they called to say I was chosen,” she revealed. “They said it was because of my involvement in the arts. It is a great honor!”

‘Being on camera was the easy part’

Feikin has been associated with culture and the arts since the 1960s. In 1963, she was a co-founder of Center Stage.

“A bunch of us liked theater a lot. And there was a talented director at the time in Baltimore, Edward Golden. We thought he should have a theater, we raised money, and the rest is history!” Feikin herself was in some of the first plays.

Feikin grew up in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, close to the grocery store her parents owned. She performed in stage productions and was in the touring company, entertaining military troops while studying to become a speech therapist at the University of Maryland.

While serving as a speech therapist in the Baltimore City schools, she began working with the educational TV show, “Betty Better Speech.”

She went on to work at WBAL-TV as writer, producer and the host of “Miss Rhea and Sunshine,” the children’s TV show. She also hosted “Rhea and JP,” the evening’s weather forecast. Her career included such shows and programs as “Consumer Survival Kit,” “MPT on Location” (1991-96), “ArtWorks This Week” (2002-13), “Impressions With Rhea Feikin” (2007-14), “Artworks” (2013-20) and “Chesapeake Collectibles” (2011-20).

Feikin came out of retirement in recent months to work on an upcoming MPT documentary featuring Jewish delicatessens in Maryland and D.C.

“I have gone to some of them,” she said. “I find them fascinating!”

She noted proudly that “an intern I was working with had the idea; I thought it was a great idea. We came up with the idea then there was a whole spate of articles about New York delis.” (NOTE: “I’ll Have What She’s Having: The Jewish Deli” is on display at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library through April 3.)

She also worked on “Rhea: A Life in Television,” a show that looks at her long television career, and the long-running series “Chesapeake Collectibles,” which she hosted for 10 seasons. While she notes that seeing it was “fun,” she said that taping so many shows over a two-day period was challenging. “I had to come with 13 changes of clothes, including jewelry and scarves. It was hard work — all the schlepping and trying to look good. Being on camera was the easy part.”

In each episode, her friends, such as former Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Baltimore filmmaker John Waters, “turn the tables” on the famous interviewer by interviewing her. (For example: video.mpt.tv/video/rhea-life-television-ahyfvw).

Feikin declared that she is enjoying retirement, albeit a very active one: “I retired after 40 years, just before COVID. I have enjoyed being on air and being retired.” It remains to be seen what the 84-year-old still has up her sleeve.

Howard Blas is a freelance writer.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here