Appreciating the past

Local instructor selected in national competition

Courtesy Photo Jared Frederick in front of the TCM 25th Anniversary sign.

Local Penn State Altoona instructor, historian and author Jared Frederick is among 25 “guest hosts” selected by Turner Classic Movies through a national competition conducted as part of the channel’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Jared Frederick’s segment airs at 9:45 p.m. April 16. TCM received more than 700 entries. Judges found his submission “compelling,” said TCM director Anne Wilson, adding “I also loved what his mentor and the recipient of his film dedication, John Heiser, taught him: that stories matter.”

“Jared’s passion for history and classic film really came through in his segments with TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz,” Wilson said. “It was wonderful to get a historian’s take on how we as a movie audience should process Hollywood’s view of historical events.”

Frederick learned of the competition while watching the channel back in November.

He submitted a 90-second video explaining how the film “Gettysburg” influenced his life. His brother Mark Frederick, a professional videographer, taped him at the Baker Mansion.

“My brother offered his expertise and technology,” Jared Frederick said. “He suggested we go to Gettysburg and film there but that was too long to drive for a 90-second video. It made more sense to go to Baker Mansion and it provided a unique and historical backdrop.”

(His video can be viewed here:


Jared Frederick remembers watching “The Wizard of Oz” on TCM as a 3-or 4-year old child. “My mom said that I watched it seven times in one day when I was in preschool. It remained my childhood favorite film through grade school.”

He discovered TCM as a second grader and describes himself as “a loyal fan ever since,” according to his entry in the “TCM Fan Dedication Contest.”

“Most of my friends were into the Power Rangers and I was watching black and white movies. It was a sign to my parents that I was bound for a career in history,” he said.

His maternal aunt Barb Koehle of Altoona introduced the then 8-or 9-year-old to the 1993 epic “Gettysburg” as she has been a history buff since high school.

“It’s a very long movie, but we watched it and something just clicked,” she said. “From there on he started into history … he took an instant love to it. I love the movie but more for the music.”

In his competition video, Jared Frederick describes the film as a “passion project of TCM founder Ted Turner … it would be a movie that would drammatically change my life. The following summer my parents took me to Gettysburg — the first of many visits. Fifteen years later, I found myself working as a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. On the 20th anniversary of the film’s production, I presented special ranger programs on the battlefield, including one on the American Civil War and Cinema and how Hollywood shapes our perceptions of the past.”

Jared Frederick dedicated his entry and the film to Heiser, a friend, mentor and former colleague at Gettysburg who served as an extra in the movie. Heiser, Jared Frederick said in his video, “taught me that stories matter. I live by that philosophy now everytime I step into the classroom as a college history professor.”

Heiser serves as the historian in the Division of Interpretation at Gettysburg National Military Park. “Jared is a published author and educator, someone who has not just taken a deep interest in history but also a historian who has undertaken the task of understanding our past and interpreting it for us today. He finds the spark of excitement in preserving the story of our culture and our nation, both the honorable and not so honorable episodes of our past. I admire Jared for his accomplishments and what he’s doing for the community where he lives,” Heiser said.

The two met when Jared was 16 and had published his first book.

“What I told him about research and finding the facts of history was the same thing my mentor at Western Carolina University, Dr. Max Williams, taught me — there is the official story of a historical event as well as the human story. Combining the two into one is the challenge we as historians face, but that is the most important element of our profession. But then I think Jared really did not need that much inspiration or guidance as he has done so much on his own.”

Heiser remembers taking Jared to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where he researched his grandfather’s unit in World War II.

“He was like a kid in a candy store and finding this material for the first time was like discovering the lost gold of the Incas,” Heiser said. “I’m so glad I was able to open that source of research for him. But then that’s Jared; he’s excited about history in many different ways and I cannot help but appreciate his labors in that field.”

As part of being selected, he and the 24 others received an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta, the location of the Turner Broadcasting headquarters, in January.

“I’m very lucky and very fortunate to have this opportunity,” he said. The winners were divided into two groups and recorded their segments and additional promotional messages during two days.

“There was a broad and diverse range of people who won. The youngest winner was 15 years old and the oldest was 85 years old. It was a unique and fun experience to spend time with people who share a common interest and are film buffs. Classic movies are like a historical time capsule that captures the time period.”

“It was a full and fun 48-hours,” Jared Frederick said, and resulted in the winners establishing lasting connections.

Staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.