A UT alumnus who made it big on the Oprah Winfrey Network paid tribute to Texas Student Television with a donation that will allow the station to improve its programming.
Zach Anner donated $33,000 to UT’s student-run television station at the beginning of this semester. Anner said he decided to contribute a part of the prize he received as one of the winners of Oprah’s “Search for the Next TV Star” competition to TSTV due to the organization’s impact on his life.
“I wanted to trace back important influences in my life to give back to,” he said. “TSTV was one of them, and it’s the reason I do what I do now.”
After winning the reality competition, Anner got the opportunity to host his own show “Rollin’ with Zach” and $100,000 to go towards charity, which he decided to split three ways. TSTV will use his donation to upgrade their equipment and make all their programming high-definition quality, said TSTV station manager Steven Zurita.
Zurita said the donation is very significant for the station, which produces 14 shows a semester with more than 180 student volunteers who take on the roles, including producers, directors and actors.
“We’ve had alumni who wrote Kung Fu Panda and have created production companies many years after graduation,” Zurita said. “It’s exciting because he is an [alumnus] that just graduated in 2009. Two years later, he has already made a national name for himself and has his own show.”
The donation is one of TSTV’s largest donations in the station’s history, said Dan Knight, TSTV adviser and radio-television-film lecturer. Knight said the gift validates the work of hundreds of past students that established the station as a vital component to students’ experience at UT, and it will influence many careers.
“The money will be essential to upgrading the student experience at the TV station which provides a pre-professional experience for students planning a media career,” he said. “As the media landscape changes, we try to keep pace with technology and programs that will help our students stand out, but it’s increasingly difficult as money supplies shrink. This is a mighty leap in that direction.”
Anner joined TSTV when he first moved to Austin to major in radio-television-film in the spring of 2005. He said the station, which airs on campus cable and across Austin, prepared him to have his own television show so it made sense to give back to it.
Anner worked with TSTV for four years during college and continued to work with them on a mockumentary after graduation.
“TSTV is where I learned how to be on camera,” Anner said. “I wanted to pay it forward because of what I’ve received from my time at the station and as a result of that experience. My relationship with TSTV will be lifelong.”