As Suzanne Lasky-Gerard flipped through her album of newspaper articles and photos of her career, she smiled and thought about her memories and all of her accomplishments.
Before her career in journalism, Lasky-Gerard was a schoolteacher in New York.
“I didn’t think it was possible to be on the news. I grew up thinking to be a teacher. I started as a teacher because in those days, in the ’60s, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women,” Lasky-Gerard said.
After she moved to Miami in 1970 and was unable to find a teaching job, she went to a local television news station and asked to work there. They asked her if she could type and she sternly responded that she has a master’s degree and doesn’t want to be a secretary. They responded with a big laugh.
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Following that, she answered an ad in the newspaper about a part-time job at a radio station. They liked her and said they’d recommend her for other jobs.
She returned to the television station with the recommendation and began working for WTVJ, then Miami’s CBS affiliate, as a documentary writer for Chuck Zink, better known as Skipper Chuck, a host of children’s programs.
Lasky-Gerard wrote the award-winning documentary Bobby, 1958-1970, about kids using drugs.
“In 1970, there was no talk about kids on drugs. Nobody would talk about it,” she said.
Bobby, 1958-1970 received so much recognition that it was required viewing for all Miami-Dade County students and armed forces schools.
From there, she worked for WTVJ newsman Ralph Renick, as a documentary writer and producer.
One day, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey unexpectedly arrived in Miami. With no one else available to cover the story, Lasky-Gerard was sent. From then on, she reported the news from time to time.
Someone at Channel 7 liked her work on the air and offered her to be part of a children’s program on the environment. She started as a co-host but she didn’t stop pushing herself.
“I gained a reputation because I worked doubly hard. I worked harder than the guys because I wanted to make a name for myself and I wanted to show them that I can do it,” she said.
Every so often, Lasky-Gerard would pitch an idea to the managers. She eventually came up with the idea of an audience talk show that focused on women’s issues. On the show, they spoke of controversial topics for that time and received more attention.
Lasky-Gerard spoke on the influence that other women on her career. When a reporter and part-owner of the TV station retired, she wanted Lasky-Gerard to be her replacement. Back when she was at Channel 4, a female sports reporter told her to stay where she was and to keep going.
“Women helped me. It was some of the men that didn’t help. They were a little threatened I think,” she said.
Soon after, basketball games began to run short and the station would need to fill before the news would go on. The TV managers decided to have Lasky-Gerard interview celebrities.
In one instance, the network couldn’t get its signal for the night news. They decided to run all of Lasky-Gerard’s celebrity interviews. The result was the highest ratings compared to all other news stations.
She would work with her children’s programs and the news. She transcended the line between programming and news.
After her department was dissolved, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation started a national television network and hired Lasky-Gerard to be at the helm. She worked there nine years.
During her time there, she wrote and produced the documentary March of the Living, which aired on PBS. It focused on young people marching the two miles from the Polish World War II concentration camp Auschwitz to the death camp Birkenau The documentary was repeated for 10 years and is still used as a teaching tool today. It won numerous awards including an Emmy, and Lasky-Gerard says she most proud of this program.
Later, Lasky-Gerard started her own production company, South Florida Productions.
Although retired, Lasky-Gerard is still being honored. Recently, she won the Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award for Florida International University’s Jewish Museum of Florida.
She considers this award the favorite of her career.
“That was so special to me. To me that was probably the most valuable because it came in a time in my life that I wasn't feeling what I felt when I was accomplishing things working. That's the ultimate at my age to be recognized. You can't do better,” she said.
Currently, she is on the board of the American Jewish Committee is involved with the Diabetes Research Institute, Project Newborn which supports a neonatal clinic at the University of Miami and with the Center for Judaic Holocaust and Peace Studies of Appalachian State University. She is also a contributor to the Humane Society and owns three dogs she rescued. She has also rescued about 15 dogs from the streets.
In addition, she has written a book about questions to ask when interviewing all types of people, which she hopes to be published, and created an idea for a television program geared towards seniors.
Lasky-Gerard is engaged with Bill Liebman. Both Lasky-Gerard and Liebman attended the same high school but went their own ways. Fifty years later, after both were widowed, they reunited at their 50th high school reunion and have been inseparable ever since.
“It was instant love at first sight,” she said.
Liebman lauded his fiance saying: “Needless to say I am super proud. It is so nice. She has got tremendous energy and she’s very well respected and she continues to try to help both animals and humans. We were put back together 50 years later and we found each other.”