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John C. Jeppi Sr., former broadcasting school owner, dies of COVID-19 pneumonia

John C. Jeppi Sr.
John C. Jeppi Sr.

John C. Jeppi Sr., the former owner of the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland who covered sports for radio years ago, died of COVID-19 pneumonia Jan. 17 at his Mays Chapel home, The former Ruxton resident was 83.

Born in Baltimore and raised on Overdale Road Ten Hills, he was the son of Samuel P. Jeppi, who owned a pharmacy at Bloomingdale Road and Baker Street, and his wife, Marie Shank, a homemaker.

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“My father learned from his parents that nothing was more important than family,” said his son, John C. Jeppi Jr.

He was a 1955 Loyola Blakefield graduate and was football team captain under coach Ed Hargaden.

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Mr. Jeppi earned a bachelor’s degree at then-Loyola College and was the school’s publicity director and a public address announcer. He also played soccer.

He was a friend of Baltimore sportscaster Vince Bagli.

“Vince gave his own ticket to my father to cover the 1958 Baltimore Colts versus New York Giants national championship football game,” said his son, a Navy Reserve commander.

Mr. Jeppi became a disc jockey, talk show host, and news and sportscaster for radio stations WABW, WWIN, WAQE, WCBM and WFMM. He worked in on-air radio from 1958 to 1968.

His son said he interviewed the dominant local sports figures of that decade, including Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Muhammad Ali.

He also covered five Preaknesses and Baltimore Clippers American Hockey League games.

For a short while he tried his hand at the John Jeppi & Brothers Nut Co., then on Sharp Street. The business was established in 1884 by his Sicilian grandfather, Giovanni Geppi.

He made a career change and became the chair of public speaking department at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Southwest Baltimore. He also taught English and was an assistant football coach.

He established “Operation Black & White,” a program to promote better race relations in Baltimore schools with nearby Edmondson High School, a public school.

“My father was also doing radio work at night and he said he would home exhausted after doing two jobs,” his son said.

During the 1960s he also served the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Tactical Fighter Group.

“It was during his years at Cardinal Gibbons and his experience in news and sports broadcasting that my father first hatched his dream of combining his two passions, broadcasting and education, to create the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland,” said his son, who is also a Greater Baltimore Medical Center development officer.

Mr. Jeppi opened his school in 1969 in classrooms on the campus of the Towson YMCA. The operation moved to an old parochial school on Homeland Avenue and had a permanent home at 7200 Harford Road.

Tim Duff, a vice president of WRBS, said: “He taught you about life. I learned more from John Jeppi than any high school or college I attended.”

Lois Carrigan, a former WITH-AM staffer and director of the Broadcasting Institute, said: “He was a father figure to his students. He wanted to give them a good start in life. He said the school taught more than broadcasting; it taught them how to face challenges in life.”

His son said: “My father was a natural leader and motivational speaker. He welcomed every newly enrolled student by saying, ‘Now, I’m going to give you the ball.’ He’d toss a baseball to them inscribed with his favorite quote, he challenged them, “Take note of those 10, two-letter words on your ball: ‘If it is to be, it is up to me!’”

Bob Mathers, who was the school’s former admissions director, said: “It was a vocational school and we taught news reporting and writing and public speaking and other courses. We had many top teachers and I couldn’t think of a better one than Dennis Hill, the radio reporter who went on to be Baltimore’s police spokesman.

“John was an encourager of hundreds of aspiring broadcasters. He went beyond teaching. He built their characters to have a better life.”

Diane Lyn, a former midday host on WLIF and graduate of the school, said: “John was like an extended family member. I called him my radio dad. He was bigger than life but he was approachable. His students were his kids.

“We were young and we were getting into a really rough business. He taught us how to network — he taught us, if you want to go into radio, learn the news end, learn sales, and learn promotions and marketing.”

In the mid-1980s Mr. Jeppi established Professional Seminars International to help teachers communicate more effectively.

He retired in 2015.

He served on the board of the Cardinal Gibbons High School, Maryvale Preparatory School and Flite Three Recording Studios.

He was a member of the Maryland Entertainment Hall of Fame, the National Capital Radio & Television Museum, the Maryland DC Delaware Broadcasters Association and the Golden Radio Buffs.

He was a former president of the Morningside Neighborhood Improvement Association. He was also a communicant of the Immaculate Conception Church in Towson where he served on the parish council.

In 1964, Mr. Jeppi married Lynn M. Morris, a schoolteacher who assisted her husband as a recruiter for his broadcast school.

In addition to his son, survivors include his wife and two daughters, Mary-Lynn Jeppi Ragot of Timonium and Ann Marie Byrnes of Lutherville, and five grandchildren.

The family is planning a memorial service at a later date.

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