Dr. Colburn is an independent producer of history-based documentaries for Contemporary Learning Systems, Inc. (contemporarylearning.org) and media-based educational programs for Starbright Media Corporation (starbrightmediacorp.com), companies he founded almost 40 years ago. A native of Highland Park, Michigan, he received his A.B. degree in history from Aquinas College in 1959 and his M.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1970) degrees in history from Michigan State University.
Currently, Colburn's companies are developing television and education projects
on the following topics:
A professional journalist from 1957 – 1970, Colburn specialized in the coverage of local government and politics. He received a Pulitzer Prize nomination in 1970 for his reporting of the tumultuous campus response at MSU that followed the unexpected resignation in 1969 of John Hannah, the university’s long-time president. The Pulitzer nomination letter from a large group of senior scholars stated that his series of exclusive articles exposing the secret machinations of the Board of Trustees led ultimately to the appointment of Dr. Clifton R.Wharton, Jr., who became the first African-American president of a major American university, over a popular former Governor and a student-supported Professor.
In mid-1970, Colburn was appointed to head the research and communications staff for the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives. The following year he won election to the City Council in East Lansing after leading a grassroots movement to stop the implementation of a State Highway Dept. plan to build a freeway through the MSU campus. On the City Council, he quickly won approval to reverse an earlier council endorsement of the plan, effectively killing the planned freeway.
In 1973, Colburn resigned his political positions in Michigan to return briefly to journalism as an Area Editor for the Chicago Tribune Co. He was appointed in late 1974 as the Director of a newspaper-based national education project at the University of California, San Diego. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the project annually involved several hundred newspapers and institutions of higher education across the nation that cooperated in offering both informal and formal study programs about important issues of the day. Beginning in 1979, the project added public broadcasting outlets across the country to provide audio and visual information about the topics being studied. At its peak, approximately 500 newspapers and 300 colleges/universities participated in the 16-week program twice a year.
Colburn left UCSD in 1982 to set up a consulting company in New York City that advised public television stations and corporate sponsors on possible educational uses of major TV programs that were planned for national broadcasts. Shortly thereafter, he began producing television programs, beginning with a three-part series on the coming communications revolution featuring the commentary of Arthur C. Clarke from the island nation of Sri Lanka.
A major media education project based on "The Heart of the Dragon" television series - an international Emmy Award winner - was completed in 1985. The project was carried out in collaboration with South Carolina ETA and the University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies.
His first independent project was a collaboration with the BBC and South Carolina ETV ion "The Day the Universe Changed," a 10-part series presented by James Burke, to create an American distance education package for colleges and universities.
In 1988, he moved his base of operations to Los Angeles, but his ongoing involvement in the development of television and educational programming about Dwight D. Eisenhower in conjunction with Eisenhower's centenary commemoration, prompted a move to Washington, D.C. in 1991.
Over the next six years, he produced and wrote three national TV specials for Discovery on "Ike" that were hosted by the late John Chancellor, the distinguished NBC commentator. These programs were followed by a five-hour series on "The Eisenhower Legacy" for Disney Television, in 1997, that was hosted by Gen. Colin Powell (U.S. Army, Ret.). After completing a companion 20-part educational series on "The Eisenhower Era, 1941 - 1961" funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts for Disney Educational Productions, Colburn relocated his business to his native state of Michigan.
Revised August 2018