Conant Biographical Note
Theodore Richards Conant was born on July 13, 1926 in Cambridge, MA as the younger son of James Bryant Conant and Grace Richards Conant. He attended local elementary schools - Shady Hill and Brown and Nichols - followed by a year at the Dublin School in Dublin, NH. High school years were spent at the Putney School which he left shortly before graduation to join the U.S. Coast Guard training program in preparation to enter the Merchant Marine as a radio officer.
After graduating in 1951 from Swarthmore College, with an honors degree in Economics, he was briefly working as a film technician in New York City when he was invited to participate in a United Nations funded film which portrayed the plight of the South Koreans during their bitter civil war. Eager to return to Asia where he had served as a radio officer in the merchant marines during the tail end of World War II., he had remained in the Pacific area for a full year volunteering to serve as a radio officer on weather flights.
He had always been interested in film and sound-recording and had made his first film with the help of Robert Flaherty while still a student at the nearby Putney School in Vermont. When he finally returned home from the war, he heard that Flaherty was filming "The Louisiana Story" and managed to secure a posting. He learned much from the remarkable staff he had assembled and only thereafter did he belatedly made his way to Swarthmore where he continued his cinematic interests by producing with his classmates an avant-garde film titled"The Crime".
Pat Frank’s book "The Long Way Round" provides a sanitized account of our United Nations-Korean project but not the numerous slip-ups. During the final phase of the war, two United Nations photo-journalists accidentally met their death, andas a result Ted Conant was conveniently recruited to work with the BBC on their Christmas Empire program from Korea, as well as the exchange of wounded prisoners. He then elected to stay on to help record a UN and BBC radio program series on the Korean reconstruction narrated by Hollywood star, Frederick March. He subsequently became the acting head of the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) Film Unit and while in Korea privately produced and directed several documentaries on different aspects of Korean culture.
By then he had become so intrigued by the problems arising from the aftermath of the war including the subsequent political developments in Seoul, he accepted a position as a filmmaker and sound recording engineer at Syracuse University under the contract of the U. S. Aid Mission. Ted Conant worked hard to upgrade the technical capacity of the Korean Office of Public Information. He was working in the Capitol Compound when the student demonstrations broke out and hence was able to witness from close quarters the fall of Sygnman Rhee and the Korea's faltering efforts to create a new regime.
He was a married man with a family when he returned in 1960 to the United States where he was employed by the Ford Foundation to help develop educational broadcasting. He then went on to become a guest director at the National Film Board in Montreal, Canada for several years before joining the WGBH Educational Foundation in Boston with the mandate to set up new radio and television stations. While visiting Dr. Peter Goldmark, the Director of the CBS Research Laboratories in Stamford, Conn, Ted became engaged Ted as Dr. Goldmark's research associate and he had the good fortune of participating in the development of the first video disk.
Once again, a chance meeting with James Wolfensohn, the head of the New York branch of Schroders, a British merchant bank, led to Ted Conant being appointed the head of Schroder Technology, a new section of their venture capital department. He remained there until Wolfensohn resigned and for several years thereafter continued to service several of his Australian clients. During all this time, his interest in sound and film continued unabated and his preoccupation with developments in Korea never ceased. These core interests have greatly enriched his life both professionally and personally.