BU alumnus urges students to follow new passions, opportunities

Charles Poe presents his documentary "The Day Kennedy Died" in Kayser Auditorium on Thursday, November 14, 2013.  Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
Charles Poe presents his documentary “The Day Kennedy Died” in Kayser Auditorium on Thursday, November 14, 2013.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
By Henry Eckels

One Baylor alumnus may have perfected the art of mixing business with pleasure.

Baylor alumnus Charles Poe, vice president of production for the Smithsonian Channel, is in charge of organizing the series of interviews in a Smithsonian film.

Whether he is hearing personal stories from people who witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or learning about a massive species of snake from the age of the dinosaurs, every project is an adventure.

“Working with the Smithsonian has been the most incredible experience,” Poe said. “I get to have a hand in putting together films about topics ranging from JFK’s assassination to the Titanoboa.”

The Titanoboa is a 48-foot snake from the prehistoric era.

Joy Galane, executive producer for the Smithsonian Channel, said although her boss tends to tackle a lot of projects at the same time, he still manages to do well with all of them.

“When he starts a project, he gets it done,” Galane said. “By attacking so many things in a day, he really sets a high bar for all of us.”

Galane said Poe’s dedication to his job does not take away from his other responsibilities.

“He has so many talents in regards to his occupation that you wouldn’t think he has much time to spend with his family, but he does,” Galane said. “He is very involved with his family.”

Poe came to Waco on Nov. 17 to give Baylor a free sneak peek of “The Day Kennedy Died,” a documentary about Kennedy’s final hours before his assassination and the official investigation that followed.

The official documentary did not air on national television until Nov. 20. Poe said this scheduling was intentional.

“Baylor put me on the path that led to where I am today,” Poe said. “I was more than happy to offer to give the Baylor community this cool sneak peak.”

Poe said the journey of his career path began when he was applied to colleges while attending high school in Oregon.

“The only thing I knew when I applied to colleges was that I wanted to be as far away from home as possible,” Poe said. “I knew nobody who attended Baylor.”

However, Poe’s desire to attend an out-of-state college stemmed more from his innate curiosity rather than a want to simply be far from home.

“I wanted to be far away from home because I had a boundless curiosity for experiencing new things, living in different places and meeting new people,” Poe said. “Texas turned out to be an unbelievable adventure.”

Poe said his two years of working as editor-in-chief of The Baylor Lariat during 1987 and 1988 were busy but uneventful.

“The biggest topic we covered, in my mind, was about the whole South African apartheid issue going on during that time,” Poe said. “It was a pretty quiet time.”

Dawn McMullan, who worked with The Lariat during the same time Poe was editor-in-chief, said Poe was distinguishable among his peers for his ability to focus.

“He was very focused, much more than your average college student,” McMullan said. “He always had a certain focus and seriousness to him. He took his job very seriously.”

Poe worked for the Waco Tribune-Herald and the El Paso Times, and freelanced for various news agencies. Eventually he went to Poland for a year to teach English, but ended up staying abroad for six years.

“I jumped on the opportunities, and I’m happy where I landed,” Poe said. “Where I am today was the result of much risk-taking.”

Poe didn’t discover his true passion until he started working in the field of film and television, which brought him to the Smithsonian.

“At Baylor, I started out as a Lariat photographer and climbed my way up to the position of editor-in-chief,” Poe said. “As my career path shifted from print to radio and finally to television, I felt that I had finally found my true passion.”

Looking back at his life and career, Poe said the only regret he has is that he did not get to enjoy his time as a Baylor student as much as he could have.

“My job kept me so busy that I didn’t get as much out of Baylor as I wanted,” Poe said. “During finals week one year I worked at least 60 hours for the Lariat.”

Poe said he has one big piece of advice for Baylor students in regards to pursuing their careers: follow the opportunities.

“Everyone says to pursue what you’re passionate about, and that’s important,” Poe said. “But you can’t let your passion tie you down or keep you from taking advantage of different opportunities. If you follow the opportunities, you may even find a new passion.”