Speedway High School Alumni

Speedway, Indiana (IN)

Alumni Stories

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Robert W. "Bob" Harbin

Class of 1970

As a classmate of Robert W. “Bob” Harbin, I would like to nominate Bob for the Speedway High School Wall of Fame. Bob graduated from Speedway High School in 1970. Since graduation he has distinguished himself nationwide as a talent agent, casting director, producer, and director in the television, movie, and theatrical industry, and I believe he is a worthy candidate to be honored in our Alumni Wall of Fame.

A brief bio, with excerpts from several publications, including the Indianapolis Star:

As senior vice president of casting and talent development for Fox Broadcasting Co. for 12 years, Bob Harbin was known as "the guy with the eye."

He had a knack for spotting emerging acting talent who actually began his career as an actor, first at Speedway High School and then at Ball State University and in regional theater.

"I was a character actor before I was 25," he recalls. "Everybody said, 'Go to L.A., you'll be great.' I got in my little Ford Maverick and drove to Los Angeles in 1978. My acting career there lasted about three days."

Harbin got a job as a messenger for a talent agency, eventually landing at NBC as a secretary in the casting department. After learning the ropes, he was hired as casting director for "L.A. Law" and “Doogie Hauser, MD” and other shows. He stayed four years before moving to Fox.

"When I joined, Fox didn't have a casting department," he said. "They said, 'We don't know how to do casting, and we don't know what we need, but you seem to have this ability to find people just before they're ready to "pop," and we need that.' "

Harbin's first job at Fox was casting "Beverly Hills 90210." He built the network's casting department from the ground up and hired actors for some of the most popular television shows of the 1990s, including "Melrose Place," "The 'X' Files," and "In Living Color."

But the time had come to get out. A year and a half ago, Harbin retired at age 51 and moved back to Indianapolis.

As a member of The Indianapolis Star's Reader Advisory Council, which meets monthly to advise editors, Bob had the opportunity to touch base with area theaters.

"I wanted to get involved again where it all started for me. I thought theater would give me a great opportunity to use all the experience I gained in Los Angeles and bring that back here and see if we could do something terrific."

Eventually, at the Scottish Rite, he met Bill Woodruff, who suggested they team up and stage "Annie Get Your Gun." Suddenly Harbin was out of retirement.

"I grew tired of the television industry because the heart and creativeness had gone by the wayside," he says. "But heart and creativeness is what you get in community theater: These people are doing it because they love to; they're not getting paid. It's all about the heart."

From there it was on to the American Cabaret Theatre where he has continued to provide Indianapolis with creative and superbly directed and produced shows ranging from musical reviews to Broadway plays.

His awards include four nominations and two wins from the Casting Society of America (CSA) while serving as Sr. Vice President of Casting for Fox.

He is a Indiana State Fair winner in Rookwood Art Pottery and in Roseville Art Pottery, and continues to support the Indiana State Fair Board as a judge in various capacities in Home and Family Arts as well as for the State Fair Queen.

He is a tireless supporter of the Damian Center and disadvantaged youth in central Indiana.

Most of all, he remains the same brilliant, competent, and compassionate individual we all grew up with in the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s in Speedway, Indiana.

Without reservation, I would encourage the Wall of Fame Committee for Speedway High School to consider the name of Robert W. Harbin for induction.

Kindest personal regards,
Dennis P. "Denny" Smith
Speedway High School
Class of 1970

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