In the late 1960s, Nessa Forman would show up at 7 a.m. in the composing room of the Evening Bulletin, the only woman there.

As the first-edition deadline neared, she directed the men who moved columns of metal type into the forms that produced that day's feature pages.

Though not long out of graduate school, Ms. Forman was already respected.

On Saturday night, Ms. Forman, 68, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at WHYY Inc. from February 1983 to July 2007 and arts and leisure editor of the Bulletin when it closed in January 1982, died of pancreatic cancer at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse. She lived in Center City.

"Nessa has managed her illness the way that she managed her life," William J. Marrazzo, president and CEO of WHYY Inc. for 13 years, said Friday in an interview.

And Ms. Forman, he said, was "always with considerable grace, good humor and fully engaged in a broad palette of current events."

Marrazzo said that at WHYY, "She set the highest standards for professionalism, loyalty to the principles of public media . . . and being the best WHYY shopper for clever gifts ever."

He noted, "WHYY is far better off for Nessa Forman. And those of us who had the privilege of working with her are as well."

Born in Atlantic City, Ms. Forman earned a bachelor's degree in English literature in 1965 and a master's in art history in 1968, both at the University of Pennsylvania.

She began her Bulletin career as a features copy editor but soon became "our fine arts expert," said Don Harrison, for whom she worked and whom she replaced as arts and leisure editor in the 1970s.

"She saw news stories in the arts world that most of us never did," said Harrison, who was assistant managing editor when the paper folded.

"She had a lot of guts and tenacity and would dig out news where it was often ignored and would force editors like me to take notice."

In person, Harrison said, "she loved gossip, but never betrayed a confidence and never bad-mouthed anyone. As a result, she had an army of friends, and, even in these last months when her health was deteriorating, she was never alone."

An Inquirer article in 1982, after the Bulletin closed, identified Ms. Forman as public relations manager at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

A Philadelphia Daily News story in February 1983 reported that she had just been hired as "Channel 12 director of communications."

By September 1984, WHYY Inc. had begun to publish Applause, a monthly magazine and program guide for its radio and television stations, and the Daily News reported that Ms. Forman was "overseeing the project as executive editor."

As part of the executive team, Ms. Forman helped develop national promotional campaigns for Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR and for Hometime, Liberty's Kids, and other programs on PBS.

 Gross recalled how Ms. Forman had helped her deal with an accusation of censorship after a decision not to air a recorded interview.

"Newspaper reporters were calling me to ask about the accusation. I was mortified. I couldn't sleep.

"Nessa gave me great advice and her attitude was: 'I've seen it all; this is nothing. We'll get through it, no problem.'

"She impressed me as able to handle anything while keeping her sense of humor."

Jonathan Storm, The Inquirer's television critic, noted, "It's not exaggerating to say she was friends with everybody she dealt with, whether it was a TV critic who regularly assailed WHYY or one of the social [set] who supported it.

"She was a wonderfully caring and kindhearted person."

Ms. Forman wrote in her autobiographical notes that in 2001 she developed Civic Space, which she described as WHYY Inc.'s community partnerships program.

Her promotions for the stations included a two-day Family Internet Festival and a citywide celebration of the arts. She also promoted a multimedia education service for preschool children and their caretakers and another for adults taking college courses.

After she resigned from WHYY on July 14, 2007, she was interim executive director of the Gershman Y in Center City and a consultant to the Christ Church Preservation Trust, the Philadelphia Foundation, and other nonprofits.

In 2000, Women in Communications gave her its Sarah Award and the Public Broadcasting Service gave her its Communications Award.

In 2002, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association named her to its hall of fame. In 2005, the Philadelphia Business Journal named her a woman of distinction.

Ms. Forman was a president and board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a board member of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival, the Caring People Alliance, and the library committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

And she was a board member of Bread Upon the Waters, which provides scholarships to the University of Pennsylvania for women over 30.

Ms. Forman is survived by several cousins.

Services will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at WHYY, 150 N. Sixth St., followed at 1 p.m. by burial in Rodef Sholom Cemetery, Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township.

Donations may be sent to the Nessa Forman, David Forman, Eleanor and Solomon Forman Family Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, Suite 1800, 1234 Market St., Philadelphia 19107.

Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.