Frank Petrusic’s WDFM reminiscences

My time at WDFM was a growing experience in broadcasting. It was during a time of turmoil on the PSU campus in the late 60s and early 70s. Anti-war demonstrations, strained race relations, and dealing with the “culture shock” of leaving a H.S. graduating class of 250 to a full-size major college campus with more than 30,000 students at the time. I joined so I could get some experience in broadcasting above and beyond the classroom – and at that time, the radio/TV classroom options were somewhat weak and limited.

The station was located on the 3rd floor of Sparks building, and new people were “eased” into the lineup after an initial audition. As I mentioned previously, “Stereo 91.1” – as we were called, had a limited audience across campus, and we didn’t play much of the music that was geared toward students. We were closer to a Public Radio kind of station with classical music, light pop fare, and news, weather & sports reports. Our hours were limited, but all “on-air” people were required to get a 3rd Class Telecommunications license from the FCC, so we could operate the transmitter (turning it on and off). The studio was small, and we had a separate one for the “newsman” facing the on-air host. We had a rather large room of vinyl records, that reflected the more conservative taste we were required to play as part of the station’s license agreement with the FCC. No commercials, but we always tried to take some pride in reporting the news honestly. Had a constantly chattering AP teletype machine in a small room next door which furnished our news, sports & weather. I remember Dr. Harold Nelson as our faculty advisor, and Dr. Lillian Preston also contributed her industry knowledge to the staff.

We had opportunities to do “play by play” sports broadcasts of Penn State football and basketball. I remember the thrill of actually doing a football game from the press box at Beaver Stadium. Two of us took turns doing “play by play” and game analysis. My connections with the Penn State athletic department at the time (most specifically with Richie Lucas – former PSU All-American QB and Asst. AD), got me a job as the Public Address announcer for Penn State Basketball home games at Rec Hall during my junior year. It was a thrill being down on the floor, and introducing players on the few TV broadcasts we hosted in those days. I don’t remember many of the people with whom I worked – there was a great deal of turnover. But I was the Program Director of the station my senior year, and I remember working with Kevin Nelson, who spent a great deal of time at WRSC-AM radio in State College following his graduation.

Overall, for four years, it was a fun and learning experience. When I look at the new opportunities offered by the recent generous alumni gifts to upgrade the Radio/TV/Film program at Penn State, I wish I could have gone thru the program now. Still, with the classroom work, it got me into the business I wanted to work and spent more than 24 years working at WJAC-TV in Johnstown, PA before I made a mid-life career change into another field. Still remember rattling on the air about “Stereo 91.1” and giving the current “Penn State temperature” more times than I can count.

—Frank Petrusic
Penn State 1973, Speech Communications/Broadcasting Option