WOW! Do I remember WDFM. I started out at 7:00 PM on Friday my first year and the following year, WMAJ asked to move my show, “Marquis Memories” to 8:00 PM for a simulcast on both stations. What an honor!
My scripts got better because now I was in the big time. I would go to WDFM in Sparks at midnight on Thursday and record the show, so I could edit out any mistakes.
One night I played “The Fantastics” because the Players were doing the show the following weekend. There is a song in there that is listed as NOT FOR AIR BROADCAST. But, I didn’t think very many people listened to my show, so I played it anyhow.
The lights on every phone lit up within seconds as Micky Bergstein and Steve (Forgot his name, program manager at WMAJ) called immediately to complain. But, I learned that I had at least two listeners. They later forgave me.
What fun we had at WDFM. There are at least four or five other funny stories, but I won’t bore you with them.
Class of 1963
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.
Penn State 1973, Speech Communications/Broadcasting Option
Penn State News has an official feature up on the marker’s placement, along with a short video overview of student broadcasting’s 1912-present history:
New historical marker celebrates ‘Student Broadcasting’
August 14, 2017
UNIVERSITY PARK — For more than a century, Penn State has pioneered broadcasting college radio, and now there’s a new historical marker to share that story with the many visitors, students, faculty and staff on the University Park campus.
Located outside of Sparks Building along Pattee Mall, the newly installed “Student Broadcasting” historical marker touts that “Penn State has been a leader in broadcasting college radio since the Class Gift of 1912 enabled early national experiments.”
Originally called WPSC, the University’s on-campus student radio station has changed names several times, with generations of students making an impact. Currently, The LION 90.7 FM (WKPS) is headquartered inside the HUB-Robeson Center and boasts new studio space that was part of the building’s expansion a few years ago.
The Penn State Media Alumni Interest Group — one of more than 300 Alumni Association affiliate groups — spearheaded having the marker installed and plans to follow up with a ceremony during Homecoming on Nov. 11.
“It’s an honor that fresh generations of Penn Staters will be able to encounter the spirit of past times through this historical marker,” said Tom Shakely, president of the Penn State Media Alumni Interest Group. “Penn Staters were broadcasting experimentally before the world wars that defined the 20th century, and they were covering Nittany Lion football games as early as the Hugo Bezdek years.
“Later, Penn Staters broadcast Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 speech in Rec Hall. On Sept. 11, 2001, Penn Staters broadcast live from Ground Zero. These are just a few vignettes from an incredible history. While it’s a fact that student broadcasting has always been made possible by technology, its true power has always been in empowering the human voice.”
Thomas Doorley shares his WDFM memories:
As a freshman and sophomore in 1962-64 I was a DJ, newscaster, sportscaster, and generally jack-of-most trades at WDFM. I enjoyed it. My music was jazz, rock and folk.
I arrived on campus as an engineering major but with a career in broadcasting as a preferred choice. In high school I was the sportscaster for the morning announcement broadcasts. I had a TV (black and while) in my room at home and I’d turn off the sound and call the play X play for football and baseball games. Loved it! Once at Penn State I jumped at the chance to join WDFM. Since we had to be our own ‘control room” I got my FCC engineers’ license and I was good to go.
WDFM seemed very professional to me. Having access to an extensive library of albums was a surprise and a thrill. What a delight, to prowl through those albums! My first gig was as a DJ. I then I picked up newscasting and did time as Penn State’s baseball one man team. Live from Beaver Field! The big deal about doing the evening news was that the 9PM news was simulcast on the AM station, WMAJ. Now that was big time, reaching all of Centre County!
(My sister was a Penn State grad working in New York City in advertising, and she created a band for me should I continue on as a newscaster. Rather than being simply Tom Doorley, she suggested the more elegant…”Tonight from New York the nightly news with T. Lawerence Doorley!” It sounded good to me.)
I felt honored to have the trust of the leaders of WDFM to handle the entire production on my own. The only sharp comment I ever got was to “tone down” some of my music during drive time. The preferred jazz at the time was Sinatra, not the more up-tempo or “out there” folks like Miles Davis. They were probably right. But I still managed to slip a bit of Ramsey Lewis and Ahmad Jamal into the mix. In retrospect this was a leadership experience that has helped shape my life and career.
After two full and exciting years at WDFM I was offered the role as night manager. I pondered it and realized that the time it would take away for my studies and my income-generating activity was just too much. I came to the realization that I was not likely to pursue broadcasting as my career. And, while that has turned out to be true, I have continued to keep my hand in the skills I developed at WDFM. I’ve appeared on radio and TV talking about my books and delivering insights about strategy and governance. Because of WDFM I am confident. I know what’s going on and how to handle the camera and microphone.
Thank you, WDFM.
August 2017—Office of Physical Plant employees Vince Benner, left, and Jim Simpson erected a new Penn State Historical Marker outside Sparks Building on the morning of August 7. The new marker celebrates Penn State’s rich history in college radio and student-driven broadcasting. —Penn State- Flickr
Chris Buchignani visited the day after installation and captured these shots: