WMU News

WMUK prepares to celebrate 50th anniversary

Dec. 14, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- The 2001 winter semester will bring an intense focus on WMUK-FM, the University's public radio station, as the campus and surrounding communities prepare to celebrate the station's 50th anniversary of service to Southwest Michigan.

WMUK, Kalamazoo's first FM station and one of the founding consortium of stations that launched National Public Radio in 1971, will mark 50 years of broadcasting on April 11 with a gala black-tie event on campus. Kevin Klose, president and chief executive officer of NPR, will be the guest speaker at the event.

Klose, who has held his current position since 1998, was previously an editor and foreign correspondent with the Washington Post and also was director of U.S. International Broadcasting and president of Radio Free Europe.

Before the April event and Klose's visit, new developments at the station and plans for a number of special activities will put a semester-long focus on the anniversary, according to station manager Floyd Pientka. The developments and activities are intended to showcase the station's historical and continuing role in delivering quality programming to the University and the entire Southwest Michigan region.

"Localism and listener service are at the heart of our mission," says Pientka. "In the coming months and years, we'll be moving into Webcasting and other technical enhancements, but content and service to the community will remain our bottom line."

Preparations for marking the anniversary already are under way and activities will become increasingly public as winter semester unfolds.

  • A student music competition is now being conducted to select an original musical composition to mark the anniversary. It will be performed at the gala.
  • The station will commission a piece of visual art, created by a WMU student for the anniversary. The work will be displayed in the station's lobby in Friedmann Hall.
  • Banners noting the anniversary will begin appearing on campus and in the Kalamazoo community over the winter.
  • A short video on WMUK, its history and the people behind the scenes is now being prepared to show to campus and community organizations.
  • A redesigned Web site will be launched in the coming months and will include such features as audio streaming of campus events and station programming as well as continually updated local and national news.
  • The station will launch its first underwriting initiative in the coming months. Through it, businesses and foundations will be able to support WMUK programming and receive on-air acknowledgment.

WMUK was licensed in 1951 as Western Michigan College Radio-WMCR, a 400-watt station broadcasting educational and music programs a few hours each day during the academic year. It became WMUK in 1960 to reflect the college's elevation to university status. In 1971, the station joined with the newly formed Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other stations from around the country to form NPR. That same year, WMUK began broadcasting NPR's "All Things Considered.

Over the years, the non-profit, non-commercial station continued to expand its hours of programming, the size of its staff and its range. Today, the 50,000-watt station has a staff of 13 and is on the air 21 hours each day, providing a blend of world and local news, classical music and cultural programs to listeners in Central and Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana.

"As audiences and technologies have evolved, the station has moved from a classroom-centered approach to one that uses radio to educate and uplift in a more general way," Pientka says. "With our emphasis on journalism, arts and public affairs,we work to remain an independent voice, one that adds to the quality of life in the community."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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