The “Friends” that Saved the Radio

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Courtesy of Public Radio 90, WNMU-FM

Public Radio 90 WNMU-FM has had a long history on campus, starting in 1963. Though we’re celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it could have been a different story. In 1980 their existence was threatened by budget cuts and today’s WNMU-FM exists thanks to the efforts of Friends to Save Public Radio 90.

When news of the budget cuts surfaced and the radio station faced the chopping block, John Weting, a local architect, spearheaded petition efforts.  In April of 1981, the community banded together and Friends to Save Public Radio 90 was formed. It was co-chaired by Robert Bordeau, a Marquette attorney, and Phyllis Reynolds, namesake of the Reynolds Recital Hall on campus. The President of National Public Radio (NPR), Frank Mankiewicz, agreed to be honorary chairman.

“Friends” organized many fundraising events, such as a wine and cheese tasting festival, benefit movies and concerts, and an auction that included a pair of Mohammed Ali’s shorts and an autographed copy of ‘Anatomy of a Murder.’ The biggest money maker was a direct mail campaign in which 13,000 letters were mailed throughout the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin. After extensive planning and effort, Friends to Save Public Radio 90 was a huge success, raising over $35,000!

Many prominent members of the community served on the executive board, including Sam Cohodas (namesake of Cohodas Hall), June Jamrich (wife of John Jamrich), John Kiltinen, and our favorite local celebrity, John Voelker.

Thanks to “Friends,” Public Radio 90 was able to stay up and running until federal grants and funding were available, which sustained them for another 30 years. Hopefully WNMU-FM can keep broadcasting for many years to come.

Don’t forget that we’ll be hosting another Evening at the Archives on March 14th, featuring a presentation by one of the current Public Radio 90 staff members. Come join us to learn more about the incredible history of WNMU-FM and how it fits into the context of National Public Radio!

Prepared by Alexandria Eisner and Olivia Ernst. 

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