The Calendar of the Arts lists dynamic public events that represent the academic curriculum in the Arts at Dickinson.
by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
October 1, 2012
1959: Radio committee formed.
1961: FCC call letters approved.
1962: WDCV-AM launches.
1965: Station moves to HUB.
1972: FM transmitter and antenna installed.
1973: Station moves to FM.
1974: Seven-week blackout (transmitter difficulties).
1977: Covers Democratic Convention.
1977: First documented remote broadcast (from Britton Plaza).
1979: Covers TMI incident.
1979: Summer broadcasts begin.
1982: Power boosts from 10 to 450 watts.
1986: Goes stereo. Community members can occasionally pick up broadcasts over televisions.
1989: WDCV declared most powerful college radio station in region.
1994: Broadcasting 18 hours per day.
2000: Web site and streaming server launches.
2002:The Bill Durden Show begins.
2003: 24-hour broadcasts begin.
2012: New transmitter installed. Red Devil Radio advisor appointed.
Serious efforts to build a campus radio station can be traced back to 1950, when students submitted a detailed radio-program proposal to the Board of Trustees. Their request was denied, but when a second proposal arrived in 1956, the board had a change of heart. By 1959, a rigged-up closed-circuit system and a Student Senate radio committee were in swing.
The station received its call letters, WDCV, from the Federal Communications Commission in 1961 and, with consent from the telephone company, closed-circuit wiring was hung between campus telephone poles and transmitters were installed in the residence halls. Founders Jim Sharf '65, Al Miller '63, Howie Spencer '64 and Linn Meyers '64 launched the first official broadcast amid much campus fanfare in 1962.
1962-65: Early programming and digs
According to an article in The Dickinsonian, there was no shortage of DJs for the new AM station, and the programming was diverse.
WDCV began each broadcast day at 8 a.m. with four-hour rebroadcasts from a local NBC affiliate. DJs spun folk-rock records in the afternoons and presented study music in the evenings, with occasional classical shows and roundtable discussions mixed in, and the day ended with an hour of jazz. Weekends included sports roundups and analyses, and in fall 1966, the station purchased a remote-unit machine that plugged into the phone lines and allowed sports broadcasters to provide live coverage of football games.
This programming emerged from unglamorous digs. For several years, WDCV broadcasted from the attic of Bosler Hall, and students had to affix egg cartons to the walls for soundproofing. The station moved to the HUB basement in 1965 and has resided there ever since.
1972: Expanding reach
WDCV-AM moved onto the FM band in 1973. The station was broadcasting for 18 hours each day, and, according to a 1973 article in The Sentinel, an estimated 2,500 listeners within 10 miles of Carlisle were tuning in. The Dickinsonian reported that the radio station was so popular, several faculty members requested airtime for their lectures.
WDCV would increase its listenership again in the 1980s by boosting radiating power from 10 to 450 watts, an upgrade that distinguished it as the furthest-reaching college radio station in the region.
1975-95: The college-radio challenge
The early and mid-70s were technological golden years, and the well-populated WDCV staff reflected the excitement the station generated on campus. Student participation also soared in 1983-the year that WDCV went stereo. But the station experienced a lull in the mid-1990s (legend has it that for several years, the station was almost single-handedly run by one green-haired DJ, namely Fred Barney '98).
News and sports reporting also fluctuated over time. The news division was flourishing in 1976, for example, when Doug Marcello '78 sent reports from the Democratic Convention, where he witnessed the nomination of Jimmy Carter and rubbed elbows with Dan Rather. Student reporters also provided live updates about the incident at Three Mile Island in 1979, albeit from approximately 40 miles away.
Some changes at WDCV reflect technological advancements that revolutionized the industry. When vinyl use plummeted in the 1980s because of new technologies, WDCV officers, like many Americans, donated the station's vast vinyl collection to charity (a decision that is greatly lamented today, as the station scrambles to rebuild its vinyl library). Other developments point to a challenge common to all student organizations: Plans and priorities may shift year to year, as some students graduate or study abroad and others arrive.
1990s and beyond: Campus and community voices
To help balance the changing nature of the student body, the station has cultivated a small brigade of Dickinsonians and off-campus volunteers who help fill in programming gaps during summer and winter breaks. A few have had lasting impact.
Davis Tracy, the former director of the Counseling Center, was a WDCV advisor for 17 years, and his year-round bluegrass show is still a station staple. President William G. Durden '71's radio show reinvigorated the station's visibility and popularity in 2002-08.
Community members Bob Ziff and Phil Peoples host popular jazz programs throughout the year. Peoples is a lifelong jazz fan whose dreams of college and a radio career were dashed by early family obligations. Decades later, after retiring from a career as a tool-and-dye engineer, he took a job in the Library and Information Services department and was soon recruited to join the WDCV team. Ziff, a composer, brings professional credentials to the post, having written hits for Chet Baker and other jazz luminaries. He also was included in a jazz documentary for the BBC.
The station's faculty advisors, Multimedia Developer Brenda Landis and Joy Verner, assistant to the vice president for student development, also bring noteworthy experiences to the table. Verner is a former radio professional with experience at commercial stations; Landis, an academic-technology expert, lends expertise in WDCV multimedia, marketing and social networking.
Station engineer Tom Vernon '76 takes care of the technical end. A student DJ through college, Vernon went on to earn a master's in engineering at Boston University and a doctorate in management technology. As a radio engineer, he's set up professional stations—including Philadelphia's WXPN and Boston's first digital recording studio, where public radio's World Café is recorded. He also writes for industry magazines.
The 21st century: Global views
The station that once was heard only in campus residence halls now reaches a worldwide audience, boasting listeners from across the country and around the world. That feat was made possible in 2000, when WDCV instituted online streaming. Three years later, the worldwide broadcasts were expanded to 24 hours daily.
Recent innovations include a new, state-of-the-art FM transmitter (the 1983 model is now the backup); text displays on car radios and mobile devices; and ISDN connections, allowing faculty and staff to be interviewed by major media organizations without leaving campus. An FTP server enables Dickinsonians to send audio files from anywhere in the world. And this year WDCV welcomes a sports-news advisor, Keith Fischer '02. Plans are in the works to significantly expand live coverage of Dickinson sports.
According to Verner and Landis, the station has been increasing efforts to reach out to the community, sending out live, on-site broadcasts during select local events and recruiting a few more community DJs, adding more variety to the mix.
Looking back at the many landmarks WDCV has celebrated over the past 50 years, Verner asserts that one thing is certain: There are many more to come. "It will be interesting to see where the new technologies lead us, and what it will be like in another 50 years," she says.
P.O. Box 1773
Carlisle, PA 17013
Toll Free: 800-644-1773
Dickinson College. All rights reserved.