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The History of Thiel College Radio

On The Air for over 50 Years!

We haven't always been WXTC. Thiel Radio first existed as the Thiel College Radio Club and then as WTGP. Keep scrolling to read about the beginning of Thiel Radio by Thiel Alum and former station manager, Jim Cunningham.

History: Welcome

The Early Years of WTGP

by James H. Cunningham III

The first formal move toward establishing a Thiel College Radio station dates back to March 4, 1964, in a letter sent to R.T. Whitlock form the FCC outlining the proper procedure.

The Thiel College Radio Association (TCRA) first discussed its plan to start a new radio station during its first formal meeting on November 29, 1967. Fundraising schemes included raffling FM radios, conducting a fund raising drive among Greenville businessmen, and creating sample programs at local station WGRP and then playing them during lunch and dinner in the cafeteria.

The early plans for the programming stated: "More of an uptempo for lunch than dinner." and "Stay away from campus political and local political issues; anything of poor taste." Ivan Romenenko was contacted and offered his support with a benefit concert by the Thiel Chamber Orchestra. Plans were made to rent the Jordan Theater in downtown Greenville to show special movies to raise money.

The Association was formed by a group of ham radio enthusiasts who had been suggesting a radio station at Thiel for a number of years. David Shoemaker was selected as its first president followed by David Lortz.

The early meetings of the TCRA dealt with the problem of where the proposed station should be located. The first choice was in the Howard Miller Center. Later it would be suggested (and architect's plans drawn up) to put the station on top of the maintenance building.

Some problems were encountered with the initial attempts at license application. The first frequency applied for had been allocated to another community by the Pennsylvania Plan for Educational Broadcasting. Dr. Bly (then Thiel President) and Mr. Eck (then Thiel Treasurer) aided the effort by writing letters to Pennsylvania officials and the FCC. A professional consulting firm was contracted to put together the license application. It was determined the best frequency for WTGP was 88.1 FM.

TCRA members got involved with the weekly "Thiel Speaks" program, broadcast on Greenville's WGRP since the early 1960's.

By February 3, 1971, the station's foundation was being poured, the transmitter ordered, a few records coming in and money raised. Student government had agreed to commit $4000 and the college would pay for the station building.

A construction permit from the FCC was granted on March 17, 1971. The call letters WTGP were awarded on May 11, 1971. There had been plans to use the call WGRR to stand for the "growl' of the Tomcats but WGRR was decided to be too close to Greenville's WGRP so the compromise became WPRR. However, the "purr" of the Tomcats was thought a little too tame and WTGP proposed as an alternate. The "T" standing for Thiel, "G" for Greenville and "P" for Pennsylvania.

In the Spring of 1971, two-year president of the Radio Association, Dave Lortz, graduated without ever hearing WTGP. That summer, on June 30, 1971, WTGP was granted a license and Jim VanDongen, active on the TCRA, was named general manager of WTGP.

Dr. Good from the Religion department was faculty advisor for the station, followed by Dr. Safford who obtained a Third Class Operator's Permit from the FCC along with a group of potential staff members.

Broadcasting began on September 30, 1971. Kenneth Anderson, General Manager of WGRP in Greenville served as the station's first Chief Engineer and supervised much of the actual wiring of equipment. Broadcasting began from what is now the production studio with a minimum of equipment. United Press provided teletype service. Office furniture was purchased and the record collection began to grow from about 70 selections.

At first the station was only on the air four hours in the evening. Programs included rock and jazz, the show "Music From Greenville" with recordings of local music groups, "Conductor's Choice" featuring Ivan Romenenko, Thiel's artist in residence, and a discussion forum which at one time featured a live debate between supporters of President Richard Nixon and Senator McGovern. Dr. Mervin Newton and a group of students represented Nixon and Terry L. Busson, professor of political science and several students represented McGovern. A live address given by Senator Sam Ervin (before he became famous through Watergate) was broadcast from the Howard Miller Center.

The station's license was renewed for the first time on July 31, 1972. In Jim VanDongen's second year the station dropped the UPI teletype service in favor of the ABC radio network. Plans were formulated to increase the height of the station's antenna. VanDongen graduated in the Spring of 1973 and John Sable became general manager. Sable assumed the responsibility of implementing the station's plan for a new antenna and increase in height. The construction permit for this first change was granted on August 16, 1973.

With the original antenna taken down and license application in progress, broadcasting began late the following fall of 1973. Operation began on October 29, 1973 with the new facilities, a 100-foot tower, and a two-bay antenna, . Now the station was on the air a little longer, starting its day at 2:00 p.m. and signing off at 1:00 a.m. The license to cover the change in antenna was granted on January 7, 1973. The first antenna, on top of the building was 30' tall.

Continued expansion of record library, staff members and hours on the air marked Jack Sable's second year as manager. The new antenna gave better reception to many of the station's listeners and expanded the station's potential audience. At first reception was poor only a short distance from the antenna because the 30 foot tower didn't even clear Hodge Hall. Students living in the fraternity quad and Stewart dorm complained they couldn't pick up the station.

On April 11, 1974, the station license was renewed for a second time, this time for a three year period. The station's music director, Jim Cunningham, proposed the idea of converting the station's facilities to stereo at a student government meeting of January 1975. That spring Student Government acting on the recommendation of its president, Mike Briegel, acted to release $13,000 from its reserve funds in order for the station to buy new equipment for stereo operation, buy a new much larger antenna and again increase tower height.

Jack Sable graduated and Jim Cunningham became WTGP's third station manager in April 1975. Plans for the purchase of equipment were made with the station's Chief Engineer, Dave McLusky. Working throughout the summer of 1975, Mclusky and Cunningham installed a new control board, transmitter and audio gear. A construction permit for the second change in facilities was granted by the FCC on July 15, 1975.

On the first day of school in September the station began broadcasting in stereo. The staff and programs had expanded to enable 24-hour a day operation. The station could now be clearly heard within a 20-mile radius. Programs in 1975-76 included a series of telephone question and answer programs with the Thiel's new president, Dr. Frank Bretz. Sunday mornings were devoted to classical music and the syndicated comedy music program, Dr. Demento, was aired.

During the summer of 1976, the station broadcast a limited number of programs during the evening hours for the first time in summer months. Negotiations were completed with Exxon and Amoco to fund weekly broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Greenville Symphony resumed its broadcasts started during the "Music from Greenville" series.

In 1976-77 the station expanded its news offerings by using both the ABC Radio Network and United Press International teletype service. The Greenville Record Argus agreed to print weekly program listings for the station and Jim Cunningham published a weekly column for the Thielensian dealing with radio-related subjects.

Dr. Louis T. Almen, inaugurated as Thiel's 15th President the weekend of May 6, 1977, appeared on the station in an interview program on May 9, 1977. The first female general manager of WTGP, Linda Richardson, was selected by the media board to direct the station for the school year 1977-78.

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