The following article, “On the Airwaves”, originally appeared in the 2020 Bicentennial issue of the Hamptonia as written by Beth Osgood Dodge P’07, ’09. Read the full magazine online.
On the Airwaves
There are several elements which contribute to creating a campus culture. One component at New Hampton was the unifying language of music coalescing students from all over the world around their love of pop records. Radio became a popular media in the 1920s in the United States, supporting an immediate delivery of newscasts, sporting events, weather reports, stories, commentary, and music. It was not long until it also became popular on school campuses across the country.
WNHS was the student radio station from the 1950s until 2000, found at 640 on the AM band in the early days. It broadcast on a carrier current signal which meant the dorms could pick it up, but the signal didn’t extend much past “the island” of campus. Working at the radio station was a club activity that attracted several dozen students each year. Lou Gnerre, a faculty member who began at New Hampton in 1957, humorously recounted, “Don Wehde ’59 ran the radio station and gave me many sleepless nights monitoring the programs for indelicate content.” While there were a few years when WNHS fell out of service, it was a very popular co-curricular with an engaged campus audience. Dan Paradis served as the faculty advisor for the radio station for many of its active years. With a background in electrical engineering and a passion for radio, he is often the first name that our alumni reference when speaking of the station. Paradis remembers students being the driving force behind WNHS, even referencing one student, Jeff Prahm ’71, as he recounted the tale of selling “very professional sounding” advertisements. Since their time here at New Hampton School, several alumni turned the seminal experience into rewarding careers.
STEVE CUMMING ’69
Steve Cumming ’69, chose New Hampton School precisely because of its student radio station having known he wanted a career in radio since he was a young child. Shortly after arriving as a sophomore in 1966, he discovered the radio station hadn’t been operating for a few years. Thankfully, the following spring two seniors, Bill Ring ’67 and Brad Peakes ’67, got it up and running with the help of Physics teacher Dan Paradis who handmade the operating board that controlled the mics and turntables. The station was located in the closet under the stairs of Lane Hall complete with acoustic tiles on the wall, two turntables, and a reel-to-reel tape machine. Steve says the station played mostly music, but he remembers Ralph Walker ’69 would cover men’s basketball games, record his play-by-play, and play it back on the air after the game.
After graduation from Miami University (Ohio), Steve worked at several major market stations and currently is a news anchor at three separate stations in Washington, D.C., Dallas/Fort Worth, and Los Angeles. Steve says he has never forgotten that New Hampton gave him his start in a career he had long desired and is still enjoying 53 years later.
BILL MOYES ’66
Bill Moyes ’66, first became involved with the station helping with the engineering and maintenance of the equipment, but one day the DJ didn’t show, he was asked to take on the shift, and he caught the bug. He remembers it was a great time for music and WNHS was the only place for students to hear current hits.
Following graduation from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, he was leading the radio division for a major broadcasting market researcher when a former Tuck student approached him to buy a radio station together. Simultaneously, he started his own research firm called The Research Group which he built into a worldwide leader. Steve owned 35 stations when he and his business partner launched a satellite-delivered radio network that grew to over 1000 radio station clients. His company then merged with a company owned by Dick Clark. Bill went on to start another research firm where he still works with selected radio station clients to this day.
Moyes says the value of New Hampton is that “you never know when a student will get excited by something and where it will lead them. New Hampton did that for me in spades.”
AJ VAZIFDAR ’89
AJ Vazifdar, ’89 better known as “Crozby” to his listeners on 92.5 The River, WXRV in Boston, remembers having a night show his senior year on WNHS. He was mostly into rap in those days, emulating the cool students on campus with their pulsating big boom boxes. AJ was a local kid, the son of a well-known Meredith doctor. He remembers the radio station being located in the cottage overlooking the pond. He says he left campus for a semester in England and came back to find the station had been moved to the new student center between the Moore Arts and Athletic Center and the dining hall. AJ has worked in radio for 30 years and is a fixture on Boston’s The River. AJ says New Hampton set him up to succeed in his radio career and he credits teachers like Mark Tilton and Dan Paradis who made all the difference.
When I enrolled in New Hampton the location of the radio station had been moved around campus and ended in Lane Hall where English and languages were instructed. The room itself was really no more than a large broom closet. The signal was strong enough to cover the school buildings and the downtown area of New Hampton. A graduate with some knowledge of electronics came back and boosted the signal for about three days to the point that it was going several miles. There was some concern that the FAA would be upset with us if our signal caused trouble.
Somehow we were put on the list of radio stations to receive singles to be played. The selection of records was not extensive so the singles were often played. These were Top 10 type songs so they were enjoyable. I remember “All Along the Watch Tower”, “Wedding Bell Blues” by the Fifth Dimension, “Age of Aquarius” from the Broadway play “Hair” and various Beatle songs.
At college I earned my third class engineer license as a freshman. The college station needed plenty of people with licenses and so that meant I immediately had air time at the college station. Quite an improvement of facilities and equipment but the introduction at New Hampton was always kept in mind. – John Horton ʼ70
I was a member of the Radio Club in 58/59. Lou Gnerre was quoted as enduring "sleepless nights" listening for indelicate content from Don Wehde. It should be noted that Don '59 and especially his brother Carl '58 were disk jockey fixtures on WDRC, a very popular early rock station in Hartford, CT for many years in the 1960's The brothers hosted many concerts at the Bushnell Memorial in Hartford, including that brash British group, the Beatles. Carl (AKA "Long John Wehde" due to his stage persona and costume) toured with the Beatles in the US.
I found some links http://www.broadcastpioneers.org/longjohnwade.html http://www.wdrcobg.com/ljw.html