WGRE Gears Up for 75th Anniversary Festivities

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To celebrate the 75th anniversary of DePauw’s historic radio station, WGRE prepares for a campus-wide celebration on April 29 at Bowman Park, involving live music, food trucks, and station merchandise.

“We have been talking about doing something like a block party … where people can set up blankets and just kind of lounge in the grass, enjoy the music, have some food and get some fun,” WGRE program director Fiona Sipple ‘25 said. She added how the station’s logo will be redesigned for the 75th anniversary to be incorporated into their upcoming t-shirt sales.

As the first 10-watt college radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, WGRE has served as the home of hundreds of student broadcasters, DJs, newscasters, sportscasters, and promotions staff since 1949. Located in the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media, the station was established by DePauw professors Elizabeth Turnell and Harold Ross to advance DePauw’s liberal arts environment through Greencastle’s first student-run radio station.

WGRE operations coordinator Chris Newton has been collecting audio recordings of 75th anniversary greetings from notable radio figures and WGRE alumni since July 2023.

"We've got everybody from New York Times reporters to the guy who does NPR in Indianapolis … to the editor of the Mirror Indy," Newton said. "I think we have probably 30 things that were running on air from people basically wishing us [a] happy birthday and talking about their time at WGRE as [alumni.]"

He elaborated on his enthusiasm for training students in different aspects of WGRE's production booth and fulfilling their creative visions.

"I wouldn't still be here if I didn't enjoy working with students and showing them how to achieve their goals. So if a student comes to me and says I'm going to do a promo about this, then I really enjoy getting that person up to speed...and make it sound like they want it to sound," he said.

Meanwhile, WGRE faculty supervisor Jeff McCall further highlighted the historic nature of the station’s 75th anniversary celebration. 

"I came to WGRE as faculty supervisor in 1985 … [and] WGRE was located in the Union Building on the second floor in rather cramped quarters,” McCall said. “I must say I've always been impressed that WGRE students are willing to, you know, step up to the plate and take the challenge … And it's been great to observe so many years of DePauw students … learn a lot about life, management, and media and communication by working in radio.”

McCall added how imperfection is part of WGRE’s charm. “If we're so careful to not make mistakes, we might not, you know, cover a news event that needs to be covered, or we might not take a chance on playing some music artist who might never get traction. So I think it's okay that we take some risks from time to time, and that's part of life too.”

Former WGRE directors and broadcasters have gone on to work in medical, law, and business careers, but all developed effective communication skills from a broadcast environment, according to McCall. 

Newton also looks forward to the reinvention of WGRE as he hints at potential software changes and signal transmitter modifications. He also praised the fresh promotional strategies implemented by students through new logos, slogans, and social media initiatives.

Meanwhile, Sipple encouraged interested students to sign up to become a WGRE DJ, with six to seven remaining slots as of April 6.

“[Being a DJ] is so much fun because you can do what it is, what you make of it. So if you just want to play music and talk on air, you can do that. But some people get really creative with it and come up with like themed shows and play music that they like and bring their own CDs into the booth,” Sipple said. “But also it's just a really cool skill, like to be able to say that you know how to broadcast from radio station and be a DJ on air. That's something that's really going to set you apart when you leave DePauw.”