To celebrate 50 years of WONC, we asked alumni to share their favorite memories from their time at the station. Here are some of their reflections:
Ron Smith ’75
“When I started at WONC, we didn’t have teletype. We would record newscasts from WBBM and WGN in Chicago. While I was at the station, we got a teletype machine and a Marti unit so we could broadcast sports. At that point, we turned into a real radio station. We advanced quickly after that; by 1974 we were voted Billboard’s college radio station of the year.”
Becky Blanchard '88
“Several years ago, I was giving a presentation in front of a large group, and of course, things went sideways. However, I kept talking while troubleshooting at the same time. After a few minutes, I resolved the problem and was able to complete the presentation.
“Afterwards, one of my colleagues asked me, ‘How were you able to keep your cool while things were going wrong?’ I replied that it was due to my time at the college radio station where John Madormo drilled into me, ‘You CAN’T have dead air! You must always have a backup plan or be able to stall really well.’”
Russ Tanzello '15
“A group of us were headed to the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System awards in New York. We got caught in a snowstorm and stranded at Midway Airport. The Amtrak train was our last hope; if we didn’t get train tickets we never would have gotten to the awards. We rode the train for 28 hours and barely made the awards ceremony. The rest of the staff went crazy when they announced we had won the award for Best College Radio Station, but John Madormo and I just exchanged a look. We knew it would be us.”
Ann Hengehold '85
“WONC was a ton of fun. It was remarkable how much freedom John Madormo gave us to try things. He didn’t want anyone to know it was a college radio station. I left with a résumé that looked like I’d been working professionally for a couple of years.”
Scott Wehrli '91
“My time at the station was revolutionary, because we got access to AP Newsdesk. This was before the Internet, when we still had teletype and had to haul boxes of paper up four or five flights of stairs in Old Main to get to the studio. The news desk worked off an IBM PC; there was no more carrying boxes up the stairs!
“We were constantly in pursuit of a new place to put the radio tower. So, ultimately, I had an opportunity to put a tower up on my company. John said, ‘You know, it would be really a great thing for an alumnus to be involved.’ And, 25 years later, we’re still up and running.”
Laura Botten '08
“At WONC, on the second day you’re on campus, you’re on the air. The first thing I learned was how to pronounce w: double-u, not double-yah.
“We were a fun family; it was a blast. My favorite shift to DJ was Sunday night’s Vintage Rock show. Unfortunately, during the Sunday night of finals week, I always had to miss the pancake ‘breakfast’ at Kaufman Dining Hall. My roommates who were fellow ‘WONC-ers’ would always make me a plate and bring it to me to eat during my show.
“I never thought I was on an award-winning level and spent most of my time learning and trying to improve. One day, John Madormo mentioned that he thought I should submit audio for the Student Silver Dome Awards. When they announced the nominees for Best Radio Aircheck, I had no real hope that I’d win; I was just happy to be at the ceremony. Then they announced my name as the winner and played the first clip from my submission tape. I was on cloud nine walking up to receive my award. Thank you for believing in me, John!”
Jeremy Gudauskas '99/M '11
“While I have many great memories of time spent on air at WONC, a disproportionate amount of time was spent in the production studio. One beautiful afternoon in late fall, I entered the old production studio on the fifth floor of Old Main to finish a radio documentary with some classmates. We lost track of time, and when we emerged from the studio, blinking as the sun was rising the next day, there were about six inches of snow on the ground. You know you love doing something when the seasons change and you don’t even notice.”
Lucas Mitzel '11/M '18
“I think my favorite on-air shift would have to be from 2009. I did a Saturday morning shift for the longest time, and in the fall of ‘09 Halloween happened to fall on a Saturday. I decided to make the whole show Halloween-themed, talking during every on-air break in a cackling voice about how ‘Your radio station has been taken over by the forces of darkness.’ Once an hour I told a ghost story. A number of listeners called in to compliment me on the theme. One was disappointed I didn’t answer the phone with the cackling voice (In my defense, it hurt to talk like that). I think that show was one of the most fun in my time there, and I think the listeners enjoyed the change of pace, too.”
Ruth Larson '57 Chapek
"My roommate Pat Stroud and I had a radio show during our senior year, 1957. The thing was no one could hear us. Reception was bad, I guess. We would ask every week. But no one ever heard us. And we spent a lot of time getting it all together!"
JIm Lurvey '69
"I helped erect the original tower on top of Old Main. I was on the air the first few years. I continued to use some of the skills I developed for the rest of my career in various instructional design positions. I was education director from 1978 to1986 for KEYA-FM 88.5 in Belcourt, N.D., owned by the tribal school board. I trained students and tribal members in radio broadcasting and supervised them on the air."
Charlene Seiler '70 Conner
"I remember pulling records from a stack for the guys to play as we listened to WONC on campus, in the dorms. It was a pleasure to walk up the stairs of Old Main and be a part of the radio station!"
Robert Hemmelgarn '89
"I remember Maddog (John Madormo) trying to stack the deck with alumni ringers in the annual WONC basketball game."
Tom Izzo '75
"I always loved WONC on the fourth floor of Old Main. The only restrooms in the entire bulding were in the basement. During my freshman year, if you needed to 'go,' you'd put on a long song—such as 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' by Iron Butterfly (17 minutes, six seconds long)—to make it downstairs and then back up, trying not to be winded when the mic went on. By the time I was a senior, I could do it in a three-minute song."
Gene Ahlborn '56
"In my junior year as a student at North Central, I was elected president of the radio club, operating the carrier current radio station WNOC. Many times, the signal barely reached the campus limits. Sometimes various interested students would report our signal strength from different points in Naperville.
"In any event, we broadcast various chapel services, any special events, some sports and did some early morning DJ programs. I recall that our faculty advisor was Professor Glenn Reddick. I wish you all the best as you continue into the second 50 years of broadcasting excellence at North Central."
Justin Cornwell '06
"My favorite memories of WONC revolve around the wonderful group of people I met and worked with through the radio station. That list includes my wife, April Johnson '03, and four of the groomsmen at our wedding: Grant Sabo '06, Jason Lamar '06, Josh Hoeck '07 and Zach DeWitz '05. In addition to preparing me for a career in broadcasting, the station allowed for the creation of tight-knit bonds that will last a lifetime."
Jen Torchia '96
"It was 1994 or 1995 when I decided to stay home for spring break and work at the station. It paid minimum wage and I had the place to myself, so why not? My friend Joe Leamon had just finished his shift, but hung out for a little bit while I started mine. Good thing, too, because about 30 seconds toward the end of my first song my stomach decided it was going to be very sick. I stuck my head out of Studio A, yelled, 'Joe!' and then stuck my head into Studio B to vomit. I had to; we were in Old Main and the bathrooms were four flights down! Joe closed the door behind me and miraculously back-IDed the song and started up the next one. We were the only ones in the station, and he was thankfully free, so he offered to finish my shift while I slept on the couch. I and many WONC listeners are grateful to Joe for keeping my puke off the air.
"I have so many fond memories of the station and the friends I made working there, but this one sticks out the most. I wonder why?"