Reunion marks history of first U radio station

Nicole Vulcan

Members of the University’s first student-run radio station, WMMR, used to hand out Lucky Strike cigarettes at events to entice students to attend.
Times have changed in the 50 years of college radio at the University — that station has since closed to give way to Radio K.
Fifty years of University radio were represented Saturday night at a reunion for WMMR, the former AM station that broadcast on campus from 1948 to 1993. More than 100 people attended the event, which was held at the Campus Club in Coffman Union and included music provided by Radio K and dinner for alumni of WMMR.
The idea for a campus radio station began in 1947 with “The Grind,” a two-hour program broadcasting jazz and information in the lounges of Coffman Union. Later the next year, funding was approved for a station that would broadcast to the dormitories. After a successful trial run, the name WMMR, which stands for Women’s and Men’s Minnesota Radio, was approved by the Federal Communications Commission, and one of the first university radio stations in the country was born.
In 1956 the station broke more new ground. WMMR became a member of the American Broadcasting network, now ABC, making it the first University station to be affiliated with a major radio network. In 1993 the station was closed, making room for Radio K to open.
WMMR was staffed solely by volunteers. Funding for the station came in part from the University’s Department of Speech Communication, but most money received was from advertisers. WMMR’s first sponsor was the popular cigarette company Lucky Strike.
WMMR’s facilities were located in Coffman Union throughout the duration of its 45-year existence. For the most part, the station consisted of one or two rooms that moved around the student union during the years — a stark contrast from the facilities of Radio K, which consist of six studios in Rarig Center.
“We could fit everything we had into one of the studios they have now,” said Mike McIntee, a University student from 1977 to 1982 and former news director/general manager of WMMR. McIntee, with the help of a handful of other former WMMR members, organized Saturday’s reunion.
The reunion brought together members from the entire history of radio at the University, many of whom have continued on into careers in broadcasting and public relations. Many were enthusiastic when reminiscing about their time at WMMR and felt it was the best first step they could have taken to pursue a broadcasting career.
“The things I learned in college radio I took with me into my professional career in public relations and advertising,” said Lynn Sadoff-Hechter, member of WMMR from 1977 to 1981. “It’s a great way to get some real hands-on skills, to learn the right way and make your mistakes early.”