HistoryGrove City College's WSAJ has a long heritage of broadcasting, spanning more than 100 years.
Grove City College was among the first academic institutions experimenting in radio broadcasting. The mind behind this undertaking was former physics chair, Dr. Herbert W. Harmon. Dr. Harmon's research and experimentation, dating back as early as 1911, made possible some of the earliest advancements in “wireless telephony” and earned him a spot as a pioneer in broadcasting.
Grove City College's radio experimentation officially began in the spring of 1913, when a radio receiving station was opened in the old Physics Building on lower campus. An experimental, 1kw transmitting station was licensed in the fall of 1914 with the call letters 8CO. After a brief moratorium on amateur radio during World War I, the college returned to the airwaves for experimental and training purposes in January 1920, this time as call-sign 8YV.
On the evening of April 26, 1920 under the watchful eye of Dr. Harmon, Weir C. Ketler, president of the college, went on the air and addressed the New Castle Rotary Club nearly 20 miles away. A wireless operator, Rex Patch in New Castle, manned the receiving equipment.
"Back in those days," said L. Ted Hindeman, '37, "It was hard to believe that the human voice could be transmitted and received over so many miles with no connection other than air waves."
The FCC issued the call letters “WSAJ” to Grove City College in November 1921 along with frequency 1310-kcs. The student-led “Radio Club” was officially formed in 1931 to operate the station. In the fall of 1932, the station was moved to the new Science building on the upper campus and placed on restricted hours of broadcasting using frequency 1340-kcs.
In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission licensed WSAJ-FM at 10-watts on frequency 89.5-mhz. Just over a decade later, the studios moved from Rockwell Hall to a location on the ground floor of Ketler Dormitory and remained there until construction of the Dorothy Newman Wilson ’43 studios in fall of 2008, which are located in the Wier C. Ketler Technological Learning Center (TLC).
A power increase granted in 1994 allowed WSAJ-FM to transmit at 3kw watts on 91.1-mhz from the roof of Rockwell Science building. At that time, a Classical/Fine Arts format was adopted, utilizing local and remote programming sources. A transmitter site move in 2001 increased the station’s coverage area again (and improved relations with the Physics folks on the 3rd floor of Rockwell).
In 2002, syndicated jazz programming was added to the overnight schedule, breaking-up the 24/7 syndicated classical programming.
In 2003, at the direction of new Chairman of the Board, David R. Rathburn ’79 (and WSAJ alum), student broadcasting triumphantly returned to the airwaves of WSAJ, alternating spots with the existing classical and jazz programming during the afternoons and evenings. Student broadcasting at that time was –and remains- based around an “Indie” rock format that provided exposure for independent artists outside the mainstream.
In 2007, additional, syndicated programming was added in the form of BBC World Service News updates, Classical-24 from Public Radio International, and more than 24-hours of weekly shows featuring symphonic concerts, bluegrass, folk, blues, Americana, jazz, and more.
2009 brought a major, technical upgrade in the form of the state-of-the-art, Dorothy Newman Wilson ’43 studios, located in the TLC building. Most of the funding for the new facility was provided through a generous, memorial gift by Dorothy’s husband, Dr. H. Randall Wilson ’42. Both “Dot” and “Randy” were WSAJ alums, participating in the station’s operation during the early 40’s.
The next technological leap for WSAJ radio occurred in March of 2011 when the college commissioned a new transmitter site. Although the new location and equipment provided a significant boost in power and coverage for the station, it also brought the dawn of digital broadcasting to Grove City College in the form of an HD broadcasting system. The station still broadcasts on analog 91.1-FM - but there is now a mirror, digital carrier compatible with all the new HD radio receivers included in the signal.
The station begins experimentally as 8CO (later 8YV) just two years after the International Radio Convention and the Radio Act of 1912.
July 25th, 1919
Dr. Harmon tests his "wireless telegraphy" by transmitting "singing, whistling, and talking" wirelessly to Operator Rex Patch in New Castle.
April 26th, 1920
Dr. Harmon oversees a landmark broadcast as then-president Wier C. Ketler speaks to the New Castle Rotary club over-the-air.
The broadcast license for WSAJ-AM on 1310-kcs is issued on November 29th.
A varied format featuring student “presenters”, Chapel Services, and basketball games begins on WSAJ-AM.
The student-led “Radio Club” is formed in the
WSAJ-AM 1340-kcs is moved into the new Science Building.
WSAJ-FM on 89.5-mhz signs on at 10 watts.
The WSAJ’s studios move from Rockwell Hall of Science to Ketler Dormitory.
The station is granted a power increase to 280 watts.
The station moves onto 91.1-mhz and signs-on a new 3kw transmitter systems with a 24/7 Classical/Fine Arts format. Student broadcasting moves to a campus-only AM station, and later to intranet streaming.
A new, off-campus transmitter site signs-on boosting coverage throughout the area. Jazz programming is added to the overnights.
After an almost 10-year break from the airwaves, student broadcasting returns to WSAJ in the evenings and afternoons in the form of 91.1 The One
An era of radio history comes to an end as WSAJ-AM is decommissioned.
New syndicated programming is added as the station affiliates with Public Radio Internationa l. Highlights of the new schedule include BBC World Service News and a weekend line-up of bluegrass, folk, blues, and jazz shows.
The new, “Dorothy Newman Wilson ’43” radio studios are commissioned in the TLC building to start the spring semester.
April 26, 2010
WSAJ celebrates “100 Years of Broadcasting” on-air with a memorial broadcast to start student programming that evening.
2011Grove City College ushers WSAJ Radio into the 21st century with a new, digital transmitter site. A power increase occurs as well. 91-1 WSAJ-FM/HD is on the air!