USF History Vault: KUSF’s Beginnings

KUSF has received an astounding collection of awards in the last five decades. As a non-commercial radio station, it has been commended by the likes of United States Senator Dianne Feinstein and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  Although the award-winning station no longer plays on the airwaves, here is a look back on how the station first got up and running.

Since 1922, universities nationwide began to obtain broadcast licenses for campus radio stations; USF President William Dunne, S.J., first considered the enterprise in the 1940s.

KUSF: Courtesy of Gleeson Archives
The 1963 Don yearbook features photos of the station’s founders. (Courtesy of Gleesan Library)

However, the university did not take action until the 1950s, when physics professor

Fr. Spieler, S.J. created a proposal and acquired funding for radio station equipment.

By October of 1960, the Federal Communication Commission granted USF the go-ahead to create a non-commercial FM radio station. Originally, the location was to be on the roof of Phelan Hall, and to begin broadcasting in December of 1961. But with many students requesting on-campus housing, USF added a new floor to Phelan Hall for the station’s location instead.

However, USF returned the license to the FCC after un-projected costs delayed broadcasting, as well as Fr. Spieler’s untimely death in 1961.

Finally in 1963, the station began broadcasting on an AM frequency.  Funding was provided by the Associated Students of USF (ASUSF), and solely undergraduate students operated the station.

While still an AM station, undergraduate student Steve Runyon became the student general manager in 1970, and proposed that the station turn over to an FM frequency to reach a wider audience.

Therefore, the president of Simpson Bible College granted USF an offer to take over his college’s radio station, because students were unsuitably requesting rock and roll at the bible college. Runyon completed the deal and filed paperwork in 6 weeks, despite that the process usually took two years. KUSF became a non-commercial FM radio station.
In April 1977, KUSF broadcast its first show on 90.3 FM. It had a six-hour per day broadcasting schedule. Runyon established the station with funding from ASUSF, the National Science Foundation, and the Father Fred Spieler Trust.

In 1981, the station began to broadcast 24-hours a day throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Since its founding, the station has provided students with hands-on training and work experience in the broadcasting and recording industry. As the first general manager, Runyon still manages the station today.

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