Wake Forest radio's first spark came from a North Carolina boarding house in the college's namesake town in the fall of 1947. Students Alva Parris (Al) and Henry Randall (Randy) were avid radio fans who built a small transmitter in their off-campus room. This allowed them to broadcast their original radio programs to friends at nearby Simmons Dormitory on campus.
The boarding room broadcasts became so popular Al and Randy spearheaded a successful campaign to establish an official campus station to serve the students, faculty, and surrounding community. The call letters W-A-K-E were a natural choice to identify the Wake Forest radio station. The U.S. government had begun requiring a four-letter combination for radio callsigns in the 1920s. Even better, most stations east of the Mississippi River were to use the letter "W" as the first letter of the identifying callsign (western state call letters were to begin with the letter "K").
On April 19, 1948, radio station WAKE was officially unveiled in an on-air dedication ceremony. The live broadcast included remarks by Wake Forest College president Dr. Thurman D. Kitchin, Dean D.B. Bryan, student body president Horace "Dagwood" Kornegay, and even the mayor of the town of Wake Forest. A letter written by the station's faculty advisor Dr. Marc Lovelace was read on the air by the program host, student Roland "Woody" Woodward. It was a phrase in Dr. Lovelace's letter, where he referred to WAKE at "the voice of Wake Forest," that led to what would be the Wake Forest radio slogan for decades - "The Radio Voice of Wake Forest University."
Then it was discovered the call letters WAKE had already been taken by another radio station. The station took on the new call letters WFDD, an acronym for Wake Forest Demon Deacons. This was fitting since much of WFDD's programming included broadcasts of Wake Forest sports.
The station also featured a student-programmed music show called "Deaconlight Serenade." The name was spun from combining the Wake Forest sports moniker Demon Deacons with "Moonlight Serenade," the title of a popular song by big band conductor Glenn Miller.
WFDD continued its growth when Wake Forest College moved to its new campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1961, under the guidance of faculty advisor Dr. Julian Burroughs, the station was licensed as an educational, non-commercial radio station operating at a total power of 10 watts. That power was increased to 36,000 watts in 1967.
Following the establishment of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967, WFDD became one of 10 stations (out of approximately 60 applications) to receive federal funding from the CPC. Dr. Burroughs' expertise was tapped along with other directors of federally funded stations to shape the policies of the new non-profit organization, National Public Radio (NPR).
As a groundbreaking non-commercial station, it was natural that WFDD would be a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR). In 1971, a student flipped a switch at the Reynolda Hall studios that brought the first broadcast of "All Things Considered" to the airwaves in North Carolina.
Over the decades since its inception in Al and Randy's boarding house room, countless WFU students played key roles in the growth of Wake Forest radio - as announcers, producers, technicians, and other volunteers. In addition to sports, news, arts features, and classical music programming, the popular music show produced by students remained a key tradition. Somewhere along the way the "Serenade" was dropped, yet "Deaconlight" endured as a student production until December 27, 1981.
In the 1980s student-programmed radio returned to Wake Forest University. WAKE Radio began on the AM frequency and evolved into an Internet radio station. Wake Radio can be heard worldwide at http://radio.wfu.edu. It is managed, programmed, and hosted by students from Benson Hall on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
WFDD is a premier National Public Radio station that is still located on the Wake Forest University campus. Its primary focus is news at the local, national, and international level as well as Triad-area arts. WFDD continues to operate at 88.5 FM and has an online stream that can be accessed globally. In 2007, WFDD installed a digital transmitter, which gives the station flexibility to broadcast multiple HD channels. For the latest news about WFDD, visit http://www.wfdd.org.
This site is a story of Wake Forest radio told by students, faculty, and staff who each had a part in its history. In addition to first-person accounts in written form, you can listen to vintage audio, including the 1948 dedication ceremony, the "Campus Report" when the station increased its power to 36,000 watts, and recollections from former students who gathered in 2003 to pay tribute to their experiences with WFDD.