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the basics

WVAU, American University's student-run radio station, currently broadcasts on American University's 
campus cable system.  On the air 24 hours a day during the regular school year, WVAU shares 
Channel 30 with the Student Confederation's Information Channel.  We anticipate broadcasting over 
a radiating cable system to the main campus dorms by June 1998.  The station is located behind the 
Media Production Center (formerly the Broadcast Center) next to the administration's radio tower.   
        
 

famous alumni include...

  • Adrian Cronauer, subject of the motion picture, "Good Morning Vietnam"  (His trademark call used to be, "Good Morning, A.U.!") 
  • Ron Nessen, President Gerald Ford's Press Secretary 
  • Willard Scott,  NBC News's "Today" weather-person
 

a brief history of time, wvau style

March 20, 1945: Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees meeting minutes: [American 
University] President Douglass reported that the Federal Communications Commission had reserved [FM] channels for assignment to educational institutions. Upon motion of Dr. Morgan, 
seconded by Dr. Ashby, [a] resolution was adopted authorizing President Douglass to submit an 
application. This was a beginning step in radio at AU.    

October 1945-1952: AU negotiates with the Evening Star Broadcast Co., which results in them 
placing a radio tower on campus in exchange for the construction of the Broadcast Center [now 
known as the Media Production Center].    

January 15, 1947: WAMC, as the student station was then known, went on the air.    

ca. 1949: The WAMC equipment was stolen one night, thus shutting down the station.    

Fall 1951: WAMU, then a student station, goes on the air. Staff member included Ed Walker and 
Willard Scott who became the "Joy Boys" of Washington radio and Ron Nessen who became 
President Gerald Ford's Press Secretary.     

1952: WAMU changed its frequency to 610 AM and moved into its first permanent studios in Leonard 
Center (now the Cassell Center).    

Fall 1954: Broadcast Center was completed one week before classes began and WAMU began 
broadcasting from there in October.    

1961: WAMU-FM went on the air at 88.5 [MHz]. Roger Penn, AU class of 1957 and 1960; George 
Geesey, 1954; and Nathan Shaw, 1961, created the station in order to give Washington educational 
programming. The AM and FM stations both operated simultaneously from the Broadcast Center, 
although the university took control of the FM station from the students.    

1964: WAMU-AM was hooked up to all of the residence halls including the Wesley Theological 
Seminary.     

Fall 1964: WAMU-AM's format went to Top 40. Other programming included "Campus Newsbeat," a 
10 p.m. news show, and coverage of the 1964 Presidential election. WAMU was the in the Ivy League Network which fed and exchanged coverage with 50 other college stations in the U.S.    

1965-66: As the Vietnam War became controversial, WAMU covered the first major Washington 
peace marches live.    

October 1969: As the first moratorium against the Vietnam War was held, WAMU anchored the 
coverage of a network of over 100 college radio stations.    

May 1970: WAMU-AM provided live coverage as a student takeover of Ward Circle in protest of the  
Vietnam War turned into a riot.    

1970: Congress formed National Public Radio and [the university administration's] WAMU-FM 
became an affiliate.    

early 1970s: WAMU-AM's music went to a progressive format.    

1973: As Watergate unfolded, AU was the only university in the nation to have a student radio White    
House Correspondent.    

November 1974: With reporters in key locations in Washington and New York, WAMU-AM broke 
some election results before the Associated Press or ABC by combining reports from these outlets.   

January 1975: WAMU-AM's new format of  "Schizophonic Sound" debuted with commercial music 
during the day and progressive music at night. National attention came to AU when a single-engine    airplane crashed into the WAMU-FM radio tower landing in AU President George Williams's yard    
killing all five aboard. WAMU-AM news was on the scene in moments and kept the campus updated 
on the situation.    

March 1975: WAMU-AM broke the story of President Williams resignation.    

1985: WAMU-AM's call letters changed to WVAU.    

February 1987: The Confederation Media Commission (CMC) voted to shut down WVAU for a period 
of 6 months to one year because of a weak signal and poor organization.    

February 1, 1988: WVAU returned to the air with the nickname EAGLE 102. During its shutdown, the 
Student Confederation (SC) spent $25,000 on new equipment and furnishings. The station changed 
its format to include a wider range of music including progressive, top 40, and classic rock.    

1993: The news department, which had ceased to exist, was re-created.     

1993-94: The SC purchased coaxial cables which students can borrow from the station and hook up 
from their residence hall TV jack to their stereo and/or television.    

1994: WVAU begins Broadcasting on the audio portion of Channel 7 of the new AU cable television 
system.    

March 1995: WVAU's exclusive, live coverage of the SC elections reaches maturity as listenership of 
it skyrockets.     

Fall 1996: All of WVAU's 24 hour a day programming slots are filled for the first time in the decade.     

1997: WVAU is slated to return to TDR and work continues on the FM broadcasting system, with the 
goal being for everyone in the undergraduate residence halls to hear the station on FM without a 
coaxial cable. Also, the AM system, which has been disabled due to university construction in each 
residence hall about three years ago, is being examined for repair.    
         

SOURCES:    

  • The American Scene. "Broadcasting at AU: Making Waves for Nearly 50 Years." 18 November 1996.    
  • Davin, T.A. The American University Radio and Television, a Chronology.   
  • Goldstein, Bill. "A Troublesome Decade for WVAU." The Eagle. 10 Sep. 1990.    
  • Moseson, Richard. A Brief History of WAMU.   
  • Thompson, Carol B. "WVAU Celebrates Birthday." The Eagle. 1988 (no other date available). 
  
  

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Office: (202) 885-1212
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