In 1969, just two years after the proposal was first made for a fine arts radio station in Youngstown, Ohio, with the hard work of Don Elser, first director Steve Grcevich, and Youngstown State University president Albert Pugsley, WYSU-FM signed on the air at 88.5 MHZ, licensed to Youngstown State University. The date was October 23, and the time was 10:00 am, with program host Bill Foster introducing Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra. The station began by broadcasting 12 hours daily from its studios in the former Valley Park Motel on Wick Avenue, and served Youngstown State University and the Mahoning Valley community. WYSU-FM is a charter member of National Public Radio. Some of the first programs to air were NPR’s All Things Considered, WYSU’s Folk Festival with Charles Darling, and the syndicated program Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas.
With a small staff, WYSU made great strides over the next decades, becoming part of the first radio network using satellite-delivered programs in 1971, moving to new studios in 1976, and expanding to a 24-hour broadcast day in 1980. Also in 1980, WYSU held its first on-air pledge drive, a practice that continues twice yearly, and remains a major source of funding for the station.
Under the guidance of director Robert Peterson in the 1980s and 1990s, the station began airing Morning Edition and operating a new 50,000 watt transmitter. The addition of translators in nearby Ashtabula, Ohio and New Wilmington, Pennsylvania expanded WYSU’s coverage. In 1996, state of the art digital editing equipment was installed, and overnight programs became automated.
In the late 1990s, WYSU collaborated with the McDonough Museum of Contemporary Art at YSU in launching the first Mad About the Arts event – a celebration of great art, food, music and dance. The event is now in its 20th successful year of raising funds to support both organizations. In 2000, classical music host Barbara Krauss planned the first station-sponsored European tour to Great Britain. The tours have since taken groups of WYSU travelers all over the world.
Gary Sexton, WYSU’s current director of broadcasting, took the position in 2000. Under his direction, a WYSU website (wysu.org) was established, as well as streaming audio. By 2004, digital equipment was installed in the broadcast studios. WYSU began broadcasting in HD in 2007, adding an all classical HD channel a year later. In tandem with these advances, the station continues to produce music and community affairs programs with local hosts and guests. Fund drives have continued to be successful and the staff and supporting members remain committed to WYSU’s mission as a public radio station: to be the community’s leading source for trusted, in-depth news, engaging conversation, and music that stimulates the mind and spirit.