Friday Feature: Happy birthday to KOAC!

There’s a public radio station near and dear to our hearts at OSU — one that keeps many Oregonians well-informed and entertained — turns 90 today. The station that started life as KFDJ, then became KOAC, and then formed a major part of OPB was born on December 7, 1922. And so we say “here’s to their fabulous history” with a new Flickr set!

George Edmonston wrote a wonderful piece in 2009 on the history of KOAC on campus, taking us back to those early days when “[w]ireless communication came to OAC [Oregon Agricultural College] during the 1913-14 school year in a course taught by Dr. Willibald Weniger, head of the physics department and namesake of Weniger Hall.” It was in Dr. Weniger’s class “Wireless Telegraphy 222” that students built and operated a “spark-type transmitter.” After WWI, the class was turned over to Physics Professor Jacob Jordan, who built the radio transmitter for the College’s first 50-watt station as a lab experiment. That station became a central part of the campus (and eventually state) community.

In March of 1922, the OAC Extension Service had begun using the radio station KGW in Portland for educational broadcasts; fortunately for us, they moved back to our campus… Later that year, on December 7, 1922, OAC was granted a license to begin broadcasting the radio station KFDJ. The first formal broadcast (on January 23, 1923) featured music from the Corvallis High School band.

Three years later, in October 1925, the college radio service was officially dedicated. To make it even more official a “Broadcasting Schedule” leaflet was prepared and distributed to a selected list of radio receiver owners. It was at this same time that regular hours of broadcasting were established for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00; special broadcasts were also made for college convocations, athletic contests, and other events. The station soon became known as KOAC.

KOAC’s studios in Covell Hall opened with the completion of that building in 1928. Prior to that they had been in what is now Kearney Hall (Apperson at the time). Not content with just audio, KOAC-TV went on the air in 1957.

In 1981, OPB left the Department of Higher Education, becoming an independent state agency, and in 1988 OPB moved to a new facility on SW Macadam Avenue in Portland. However, most of KOAC’s radio operations were still located on campus until 2009, when all operations moved to Portland.

You can learn more about the history of KOAC in our web chronology at a KOAC Radio Milestones and Music, Markets, and Milestones: 75 Years of KOAC Radio. The 1972 history of KOAC, The Remembered Years is available in ScholarsArchive. You can also learn more about our historical materials pertaining to KOAC in the KOAC Records (RG015) and Jimmie Morris Collection in their online guides .

Want to know more? Check out the Wikipedia article on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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