While the call letters that many Ithaca residents know all too well, WICB, have not been around for 70 years, the station's FCC license has. It was back in 1948 that the “Station for Innovation” was granted its FCC broadcast license. In March of 1957 WITJ became WICB at 91.7 FM. Now, Ithaca College wants to celebrate the anniversary with the whole Bomber family. At this upcoming Alumni Weekend current WICB DJ’s will be playing music, and well-known names from the station’s history will be present to celebrate the milestone.
Before moving onto the Ithaca College campus in September of 1968, the station had several homes downtown on Buffalo and Court streets, including at the site of what it now the Old Library, before it was the library. The long history of the station is full of awards, achievements, and changes, all to be celebrated this weekend.
Former radio and television operations manager Chris Wheatley ’81, was bit by the radio bug before transferring into Ithaca College. While touring as a prospective transfer, Wheatley said he thought he had reached Nirvana when he saw the fully-equipped studios, news room, and a production studio.After graduating Wheatley continued his radio career at the local news station, WHCU, for four years before being hired at Ithaca College as the radio operations manager to whip the station back into shape. That first year was “not a walk in the park,” Wheatley said. “I was sort of learning my way, not only as my first real big job, but how to affect change and not alienate people.”
Wheatley stayed in the job for nearly 32 years, guiding the students, and the station, through multiple changes. In the 1990s the studio, production room, and news room moved from Dillingham to the Park School, and several years later everything moved from the reel-to-reel format to a digital one, all under Wheatley’s watch.
One of the reasons that Wheatley thinks WICB has found such success as a college radio station is the support and funding of the Park School for resources and equipment. But the students that work the station, that’s where the real magic is.
“A lot of it just has to do with just the makeup of the students who were on staff,” he said. “I would explain this to administrators sometimes and they would say ‘Wow you do such a good job,’ and I would say ‘Well, actually the admissions office does a really good job.’”
Both Wheatley and the undeniable presence of Rudy Paolangeli ’54, former radio director, will be present at this weekend’s alumni celebration.
After Wheatley retired in 2017, Jeremy Menard was tapped to be the new Manager of Radio and Television Operations. Menard also found a love of college radio at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which, coincidentally enough, is also celebrating the 70 year anniversary of its radio station, WMUH, which also broadcasts at 97.1 FM. One of the best parts of the anniversary celebration, Menard said, is hearing from Ithaca College alums tell the stories of their time at the station.
“I didn’t go to Ithaca College and yet I feel like I’m a part of this radio history, and I am now in this position,” Menard said. “But, to be able to talk to alums and hear their stories and how much college radio had an impact in them, it’s just it’s amazing. It’s a lot of fun.”
Jenny Gil, WICB’s station manager this year and a senior television and radio major, said she always knew she wanted to get involved with the radio station in college. But she never imagined she would become so invested in it. “To have found myself in this role is very rewarding and it’s an amazing opportunity,” Gil said.
It’s both exciting and a bit intimidating, she said, to be the station manager for a station with so much history. Until a few weeks ago she had been unaware that the station was celebrating 70 years.
“In certain ways it is a little intimidating but it’s also very exciting, to get to learn about it and hear about other people’s experiences on the station,” Gil said. “I know that over the years a lot has changed, from the name of the station to what it is today, there’s been a lot of different influential people that have sat on the executive staff.”
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