Hoosier Schoolmaster of the Air Clarence “Doc” Morgan didn’t care much for attention or recognition, but he did care for radio. The latter made him the honoree at a recent celebration of 90 years of radio at Indiana State University.
Morgan was the first director of the radio program at Indiana State in 1934, and the work he did in his time at ISU set a foundation for the Student Media program students know today. Morgan taught at Indiana State University, known then as Indiana State Teachers College, for 35 years. During his time as the director of the radio program, Morgan held clinics to teach radio techniques to editors, designed studios with audience viewing areas, and created live radio programs catered to children in public schools.
The luncheon on Oct. 21 included comments from Dr. Mary Myers, who has done extensive research on Morgan and his work, and a keynote from Dr. Josh Shepperd.
“Dr. Morgan was innovative in broadcasting for many reasons. Primarily though, his strategy was based on entertaining and educating the populous as well as his students,” Myers told WISU in a previous interview. “His approach to broadcast education had students learning in the classroom and learning in the studio. They produced live programs; at the hey-day of their time, it was 18 a week.”
Dr. Shepperd’s keynote focused on the origins of public media at state universities, including history from not only ISU but the rest of the nation. Shepperd talked about early public broadcast history and told stories about planes that used to fly around a broadcasting area with satellites to enable signal to be transmitted, some early uses of radio, and even the beginning of some TV programs such as Sesame Street.
Remarks from Dr. Philip Glende, executive director of Student Media, reflected both on the rich history of ISU’s broadcasting history, and looked towards the future.
“We are looking forward to more great things to come,” Glende said. “Next year Indiana State will begin a major update of our current home, Dreiser Hall. What is now known as Student Media …. will temporary be relocated to new operations. When we return to Dreiser Hall, we will have state of the art equipment.”
Indiana State University President Dr. Deborah Curtis presented Clarence Morgan’s son, Thomas Morgan, a retired communication professor, with a plaque recognizing his father’s work, and closed with remarks on the value of our Student Media program.
“Today, our radio broadcast program and our entire Student Media area is stronger than ever before,” Dr. Curtis said. “Thank you to all our Student Media students who have shown up for today’s event. I’m always impressed by your hard work and your professionalism.”
Following the luncheon, students and alumni attended a reception at the WZIS/WISU radio station, and tours of the station were available. Alumni discussed their memories of radio, and reflected on how familiar and similar the station seemed, despite the amount of time that had passed.
“One of the coolest things is that the layout of the radio station itself hasn’t changed since Clarence Morgan was here,” Rich Green, general manager of WISU and WZIS said. “It’s the same as it was back in the ’50s and ’60s. Hearing those stories of people saying I used to sit right here … that was really neat to me.”
Julie Fairley, graduated in the 1960s and served as a Story Princess on the program “Story Princess of the Music Box,” one of Morgan’s creations and ISU’s earliest programs which was broadcast to public schools spoke to students about her time in radio, and wanted to know how things had changed.
“Do you still have knobs to adjust the volume? And do you still call them pots?” Farley asked. “We used to feel so professional because we knew that term.”
Hearing stories from the alumni gave Chris Lopez, Student Station Manager of WZIS, a new perspective on the depth of ISU’s broadcast history.
“After being part of WZIS for four years, it’s great to hear about what ISU’s radio stations were like when they were brought to our university,” Lopez said. “It’s an important part of our station’s history.”