On Sunday, students, faculty, alumni, and Middletown community members gathered in PAC 001 as Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano declared Monday, Nov. 8 to be as WESU day, celebrating 71 years of community radio and the installation of an upgraded transmitter. The new upgrade will allow WESU 88.1FM to reach up to one million listeners.

After an opening speech by General Manager Ben Michael, President Michael Roth and Giuliano spoke on WESU’s impact in the community and thanked Physical Plant and the Community Health Center (CHC) for helping to finance the transmitter.

“It was really great that President Roth came to acknowledge the radio station, because it’s not always easy to remember that people are listening while you’re sitting in the studio,” said WESU Public Relations Director Avery Trufelman ‘13. “It’s really nice to get validation from the administration, and it shows how the University values this great medium.”

WESU, which was founded in 1939 in the basement of Clark Hall, is one of the oldest college radio stations in the country. Since its earliest days, its broadcasting has expanded from 300 to 6,000 watts of effective radiated power (ERP) with the new upgrade.

Before the upgrade, the community radio station only reached the immediate area near Middletown, including Meriden and Wallingford. Coverage will now expand to as far away as North Hampton, N.H. This is the first major power upgrade since the 1980s, while WESU shows also stream live through iTunes.

While the ceremony was ongoing, WESU staff also ran “Tips and Tricks,” the final part of their DJ training session, next door.

“I think that was a poignant counter piece to the fact that, while we’re celebrating 71 years, we also have so much continued interest from students who want to become a part of the WESU community,” said Bryan Skowera ’99, Program Director for WESU.

WESU currently has 40 student volunteers, who also make up eight of the 10 board members, including President and Vice President. The majority of contributors are community volunteers.

“I think the coolest part about WESU is the dedication that the community puts into it,” Trufelman said. “For so many people around Middletown, this is their passion, this is their other life, and they really throw themselves into it. It’s really exciting, really exhilarating, since there are so many characters and interesting people.”

Skowera, who stayed in the Middletown area after graduation, was never involved in WESU before he joined in 2007.

“I got involved mostly because I was getting sick and tired of all the commercial radio in the area and decided to be part of solution,” Skowera said. “The fact is WESU is a great place because it’s a place for students and volunteers to share a community here at the station. Having made the transition from a Wesleyan undergrad to a member of the Middletown community, I can say that WESU is highly regarded not just here but also around Connecticut.”

Trufelman, who compiled a slideshow for the event Sunday, expressed admiration for the station’s legacy.

“I went into old archives, and it was awesome to hear music from the forties and realize how old the station was,” she said. “WESU really has this rich history, so it’s really cool that it’s continuing.”

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