Years of Ncpr: 1968-2008


NCPR is supported by:

St. Lawrence University radio pioneers Harold Bergman, Ellis Manngin, Stan Barber, Charles Geyh and Ward Priest gather around a 50-watt experimental transmitter in an old pig barn near campus in 1921.

Before North Country Public Radio:
St. Lawrence University Radio Pioneering Days

Top: WCAD, 1925. Below: KSLU, 1940s

Radio at St. Lawrence University dates back to the early days of broadcasting. It all started in 1921 when Physics Professor Ward C. Priest and Stanley Barber, a local mechanic, developed 8SZ, a 50-watt experimental station in an old pig barn near the campus. In 1922, the University was granted its first broadcast license to operate a 100-watt transmitter. WCAD went into operation on May 4, 1922-less than two years after the very first commercial radio broadcast in the United States. Dr. Priest was the station's first announcer and engineer, and Mr. Barber designed and built much of the early equipment. After Priest left the station Hal Bergman became the engineer. Ellis Manning and Charles Geyh were also instrumental in the early days. The popularity of radio grew rapidly through the years, but with new FCC regulations as World War II began and scarcity of funds to modernize equipment, WCAD ceased operations in 1941. Students and townspeople organized KSLU in 1945, which still broadcasts today as a low power station serving students on campus.


First station engineer Frances Murphy in 1967 (right).

1965 to 1977


John B. Johnson, a Watertown-based media leader and philanthropist, donates an FM transmitter to St. Lawrence University. Lawrence Reiner, Instructor of Radio and Television, heads the effort to establish the station, and Francis Murphy provides engineering assistance. The station is forced to sign off almost immediately because of interference with a local television station. Problems persist and Richard Hutto, a graduate researcher in communications and commercial broadcaster in Florida, is enlisted to consult with the university about the difficulties getting WSLU up and running. The station's tower is moved from the St. Lawrence campus to Waterman Hill, seven miles south of Canton, and the frequency changes from 89.3 to 96.7.


Richard Hutto, now a St. Lawrence University communications professor, becomes WSLU's first station manager, with Frances Murphy as the station's engineer. They work to resolve the interference difficulties and prepare the station for sign-on.

Jimmy Arvidson, a student volunteer in 1968, became station manager in the 1970s.
Jackie Sauter as an announcer in 1971, and as program director today.
Martha Foley in the early 1990s, and as news and public affairs director today.
Ellen Rocco as development director in 1980, and as station manager today.
Station engineer Radio Bob Sauter in 1980 and today.


WSLU signs on the air March 7. The station, located in Payson Hall, is on the air just a few hours a day with a staff of two professionals (Hutto and Murphy) and a few students. One of those students is Jimmy Arvidson, who goes on to become station manager after Hutto's departure in the 1970s. The signal reaches a portion of St. Lawrence County, and the university provides all of the station's funding. Programming includes talks with St. Lawrence University professors, a few locally-hosted music programs, and brief recordings of international news broadcasts from Europe and Asia.


WSLU becomes a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR), airs the debut broadcast of All Things Considered, increases its broadcast day to 18 hours, and receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Jackie Sauter joins the staff as an announcer, and later becomes program director.


WSLU airs two innovative weekly series, Women's Voices, produced by Jackie Sauter, and You Are on Indian Land, produced by Louis Cook. Several of the station's productions are distributed nationally via NPR.


Martha Foley joins the staff as an announcer.

Bob Vilas and Jackie Sauter pitching during the very first fundraiser.

1978 to 1987


The station's first on-air fundraiser nets $2000 from 45 members.


WSLU receives its first satellite dish from NPR becoming one of the first stations capable of broadcasting high quality programming via satellite rather than telephone line. This technology, pioneered by public radio, dramatically enhances sound quality and reliability.


Ellen Rocco joins the staff as director of development and Bob Sauter signs on as station engineer.


The New York State Education Department joins the funding partnership; WSLU begins airing A Prairie Home Companion; Martha Foley rejoins the news team after several years away as editor of the St. Lawrence County Plaindealer. The station receives its first funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Kathleen Fitzgerald was NCPR's membership director for more than 20 years.


Kathleen Fitzgerald joins the staff as development assistant.


Just five years after our first fundraiser, membership numbers have increased from 45 households to 233, and fall membership drive proceeds have increased from $2000 to $20,000. Kathleen Fitzgerald becomes membership director.

1984 bumper sticker advertises the new frequency.
News facilities in Saranac Lake (from left) Blue Mountain Lake, and Lake Placid.
At the North Country Storytelling Festival.
Susan Sweeney in 1987 and today.
Barb Heller in 1989 and today.
Frequent NCPR collaborator Varick Chittenden talks with Akwesasne basketmakers at the Steinman Festival in 1990.
Mike Alzo, host of The Folk Show since 1991.
Martha Foley and Curt Stager recording a Field Notes conversation in 1991.


WSLU changes frequency from 96.7 to 89.5, increases its power from 3000 to 40,300 watts, installs a translator in Saranac Lake, and becomes known as North Country Public Radio (NCPR).

Mark Scarlett.


One-watt translators are installed in Blue Mountain Lake (91.3) and Watertown (88.9). Ellen Rocco is promoted to station manager. Mark Scarlett is hired as development director.


Locally-produced programs are distributed nationally, including North Country Music (in collaboration with the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts), The North Country Storytelling Festival, and Blackrobe (based on the Pulitzer-nominated poem by Mohawk poet Maurice Kenny.)


A one-watt translator installed in Lake Placid (91.7).

Paul Connett, still volunteering as host of Second Sunday Classics.
New facilities in (from top) Long Lake, Alexandria Bay, Malone and Tupper Lake and in Peru (below).
Guy Berard host of Jazz at the Tenspot since 1993.
New facility in North Creek.


The station increases its broadcast schedule to 24 hours daily. Paul Connett becomes a volunteer program host; Susan Sweeney joins the staff as development director.

1988 to 1997


NCPR turns 20 with over 1000 household members and a fall fundraiser total of more than $50,000; one-watt translators are installed in Long Lake (91.7) and on the Thousand Islands Bridge in Alexandria Bay (91.3); Car Talk debuts on NCPR; Haven from the Holocaust receives the Ohio State Award; AudioBiography of Helen Hosmer receives the Golden Apple Award; NCPR co-organizes the Steinman Arts Festival on Vietnam-era art in collaboration with St. Lawrence University.


NCPR installs its first high-power repeater stations in Malone (WSLO 90.9) and Saranac Lake (WSLL 90.5); a translator is installed in Tupper Lake (91.7 ); Barb Heller joins the staff as host of String Fever.


Don't Look For Me in the Picture Show receives a Gabriel Award; NCPR and St. Lawrence University co-organize the Steinman Festival on Native American Arts; the news department receives four journalism awards from the Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI).


A 200-watt repeater station is installed in Peru (WXLU), reaching the Champlain Valley; Fractured Family: Gambling at Akwesasne receives a national award; Music From Crane debuts; Mike Alzo becomes volunteer host of the popular program The Folk Show; Barb Heller becomes NCPR's morning host and announcer. Field Notes with Paul Smith's College Professor Curt Stager (later know as Natural Selections) airs for the first time.


Blue Mountain Lake (WXLH 91.3) and Watertown (WSLJ 88.9) are upgraded from translators to repeater stations; the station's translators in Tupper Lake (91.7), Alexandria Bay (91.3), and Lake Placid (91.7) increase power; NCPR receives the Corporation for Public Broadcasting award for innovative special events; Adirondack Park Centennial Series receives an Award of Journalistic Excellence from Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI); NCPR establishes an endowment program.


NCPR moves from Payson Hall to its current home in the E.J. Noble Building at 80 East Main Street in Canton, NY; the station is honored with a Community Service Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Women in the Adirondacks receives a National Federation of Community Broadcasters Golden Reel Award; Readers & Writers On-the-Air debuts; Field Notes becomes nationally-syndicated; NCPR celebrates its 25th anniversary with the first Dine Out for North Country Public Radio. "Shy" Guy Berard introduces the new show Jazz at the TenSpot.


Underwriting director Sandy Demarest (left) and operations manager Shelly Pike.
Development assistant Kelly Trombley in 1996 and today.
The Reading Service for the Visually Impaired provides special receivers for a subcarrier broadcast of newspapers and magazines read aloud.
In 1998, NCPR brought A Prairie Home Companion to Potsdam for a live broadcast.
Joel Hurd (left) signed on as production manager, and Todd Moe as morning host in 1998.
The Costa Rica tour group in 1999.
Bill Haenel (left) and Dale Hobson (right) show station friends Alan and Kate Newell designs for the new website in 2001.
The Spain tour group in 2001.
Margot Ernst hosted the initial gathering of the Adirondack Endowment campaign in 2002.
June Peoples joined NCPR as membership director in 2004.

Below: NPR COO Ken Stern takes calls from NCPR listeners in 2005.
NCPR's coverage of the Iraq War won a 2005 national Edward R. Murrow Award.
New facilities (left to right from top): Clayton, Glens Falls, Schroon Lake, Chateaugay, downtown North Creek, and our new tower in Canton under assembly.
Open Studio, our monthly arts program. debuts in 2006.
The StoryCorps MobileBooth at the Canton Village Green in 2006.
Joel Hurd went on the road to record more than 500 performers for the UpNorth Music project.
Readers & Writers co-host Chris Robinson (left) talks with Brian Mann about his book Welcome to the Homeland in a live edition broadcast on C-SPAN.

Field Notes receives an Adirondack Council award; NCPR receives funding from NPR to develop the Critical Decisions health series.


A repeater station is installed on Gore Mountain (WXLG in North Creek, 89.9).


Health Matters debuts as a monthly series; NCPR's first website is created; Sandy Demarest joins the staff as underwriting director; Kelly Trombley becomes NCPR's development assistant; Shelly Pike becomes an NCPR announcer; Martha Foley is elected to the National Board of Directors of Public Radio News Directors, Inc (PRNDI).


Readers & Writers On-the-Air receives special grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); Field Notes becomes Natural Selections due to a copyright issue; Radio Bob and Martha Foley lead 27 members on NCPR's first fundraising excursion--a Windjammer Barefoot Cruise to the Caribbean.

New facilities in (from top) Lowville, Keene and Old Forge.
Brian Mann signed on as Adirondack News Bureau chief in 1999.
Theatre critic Connie Meng joined NCPR in 2000.
David Sommerstein joined the news team in 2000, and hosts the Friday music program The Beat Authority.
Dale Hobson signed on in 2001 as online outreach coordinator and is now NCPR's web manager.
New facilities (from top) in Paul Smiths, Newcomb and Lake George.
New facilities (from top) St. Huberts, Keene Valley, Jay and Carthage.
Lynne Rossetto Kaspar, host of The Splendid Table visits in 2006.
Jonathan Brown signs on as All Before Five host in 2006.
North Country Reads author Jennifer Donnely on her speaking tour in 2006.
Jill Breit coordinated the UpNorth Music project in 2006-07.
Web assistant Rachel Henderson joined the staff in 2007.

1998 to present


NCPR celebrates 30 years of service to the region; membership now exceeds 3000; the fall fundraiser proceeds top the $100,000 mark; the station receives 12 national and regional awards. NCPR constructs translators in Lowville (88.1), Keene (90.1) and Old Forge (88.7) and debuts a reading service for the visually-impaired. The big ice storm hits the North Country and NCPR supports the region with special coverage by staff and community volunteers. The station's coverage goes on to win best news coverage award by the NYS Associated Press as well as a special citation from the New York State Legislature. NCPR receives national foundation funding for a year-long series on youth and substance abuse and debuts a regional history series. The station brings A Prairie Home Companion live to Hosmer Hall at SUNY Potsdam. Joel Hurd joins the staff as NCPR's production manager; Todd Moe becomes NCPR's morning announcer and cultural desk editor.

Gov. George Pataki with the 1998 Arts Award winners.

NCPR wins the Governor's Arts Award, which is presented to staff by Governor George Pataki, Sandy Weill and Art Garfunkel, at a ceremony held in New York City's Lincoln Center. Special mention is made of NCPR's regional service during the ice storm.


NCPR establishes the Adirondack News Bureau with support from Paul Smith's College. Brian Mann signs on as bureau chief. Readers & Writers On The Air receives a Gabriel Award for Excellence in Communications; the news team wins five NYS Associated Press Awards; NCPR's hosts its second fundraising excursion--35 station members join Sandy Demarest and Jackie Sauter on trip to Costa Rica. The development team wins two national awards for marketing and major giving from Development Exchange, Inc. (DEI).


Announcer and reporter Jody Tosti joins the staff; Connie Meng becomes a staff announcer and theatre critic; NCPR news team wins nine national and regional awards. After being away since 1990, Susan Sweeney Smith returns to the staff as director of major gifts and community outreach; David Sommerstein joins the news team. Ellen and Radio Bob celebrate 20 years on staff; Martha Foley is elected for a second term to the National Board of Directors of Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI).


NCPR adds translators in Speculator (97.5) and Morristown (90.3); The Eight O'Clock Hour debuts and wins first place in the daily program category from the Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI); NCPR's news team wins 16 other national and regional awards for their work; Dale Hobson and Bill Haenel are hired to develop a comprehensive website for the station (; the Sweetgrass Foundation makes a $300,000 grant to expand the station's online regional service; NCPR's third fundraising excursion--Ellen Rocco and Kathleen Fitzgerald guide 30 members on a trip to Spain; Jackie Sauter celebrates 30 years of service to the station; Martha Foley celebrates 20 years of service to the station; Mike Alzo celebrates 10 years as host of The Folk Show.


New facilities (above) in Lyons Falls and Boonville.

NCPR adds translators in Lyons Falls (89.1) and Boonville (91.7); NCPR's news team wins 10 regional awards; David Sommerstein goes to Kosovo to report on Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division. Margot Ernst hosts a New York City gathering of women interested in NCPR's Adirondack service; this group evolves into the leadership for a campaign to build an Adirondack Endowment. Sandy Demarest wins a DEI award for best corporate support in underwriting. Kevin Klose, President of NPR, visits the station and participates in a call-in for listeners.


NCPR adds a translator at Paul Smith's College (88.9); NCPR's news team receives three Golden Reel awards from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Kevin Irwin joins the announcing staff; the Adirondack Endowment Campaign is formally initiated; Jazz at the TenSpot with Guy Berard has been on the air for 10 years. Ellen Rocco is elected to the Board of Directors of National Public Radio.


New translators are added in Newcomb (97.3) and Lake George (93.5); June Peoples joins the staff as membership director; Barb Heller celebrates 15 years of service to the station. The station wins two ACE Awards for excellence in fundraising and best news feature production from the Public Radio Program Directors organization.


St. Huberts (101.7), Keene Valley (96.3), Jay (102.1), Carthage (102.3), and Cape Vincent (93.9) are added to the NCPR frequency list; Iraq Diaries receives a National Edward R. Murrow Award and the news team wins an additional 13 awards for their work; NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin visits the North Country and participates in a call-in program; threatened funding cuts to the CPB are reversed, in large part because listeners and viewers across the country weigh in with their Congressional representatives in record numbers in favor of continued funding; Ellen Rocco and Radio Bob celebrate 25 years with NCPR; The Beat Authority with David Sommerstein and All Before Five debut. NPR's Chief Operating Officer, Ken Stern, visits the North Country and is featured on a two-hour call-in show. North Country Reads, a collaborative project led by North Country Public Radio's Susan Sweeney Smith, Jefferson Community College and Flower Library in Watertown, is formed to present literature events in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Lewis counties.


NCPR adds translators in Clayton (100.3) and Glens Falls (97.3); power is increased to our WXLU Peru/Burlington/Plattsburgh repeater station and the frequency changes to 88.1; David Sommerstein's Raise Your Voice: Teen Diaries wins best series from the Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) and the news team takes home 11 other awards for their efforts.

John Fritinger presents the Harold K. Hochschild Award to Ellen Rocco.

NCPR is honored with the Harold K. Hochschild Award from the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake; The Splendid Table host Lynne Rossetto Kasper visits the North Country; NCPR's regional arts magazine Open Studio debuts with hosts Todd Moe and community volunteers Hilary Oak and Beth Robinson; David Sommerstein produces A Year on the Farm with Bob Andrews; NCPR hosts the national oral history project StoryCorps in Canton and Watertown; we mourn the death of Rick Hutto, one of our founders. Jonathan Brown joins the staff as reporter and new host of All Before Five; Sandy Demarest, Kelly Trombley and Shelly Pike celebrate 10 years of service to NCPR; the first year of the North Country Reads project is a huge success with over 1800 copies of Jennifer Donnelly's book A Northern Light distributed to senior citizens and students. Donnelly also appears at speaking events in 30 locations. Ellen Rocco is elected to the Board of Directors of National Public Radio for a second term. Martha Foley is elected for a third term to the National Board of Directors of Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI).


NCPR adds translators in Schroon Lake (95.3), Chateaugay (102.1) and downtown North Creek (104.3); Rachel Henderson joins the staff as web assistant. After receiving news that we are the recipient of a $330,000 New York State Music fund grant, Joel Hurd and Jill Breit strike out on a year-long recording tour of the region, recording 504 musicians for the UpNorth Music Project. Brian Mann wins a National Edward R. Murrow Award for best sports coverage and the news department is honored with 16 other national and regional awards for excellence. NCPR's fourth fundraising excursion--30 Members take a 10-day trip to Costa Rica with June Peoples and David Sommerstein; C-SPAN broadcasts the April installment of Readers & Writers On The Air; the new Canton tower and transmitter is completed in November with support from the New York State Senate, ALCOA Foundation, Preston and Joan Carlisle and numerous NCPR members. Jackie Sauter is elected to the 11-member Public Radio Program Directors national board. Martha Foley is elected for a fourth term to the National Board of Directors of Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI).


Happy 40th Anniversary NCPR! Nineteen professionals and several volunteers staff a 24-hour-a-day network of thirty-one transmitters, broadcasting to the entire North Country and Adirondack region, western Vermont, and southeastern Ontario. NCPR has grown to a 4500-plus member-household organization and the single largest segment of the station's funding now comes from members and listeners. Business support continues to swell as the station's position in the region's cultural and educational life expands, and total local, non-government funding represents more than 80 percent of NCPR's annual revenue. Total annual community giving now exceeds $1.5 million and the Adirondack Endowment is on target to reach a $2 million goal by the end of the year.