On a beautiful fall day last week on the UMass Amherst campus, New England Public Radio celebrated the formal renaming of its newly refurbished studios at the university, and the completion of the 50th Anniversary Capital Campaign for WFCR, which has raised just over $8,579,000 since May of 2011. More than eighty supporters, contributors and well-wishers joined the celebration including Representative John Scibak, the interim President of Mount Holyoke College, Sonya Stephens and Jack Dill, President of Colebrook Realty Services and Chair of the station’s capital campaign.
Joining the NEPR’s CEO & General Manager Martin Miller in making remarks were Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy of UMass Amherst, who spoke about the critical role that public media plays in the Five College community, and Corey Flintoff, who recently wrapped up his tenure as NPR’s Foreign Correspondent based in Moscow. Mr. Flintoff, who has visited the station on many occasions over the years emphasized the impressive nature of the renovation, and commended those who had contributed to the campaign, for investing in their local public radio station – a critical part of the fabric of any vibrant community.
Following remarks, the group was treated to a tour of the renovations on the second and third floor of Hampshire House. The broadcast facility has been renamed the Five College Studios in recognition of capital contributions from Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges and UMass Amherst totaling over one million dollars dating back to 1993.
The Five College Studios will house a full-time reporter, the station’s traffic coordinator and ISDN interview producer, a new position of Digital Editor, and space for more Five College interns. An additional 35-plus NEPR employees work out of the station’s headquarters in downtown Springfield, and one out of the station’s Berkshire Bureau in Pittsfield, Mass. The Five College Studios space is also being used as a classroom – NEPR now offers Amherst College students a workshop in Digital Media production – part the station’s expanded partnership with Amherst College where the NEPR News Network is now broadcast on 89.3 WAMH.
The successful 50th Anniversary Campaign for WFCR funded NEPR’s new headquarters at 1525 Main Street (plus additional studio space at WGBY TV/57 in Springfield) and the renovated facility in Amherst. The station’s new Media Lab program for Springfield and Holyoke high school students, other community engagement efforts which will be rolled out in the coming months and the expansion of the NEPR News Network – now heard on seven stations throughout the region and at nepr.net have also been funded by the campaign.
In addition to the sizable contributions of the Five College consortium, Miller acknowledged two substantial gifts which impacted the renovations at Hampshire House. Longtime friend of the station, Stanley Tripp made a bequest to the station in honor of his life-long friend, Vincent Brann, who was a professor of Dramaturgy and Directing at UMass Amherst and the first voice heard on WFCR when it went on the air on May 6, 1961.
The Rotary Club of Amherst was also recognized for its generous contribution to the 50th Anniversary Campaign for WFCR, which helped to fund the studio’s new Technical Operations Center.
“NEPR will use our new facilities to be the convener for conversation through programming and engagement with the belief that we can help our region and our country conduct the civil dialogue which is necessary to preserve our democracy and the successful lives of our communities,” said Miller. “We are deeply grateful for the incredible support we received from the community for this campaign.”