MANKATO — Ten watts.
That's how KMSU Radio got started. On Jan. 7, 1963, the non-commercial, educational FM station got its start at Old Main with a group called the Radio Guild — broadcasting classical and popular music and discussion and news shows, much like today, said general manager Jim “Gully” Gullickson.
Several changes of venue, a few decades and thousands of watts later, KMSU 89.7 “The Maverick” is celebrating its 50th anniversary year Saturday at Minnesota State University.
“In the early days they did a variety of things. The old KMSU is probably more like today,” Gullickson said. “It's block programming. It's appointment radio.”
Since the 1930s, a partnership had existed between the then-called Mankato State Teachers College with students producing radio shows through KYSM to give them a chance to learn about broadcasting.
John Hodowanic was director of informative services and operations manager of Radio Guild, and he is credited for starting KMSU to both service the college campus and the community. When the station was finally up and running, Hodowanic became the first station manager.
One of KMSU's first big broadcasting moments came its first year on Nov. 22, 1963, said Karen Wright, operations director. George Dewey was playing some lunchtime music when student manager Dick Ulland handed him a news bulletin to announce live.
“It was that John Kennedy was shot,” Wright said. “He said, 'Oh my God, what did I just say?' Everybody was in the student union listening.'”
Over the years, the station changed and evolved with the times, and Gullickson said “the heydays” were in the 1980s. During the era, MSU President Margaret Preska proved to be a strong advocate for KMSU.
The station saw more funding, bought a 3,000-watt transmitter and a new antenna. It became a National Public Radio member and put out a monthly newsletter, the Monitor.