As a kid growing up in Mapleton, Dwayne Megaw would hang out in his bedroom for hours listening to the radio. Then an idea popped into his head that would alter the course of his life.
“I thought, ‘people are actually doing this for a living,’” Megaw said. “That would be a great job to have; to play music and make people happy.”
For his entire adult life, he’s done exactly that.
After a 32-year career at the helm of a variety of commercial radio stations in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa — most recently as the operations manager for Radio Mankato — Megaw began his first day as the new general manager for KMSU, Minnesota State University’s own radio station known for its diverse programming, run almost entirely by volunteers.
He replaces Jim “Gully” Gullickson, who retired in June after serving as KMSU’s general manager for 17 years.
“I was very pleased and proud that they chose me to come here and do this,” Megaw said. “It’s the first station I visited and now I get to be the general manager of it.”
His responsibilities as general manager include managing the day-to-day operations of the station, fundraising, community outreach and the technical side of keeping the station on the airwaves.
“Literally, it’s a 24/7 job,” said Karen Wright, operations manager and host of the Minnesota Morning show at KMSU.
She said Megaw’s wealth of technical expertise, enthusiasm for the station’s mission connecting to diverse communities and his open-mindedness were all assets they were looking for in a candidate.
“We’re certainly excited to have Dwayne on board as our new leader, and we look forward to making more great radio at KMSU,” Wright said. “We’re going to have an open house (July 17) for people who want to come and meet Dwayne. This is a chance to say hello and meet him in person.”
Megaw said his new role at KMSU has come full-circle. Back in 1986, a guidance counselor learned of his interest in a radio career when he was a high school student growing up in Mapleton, and arranged a tour of KMSU when it was housed in the Centennial Student Union. That experience solidified his interest in a radio career.
“You walk in and there’s all this crazy electronics and reel-to-reel machines spinning and turntables,” Megaw said. “In the studio it’s all knobs and dials and bouncing meters and things like that, it was like you’re walking into NASA.”
That same year, the operations manager for KDOG, a top-40 station Megaw grew up listening to, came to his school. Shortly after, Megaw was hired for his first job at a radio station, mowing the lawn at KDOG.
When he was a Mass Communication student at MSU a couple years later, there was an opening to run the board for a syndicated Sunday night show.
“They gave me a shot,” Megaw said. “I was pushing buttons, playing records and later CD’s.”
After graduation, he worked at stations in Spirit Lake, Iowa and Blue Earth, where he was given his first chance to do a weather report on the air.
“The very first time it hit me that I was going to be on the air, it scared the heck out of me,” Megaw said. “There was a production room and a studio across the hallway. I was watching the person finish up before me and a cold chill comes down. It was a little scary obviously; and it was live, but I did alright.”
He later returned to work for Radio Mankato in a variety of capacities, including a news reporter and announcer. He also discovered that he had a knack for the technical side of radio as computers began to play a bigger role in the field.
“I had a penchant for the technical side of things, the automation systems, making them tick. That was my specialty there. That was at the time where computers were becoming more and more a part of the reality of running radio stations. So my knowledge grew as that became the norm.”
Those technical skills will be an asset as he navigates the switch from commercial to college radio. The new position will involve some new territory for Megaw, like working with underwriters, solidifying grants and navigating the station’s seasonal pledge drives, the next of which will take place in the fall.
In the meantime he’s been spending the first days on the job getting acquainted with the station’s 55 volunteers.
“The thing I love about KMSU is it’s serving various communities,” he said. “That’s always the passion that I’ve had, being good stewards of the signal and serving the community. That’s sort of amped up with KMSU. Every volunteer that I’ve met so far has just been so welcoming. It’s fantastic.”
KMSU, with shows that range from jazz, to metal, to folk music, has been a fixture of the Mankato airwaves for 56 years.