KGOU is in its 50th year of service, broadcasting first to the campus of the University of Oklahoma, then to the city of Norman, Okla., expanding to Oklahoma City and surrounding area, and finally to northwestern, western, and east-central Oklahoma population centers. What began as a little Class A campus radio station has come a long way in 50 years.
KGOU was licensed to the University of Oklahoma and began broadcasting on September 21, 1970, at 106.3 FM from studios located on the third floor of Kaufman Hall.
In the early years, KGOU was operated as a commercial station with some professional, but mostly student, staff. The format was primarily rock 'n' roll and album-oriented rock, but also included news, weather and sports.
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— KGOU was a student-operated commercial station in the 1970s
Current General Manager Dick Pryor (front row, left) with his co-workers pose for a photo around 1977.
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— License change
Bruce Hinson, a journalism professor, oversaw the transition from commercial station to non-commercial, and championed the fledgling public radio model, seen here with Betty Hickman. (Photo by then-News Director George Ryan)
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— Production room and talent studio
Production room and talent studio/news director's office in Kaufman Hall in the late 1980s.
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— Newsroom in Kaufman Hall studios
News Director Brian Walke (standing) supervised staff and students in the 1980s.
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— KGOU Marching Band
In 1998 a group of KGOU staffers marched in Norman's Mardi Gras parade.
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— Assignment:Radio Class
In 2004, KGOU started teaching journalism students how to produce audio for public radio for a student-produced show, Assignment: Radio. Karen Holp instructed, along with Program Director Jim Johnson (left) and News Director Scott Gurian (center).
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— Not enough room
Satellite/Automation/Transmitter (SAT) room in Kaufman Hall. It also served as office space for staff and students, like Brian Hardzinski (foreground) in the 2000s.
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— Raising money
Pledge drives were more crowded in the Kaufman Hall studios. Some of our "regulars" volunteered to answer phones while former GM Karen Holp (far left) talks to listeners on the air circa 2005-06.
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— Live shows from Oklahoma
KGOU took to the road occasionally, too. In 1993, Whad-Ya Know? staged a live show at Holmberg Hall on the OU campus in Norman. Host Michael Feldman chatted with the audience after the live broadcast.
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— Adding stations and listeners
Through the last couple of decades KGOU's broadcast stations expanded throughout the state. In 2006, GM Karen Holp cut a ceremonial ribbon to christen the newly signed-on Woodward station.
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— Science Friday
Science Friday came to renovated Holmberg Hall in 2010. Host Ira Flatow (right) talked with local businessmen about wind power during a live broadcast.
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— Diane Rehm visited several times
In the 1990s through the 2000s, talk-show host Diane Rehm made three visits to Oklahoma City.
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In 2006 KGOU moved two buildings south to Copeland Hall, after months of planning and renovations. Engineers left a note for local morning host Kurt Gwartney so he'd know which building to broadcast from.
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— Moving day(s)
Program Director Jim Johnson and then-Operations Manager Kurt Gwartney pitch in to help move.
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— New studios
News Director Scott Gurian (seated) breaking in the new studios with Brian Hardzinski and Kurt Gwartney in 2006.
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— StateImpact Oklahoma's conception
In 2010, KGOU led a statewide collaboration with other public media and NPR to launch StateImpact Oklahoma, a reporting project focused on the impact of government policies at a personal level. Two NPR staffers met with Logan Layden, Joe Wertz and News Director Kurt Gwartney to make plans.
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— Dinner with Ari
NPR's Ari Shapiro was the guest of honor at a dinner in OKC. KGOU staff posed with him (center) in a group photo.
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— Whad'ya Know? this time?
In 2014 Michael Feldman's Whad'ya Know? came back to Oklahoma for a live show at OCCC.
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— Know your news sources
In 2016, new General Manager Dick Pryor presented to civic groups about media literacy.
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— Social distance in broadcasting
During the pandemic, KGOU staff have adjusted to working from home with limited time at the station. In the fall of 2020, Development Director Jolly Brown and morning news host Nyk Daniels broadcast from separate studios during a pledge drive.
By the early 1980s, public radio’s popularity was spreading nationwide. The university traded its commercial license for a non-commercial one, and KGOU began broadcasting as a public radio station on January 1, 1983.
Read more about KGOU's history
If you've been part of the journey, as a listener, a staff member or a student, join in the celebration by letting your voice be heard. Introduce yourself and leave a short message (max. 90 seconds) sharing your memories and well wishes.
If you have photos of KGOU or station events, share them on social media using the hashtag #KGOU50, or email them to Jolly Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Celebrating the past, looking toward the future
KGOU now serves more than one million residents in parts of 32 counties of Oklahoma through its broadcast signals, plus a worldwide audience through internet connectivity.
Thousands upon thousands of listeners and donors have made KGOU's growth possible. Thank you for 50 years. We look forward to serving you for many more.
NPR is also celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Retrospectives, history and more about NPR.