KUWS History

This college radio station has been around for over 50 years.

The University of Wisconsin-Superior is celebrating their 125th Anniversary this year. When taking a look back on the memories, not only has the buildings, students, and programs changed drastically over the years, but so has the student radio station on campus, 91.3 FM KUWS.

The campus radio station has played a big role on the campus and has been broadcasting news, sports and music to the public since 1966, according to the college newspaper The Peptomist of May 1966.  The University of Wisconsin-Superior was called Superior State University at that time and the Wisconsin State University system had five radio stations broadcasting from different universities across Wisconsin. SSU started broadcasting in January of 1966 with the call name WSSU, which stood for Wisconsin Superior State University.

In January of 1966, the radio station was licensed through the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. The campus radio station was located in the Old Main building in room number 337. During the first year of WSSU, they broadcasted with only a two mile radius, but was expecting to increase to 15 miles by the fall of 1966. SSU’s station would air from 3:40 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1:45 to 10:15 p.m. also on Saturday’s during the summer sessions.

Two young men doing a radio show in Old Main

Two young men doing a radio show in Old Main

In the Promethean of May 1994, a retired professor from UW-Superior, Paul Kending said, “We started out with totally student volunteer workers, broadcasting a mere six hours per day, with 10 watts of power. On a clear day, you could pick up the signal maybe in the dorm.”

Kending was a professor of communicating arts at SSU and had moved to the university in 1966 when the radio station was first licensed. Since Kending had broadcasting experience, he was a part of the broadcasting team at WSSU until he retired in 1994. One of Kending former students, John Munson, eventually took over the position as station manager in 1990.

During the first few years of WSSU, many managers had rotated through the station. Some of the managers were Dr. Donald Cain, Dr. Bruce Elving, and Richard DeFore, just to name a few. But then after Richard DeFore left, the position was not yet filled. Then, former students from the Department of Communicating Arts served as managers at WSSU.

Dr. Peter Nordgren an alumni from UW-Superior and a professor of emeritus at UW-Superior shared his memories at WSSU. Nordgren said he “had several positions in the station from 1971 to 1974 during DeFore’s appointment.” Nordgren also recalled one of the former students, Doug McCoy, of being responsible for the radio station to move from Old Main to the Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center

After 22 years, the original call letters WSSU were assigned to KUWS on Aug. 1, 1988. The radio station was now licensed through the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System as part of the station’s affiliation with Wisconsin Public Radio. The reason for the letter “K” was because of the location. Since Superior is east of the Mississippi as a “mixed” market and has several K-prefix stations already licensed in Superior.

John Munson also played a huge role in the radio station. Munson was part of student staff during the 1980s and decided to join the Communicating Arts faculty. With nearly 30 years of working at KUWS, Munson retired in December 2016. Now taking Munson’s place is Paul Damberg, the Regional Manager at 91.3 FM KUWS.

Currently, KUWS is a public radio station located on the third floor of the Holden Fine and Applied Arts Center on the UW-Superior campus. The radio station has gone through remodeling.  Now, KUWS is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Public Radio. Also, KUWS airs university and student-produced programming on 91.3 FM at 83,000 watts.

Even though the campus radio station has rotated through students, directors/managers, and call letters, one thing that will always stay the same is the hard-working students and staff to keep the radio station the best it can be with reporting the facts and having a neutral view point on topics to present for the local community.

Jessica Irvine

Jessica Irvine