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Training Ground

Training Ground
Since 1947, WFUV (90.7 FM) has been preparing Fordham students for careers in broadcasting and communications.

By Donna Cornachio

Charles Osgood, FCRH '54, the anchor of CBS News Sunday Morning, participated in a panel discussion at WFUV's 60th anniversary reunion and celebration.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert
Everything I learned in my career, I learned at ’FUV,” said Charles Osgood, FCRH ’54, who addressed scores of alumni and supporters of WFUV (90.7 FM) at the radio station’s 60th anniversary celebration in O’Keefe Commons on Friday, Oct. 26. That’s pretty high praise coming from the legendary CBS News broadcaster, but Osgood wasn’t alone in making bold claims about the station’s influence. Many alumni said their WFUV experiences helped shape their professional lives.

“What did I learn from ’FUV?” asked Mary Maguire, FCRH ’77, one of the original hosts of Ceol na nGael (Music of the Irish), which debuted at Fordham in 1974. “To smile when you speak,” she said, her blue eyes dancing as her face broke into a grin. “To be able to make a connection with people and to take delight in those connections.”

Maguire, who now works as a public-relations executive in Washington, D.C., started Ceol na nGael with Gerry Murphy, FCRH ’76, when the two were undergraduates at Fordham. She said the show, which debuted during an on-air fundraiser (known as “marathons” in those days), was only intended to be a one-hour fill-in program. “As I was about to sign off, the phones started ringing off the hook,” she recalled. “So we stayed on the air for another hour. And another. Thinking I was off-mic, I said my bosses at Steak and Brew were going to fire me if I didn’t make my waitressing shift. Then, when I finally got to work—late—the owners started yelling at me because the callers were screaming at them for taking me off the air!”

These days, Fordham students Kevin Quinn and Ashling Colton host the program, which is broadcast every Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. They were among the current crop of WFUV employees who offered guided tours of the station’s new 6,000-square-foot, $7 million broadcast center on the lower level of Keating Hall throughout the evening—to the oohs and ahhs of returning alumni who shared tales of working three floors up, in far less spacious and sophisticated.

“We played single-A baseball when we were on the air,” said Bill McGowan, FCRH ’82, chatting with Ryan Ruocco, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior. “This is the major leagues.”

It was an observation not lost on the young student guides. Ruocco, who’s been able to parlay his passion for sports as the lead play-by-play announcer for Fordham’s football and basketball games, puts in an average of 30 hours per week at the station.

“I can’t talk about this place without a smile on my face,” he said. “I’ve learned from professionals who come and hold workshops. It’s created both a challenge and a comfort level.”

Many past and present students have found WFUV an effective training ground for future careers in broadcasting and communications. Justin Shackil, a Fordham junior, didn’t need to wait for graduation for that to happen. In addition to working as an on-air sports reporter at WFUV, he is the beat reporter for the New York Mets on XM Satellite Radio. “I get paid to go to games and conduct postgame interviews with players,” he said. “We’re kids in college rubbing elbows with professional sports broadcasters—it doesn’t get any cooler than that.”

McGowan, the founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, a media training and talent development company, held various roles at WFUV, including news director, sportscaster, and classical and rock music host. He said working at the station in the 1980s was like “using bear skins and stone knives” in comparison to the current technology that the students have. Indeed, many broadcasting professionals who came to the reunion said that the facilities at WFUV were of a higher caliber than what most students would find in the industry once they graduate.

But the voice of CBS Radio sounded a note of caution for current students about their sparkling state-of-the-art studios.

“It’s not equipment that teaches you,” said Osgood, whose velvet voice held his audience transfixed, much as it probably did for his WFUV listeners 50 years ago. “The most important equipment is not in a box, but what goes on in your own brain and your own heart.”

—Donna Cornachio is an adjunct professor in the Department of Communications and Media Studies at Fordham. Full disclosure: Ryan Ruocco is one of her students and she is married to Bill McGowan.

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