KCLC turns 70: Part 1 – started by a woman

Martha Boyer, the woman largely credited with founding KCLC, helps a student doing an airshift during one of her last years at the university in 1970.
Photo from the Mary E. Ambler Archives

KAYLA DRAKE | Multimedia Producer

Lindenwood University’s radio station is celebrating its 70th year of being on air in 2018.

In the seven decades KCLC has been on the air, it has gotten a reputation for being run by students and guided by professionals. It’s also attracted some dynamic students who have gone on to become MLB sportscasters, KSHE personalities and KMOV nightly news anchors.

Greg Amsinger, a sportscaster and host for the MLB Network, is among the pros KCLC has generated.

“It was the foundation of who my friends were, the professors that influenced my life and career the most and really connected the love of broadcasting to how hard you had to work to make it in broadcasting,” he said.

Grandma or Drill Sergeant?

Martha Boyer was remembered as being the cross between a “grandma and a drill sergeant,” Jim Wilson said.
Photo from the Mary E. Ambler Archives

Old school radio has a reputation for being rough around the edges, and KCLC is no exception — except that it was founded by a woman.

Martha Boyer started the station in 1948 to teach her all-female class how to broadcast.  

Mike Wall, former KCLC general manager from 2001-’15, called Boyer the communication department’s “patron saint.”

Jim Wilson, who was KCLC general manager from 1979-’82 and 1984-’88, described Boyer as “somewhere between your sweet grandma and a marine drill sergeant.”

After World War II, Lindenwood College decided to offer women “technical” skills. Previously, it had been a traditional finishing school, according to Chad Briesacher, the station’s current director.

In 1948, Boyer, an Ohio State graduate that helped put its TV station on air, applied to teach women how to use cash registers.

The story goes that Boyer was given money to buy five cash registers, but instead she bought a carrier radio station and plugged it into the university’s electric grid.

But the truth, Wall said, is that Boyer told administrators a radio station should be started, but they said no money was available. What administrators didn’t know, Wilson said, was that Boyer had already made the rounds to different stations and “sweet talked” the engineers into giving her their excess equipment for free.

This birthed AM 660.

One of the people she convinced to give her equipment was Robert Hyland, the CBS regional manager and general manager at KMOX for 40 years.

Boyer’s connection with Hyland paved the way for 15 years of internships for Lindenwood students, Wilson said.

But Boyer did not stop at radio.  By 1949, she had talked Channel 5 executives into letting her teach TV classes after they signed off at night.  Boyer took taxi-loads of students to the studio to teach class from midnight until 4 a.m.

Because of this Lindenwood students had access to TV stations at the birth of prime time television.

Wilson said that Boyer was “transformative” to the students that she taught. He said she would encourage them and then “kick them in the a** if they drug their feet at all.”

One of those students was Glen Cerny, a member of the one of the first classes of men and KCLC general manager from 1987-2000.

“Anybody you talk to that knew her will talk about her looking over her half bifocals and giving you a death stare, and you knew damned well that you better change what you’re doing or hell hath no fury,” he said.

Cerny said the No. 1 lesson he learned from Boyer was integrity; she taught Cerny “to be good and not just seem good,” on and off air.

Boyer retired in 1972, and Wilson said when he arrived at Lindenwood in 1979, he heard so much about her that he tracked her down in Farmington, Missouri, about 90 minutes from St. Charles.

They ended up drinking two bottles of sherry together.

“I still had the build of a college football player and could hold my drinks, but she basically drank me under the table,” he said.

Martha Boyer passed away in 1988, but since then, the Martha Boyer Radio Award has been established in her name and continues to be given to students.

From left: Nan Nordyke and Betty Nuller voice a broadcast on air in 1956, when KCLC was only an AM station. 
Photo from Mary E. Ambler Archives
Martha Boyer (in the black blazer) takes notes during a conference on the script for a radio show for Lindenwood's Children's Theater of the Air.
Photo from Mary E. Ambler Archives
An article in the St. Charles Daily Banner newspaper hails KCLC for being a "community asset" in 1970.
Photo from Mary E. Ambler Archives
Martha Boyer during the end of her career at Lindenwood's radio station. Boyer retired from the university in 1972.
Photo from Mary E. Ambler Archives
Boyer was considered a pioneer in broadcasting for women and students in general. She organized some of the first communications conferences in the area during the '50s.
Photo from Mary E. Ambler Archives

 

This story is part one of three chronicling KCLC’s history at Lindenwood.  Click here for part two.

 

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About Kayla Drake 107 Articles
Kayla is our multimedia producer, so basically all things video and podcasts. She prefers to cover human interest stories because she believes we learn best by hearing personal testimonies of grief, passion, tribulation and activism. When Kayla is not editing or writing, most likely she is either hiking or eating. And by eating she doesn’t mean fast food, college grub, but the St. Louis restaurant scene (which is to die for). She is a proud St. Louisan and is passionate about being a part in the city's redemption. Look for the girl with the stickered out water bottle on campus and say hi.