Gala Celebrates WFUV's Past and FutureContact: Patrick Verel
Ralph Jennings, Charles Osgood, Tom Brokaw and Stephen Freedman
Photo by Bruce Gilbert
American Chicano rock band Los Lobos, NBC News icon Tom Brokaw and NFL broadcaster Pat Summerall were honored by WFUV (90.7 FM) on May 2 at the station’s fourth annual gala.
The event, which took place at Three Sixtyº in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca, raised nearly $400,000.
That sum, which includes $25,750 from a silent auction held at the event, brought the total raised at the series of annual galas to $2.1 million. Money from the events supports the capital needs of WFUV, Fordham’s public radio station, including facilities and technology.
In addition to the awards for Los Lobos, Brokaw, and Summerall, the station honored its general manager, Ralph Jennings, who is retiring after 25 years.
“WFUV has the most interesting programming format in the metropolitan area, and maybe the country,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “The man who has been the architect of WFUV’s greatness, and who directed everything so that the station achieved the status it now enjoys, is Ralph Jennings.”
In awarding Jennings the Lifetime Achievement Award, Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., provost of the University, noted that under his management, the station grew from a weekly audience of about 30,000 to 300,000, with more than 22,000 members. He oversaw WFUV’s transformation from an exclusively student-run station to one that employs 30 full-time professionals and 90 students.
Ralph Jennings, Peter Madonia, John M. Tognino and Stephen Freedman, Ph.D.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert
Peter Madonia, a member of the WFUV advisory board, called Jennings a founding father, much like the music visionaries played on the station.
“What separates Ralph’s vision from other stations was he understood that what’s important in life is relationships,” Madonia said. “He insisted that the station create and nurture a relationship with its audience.”
Jennings was greeted with an extended standing ovation.
“I’d like to thank all of the staff and the students at WFUV who have done so much to keep the station going these last 25 years. Obviously I did very little of it, and they did all of it. It’s just amazing what our professional staff and our student staff can do,” he said.
“I also want to thank you, our listeners and our supporters; you’re key in what we do. We’ve all had a good time building a community in the neighborhood of 90.7 FM.”
Charles Osgood, in presenting Brokaw with the Charles Osgood Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism, called him the most trusted man in broadcasting.
“The last thing in this world that Tom needs is another award. He’s won just about every award that there is in this business,” Osgood said. “When I called him to tell him he’d finally reached the pinnacle and was going to receive the Charles Osgood award, he graciously accepted,” he joked.
Brokaw, who was Fordham’s commencement speaker in 2009, said that WFUV and media outlets like it are more important than ever.
“It is critically important, in these times especially, that we have a quiet voice of reason and sanity available for all of our citizens,” he said. “I grew up as a child of radio on the Great Plains, and it always spoke to me about the life that was going on beyond the horizon.”
Summerall received the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Broadcasting from fellow former New York Giant Frank Gifford. Summerall also was honored by Scully, whose remarks were played via video from Los Angeles, where Scully broadcasts games for the Dodgers.
“Pat is well remembered by the New York Giants and always will be,” Gifford said. “He’s a very special person for all of us who’ve ever associated with him, and I’m delighted to be here this evening to present this award.”
Summerall recalled working with Scully for a year, noting that he admired his storytelling ability.
“To work next to him, to hear what he had to say and how he said it, that’s a privilege only a few get to enjoy,” he said. “To work with Vin Scully, to see him perform under pressure—and believe me, he was under pressure a lot—makes me very grateful to receive this award.”
Los Lobos and attendees finished the night with a rousing version of "La Bamba."
Photo by Bruce Gilbert
Before concluding the evening with a seven-song set that brought guests onto the dance floor and ended with audience members on stage singing along to “La Bamba,” Los Lobos received the Sound and Vision Award from Alejandro Escovedo. He noted that Los Lobos, which his band opened for in 1982 in Austin, Texas, has been going strong for 38 years.
“Growing up as a Chicano in Texas and California, it was really important to have people like Los Lobos as an inspiration,” Escovedo said. “Not only did they teach me a lot about my own culture in the music that they played, but they went beyond that and broke down boundaries as to what rock should be by incorporating traditional music with modern rock sounds.”
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in Westchester, the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.