Close your eyes; does this sound familiar? 473-4801, 912 North Weber Street, That’s right – KRCC, 91.5 FM. Colorado College’s 91.5 FM radio station first “took to the air” in 1951. Decades later in 1983, under the direction of beloved Station Manager Mario Valdes, KRCC was awarded a $60,000 Department of Commerce grant to erect a transmitter on Cheyenne Mountain. In 1984, KRCC became a National Public Radio affiliate, and the transmitter began operating, expanding listenership throughout the region. KRCC has recently become part of Colorado Public Radio, but it will always be a “uniquely Colorado Springs” institution.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

The story of KRCC began in earnest with a war surplus FM transmitter in 1951. In the mid-1940s Colorado College Professor Woodson “Chief” Tyree set up a broadcast studio at the college. Professor Tyree, along with his students, would transmit through local stations KVOR and KRDO. In 1951 Margaret Merle-Smith suggested that they should start their own radio station. Merle-Smith found and purchased an old military transmitter. Fellow student Charles “Bud” Edmonds got the transmitter set up and broadcasting. The station originally transmitted on 91.3 but when Harry Hoth, then owner of KRDO, requested the frequency for his own use KRCC moved to 91.5, the frequency it still broadcasts on to this day.

By the mid-1970’s KRCC had grown to have a staff of 35, mostly student volunteer, employees. The broadcasts mainly focused on material other local radio stations weren’t broadcasting. The radio station would broadcast six hours of classical music a week as well as a performance by the New York Philharmonic every Tuesday night. They also had Colorado College specific material, such as breakfast reports. The morning DJ would run the show until they had to dash off to class, and during the traffic report a student would imitate the sound of a helicopter to create a recognizable radio atmosphere.

The station took its next big step in 1984. Under direction of station Director Mario Valdes, who had started at the station in 1979 and became its first paid employee in 1980, KRCC greatly expanded. In 1983 KRCC received a grant of $60,000 from the United States Department of Commerce to assist in erecting a transmitter on Cheyenne Mountain. The next year KRCC began operating the new transmitter which allowed them to expand to listeners in Fountain, Monument, Palmer Lake, Black Forest, and Falcon. That same year KRCC became a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate.

KRCC’s expansion has been slow but continual. In 1992 the station moved to its current home at 912 North Weber Street. In 2005 the station began broadcasting its’ local news show Western Skies, which now has daily segments during NPR’s Morning Edition and in 2008 KRCC finished installation of an HD broadcasting system. In February of 2020 Colorado College turned over the operations of KRCC to Colorado Public Radio. Although no longer affiliated with Colorado College KRCC still retains its local focus and continues to operate in Colorado Springs.

Generously Submitted by Patrick Lee, CSPM Museum Technician

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