When one speaks of the “path of life,” it is, for the majority of the time, metaphorical. It’s most often described in terms and events that have led to a certain point of connection; an occurrence in life that one can look back on and realize its significance to that “path.”
Lynn Hernandez ’92, like most, can describe the road that has gotten him to where he currently is in Tulsa, OK, having recently begun to write a weekly blog for Tulsa Kids Magazine and start his own website/social media “adventure,” as he called it. But Hernandez, also a longtime radio DJ in the Oklahoma area, can tell the story of traversing a much more literal path that took him to and from every single school he attended growing up on the north end of Findlay.
From the time of elementary school through his education at University of Findlay, Hernandez walked to school. Year after year, he said, his mother’s house was within easy walking distance to whatever school he was attending at the moment. “I walked to Northview [Elementary]; I walked to Glenwood [Junior High]; I walked to Findlay High School; and I walked to UF,” he said. “I think my mom, when she got the house, already had that figured out, I really do.” Hernandez never so much as hinted that it was a burden. “That’s what a lot of people I knew had to do back then, anyway,” he added. “I didn’t get a car until later.” In other words, it was necessary work.
That literal path toward education represented the midwestern ethic that Hernandez was brought up with: do what it takes to get you to where you want to be. He found out, however, during his first foray into college, a stint at a larger, state university, that one’s surroundings often have just as much to do with their ability to find success as the amount of work put in. College students, especially, need to have the room to grow, yet some prefer to still be seen, but at the large university where Hernandez started his higher education, he couldn’t seem to clearly find either. After the entirety of a youth spent walking to school and virtually everywhere else around Findlay, having to take a city bus just to get to different parts of campus began to feel like the wrong path. And, while he was handling classes successfully, he wasn’t finding his passion. All of that changed when he came back home to Findlay.
Upon returning to Findlay, Hernandez attended – and walked – to Owens Technical College, now known as Owens Community College in Findlay before enrolling at UF, to which, he said, every single one of his credits transferred. He began to be seen when he joined the student staff of the college radio station, 88.3 WLFC. More importantly, he found the room to grow, even – and especially – when he was sitting in the DJ booth. “I just fell in love with UF and radio,” he said. He met and worked with colleagues like Matt Downing, who was the WLFC sports director, and Joe Whitman, the program director. The men were among the many who helped Hernandez, often unintentionally, to see how a passion for radio and the people who tune in can create an especially meaningful life and productive career. “Those people changed my life,” he said. “We call it ‘getting the bug.’ When you feel that connection with your radio audience.”
Hernandez explained a story that shows that intangible sort of connecting. It involved him getting ready to play a song on one of his DJ shifts for WLFC. At that time, radio stations still played vinyl records, the sort that you had to queue up and get ready to play. It wasn’t as simple as pushing a button, he said, and because of the steps it took to get the song on – locating the record, pulling it both off of the shelf and out of the sleeve, putting it on, perhaps cleaning it off, locating the song, and getting the needle ready to drop at the right time – it felt like more of an invested experience. When he had the particular song ready, the telephone in the studio rang, and he answered it. A young woman, likely a student at UF, was calling in a request. “It was the exact same song I was getting ready to play,” he said. “The exact one. So, imagine what she felt like when, less than 30 seconds later, I was playing it. I bet that was amazing for her. It was a coincidence, but it felt like a sign for me.”
Hernandez said that he wouldn’t likely have found that sort of belonging, that reason for being, that launches students toward meaningful lives and productive careers, had he not decided to come back home to Findlay to earn a degree in communications. “The radio station and the classes and all of it were huge, for sure, but the people, and not just in the station or in communications, the people everywhere on campus, you do feel a connection with. It’s a perfect size for that feeling of home.”
After a sixteen-year career as a rock radio DJ for 97.5 KMOD in Tulsa, Hernandez, a single father of two, was downsized as a result of the COVID pandemic; but, he said, it has caused him to grow yet again, and to add some steps to his life’s path. While working toward his next full-time radio job, he said, he is branching out with his blogging and website. “Every day at noon, I broadcast live on Facebook and promote non-profits and small businesses. The pandemic hit them super bad so I’m hoping to help anyway I can,” he said. It’s an exciting new phase of his life, one that the communications skills he learned as a student at UF play a sizable role in.
Nowadays, Hernandez doesn’t do so much walking, as, in the significantly-larger-than-Findlay city of Tulsa, he drives a car to get to and from where he needs to be. And though it is from Oklahoma, the license plate is held fast with a University of Findlay alumni frame, both steadily reminding him of different paths. The frame is a part of a number of items he keeps around him to remind him of the value that UF created for his life and career. “UF and the WLFC station started it all,” he said. “The University and the area shaped my life. I discovered my dream there, and turned it into a career here.”