Alumnus Bill Rumbold ’74 and a Vision for the Future of University of Findlay Radio
Radio, Findlay College/University of Findlay alumnus Bill Rumbold ’74 said, was like a good friend when he was growing up on Long Island in New York. It kept you company; it played songs that often spoke to what you were feeling in the moment; in essence, it made the world bigger for its listeners.
So, upon beginning his academic career at UF in the early 1970s after a history teacher at Jericho High School, from which he graduated, found that it would be a fitting environment for him, Rumbold saw an opportunity to expand the world for those on campus. Finding himself “really impressed” with the reception he got from faculty, staff, and students, his desire was to both spread that kindness and acceptance and to bring the wider world of music and his love for radio and what it was saying to his generation at Findlay College. There was one problem, however: the University had no radio station. “There was so much going on with radio at the time,” Rumbold said, “so a bunch of guys got together and thought about how cool it would be if Findlay College had a station. We started that way.”
As those types of “youthful” discussions go, however, the idea itself, while an aspiration that could potentially change communication on campus, was going to be difficult to get off the ground. The originators of it were young, after all, still in their teens or barely out of them, for one thing, so being taken seriously was going to have to rely upon their approach and seriousness about the subject. To make matters more complicated, there was no money, nor was there much of any knowledge of technicalities such as how to apply for a federal license. “I was committed, though, so it was pretty much my studies and making this station a reality,” Rumbold said. “We really thought it was important.”
Aspiration, however, turned to action, and Rumbold and his fellow college radio enthusiasts began researching methods to get radio to campus. They found a way to transmit AM radio to a very limited area by coupling the transmitter into the University’s already existing AV/electrical system, and put a transmitter in both Fox and Deming Hall, along with a “very crude” station in Egner. “We turned it on and it sounded bad,” Rumbold remembered. “I mean, really, really bad.” But somewhere within all the crackle and woosh was music. Sweet, sweet music. They were on the air. It wasn’t the greatest, but like all important innovations both on the UF campus and beyond, it was a start.
The real progress, and what would be the beginning of a new and improved WLFC on the FM dial, started a bit later. Rumbold and his classmates had begun to hear rumblings of schools getting ten-watt FM radio stations. He knew that, in order to upgrade their current setup, one that wasn’t covering much of any territory outside of Findlay College’s campus, the group would need to mount a mission similar to the first one; in other words, they’d have to put in a lot of work and research if they wanted to improve their coverage and listenability. “So, it was sort of like, ‘Here we go again,’” said Rumbold, “but this time it was much more intimidating.” That was because, he explained, there was a lot more involved the second time around. After writing a letter to the FCC requesting the proper forms to apply for a station, the materials arrived. There were exhibits; there were attachments; there were confusing instructions filled with loads of equally perplexing terms. As only United States citizens can hold a broadcast license, the group had to prove that the Board of Trustees were all citizens, so they had to collect their biographical data. “It all took a few months,” Rumbold explained, “The stack of information ended up being about one foot thick.”
Perhaps most interesting – and challenging – was the fact that the FCC had requested, as part of the application, an aerial photo of the intended antenna site on the roof of Egner Fine Arts Center; and, in the days long before today’s drones, it was a particular challenge they weren’t at all certain of pulling off. To compound matters, it was late spring by this time, Rumbold said, and everyone had left for the semester. “We knew a photographer from [former Findlay College student newspaper] The Obelisk, but how could we get up there?” said Rumbold. One of the people who saw value in the project, he said, was Jack Morehart, who, at the time, was Findlay College’s business manager, so Rumbold and the group went to seek his advice. “We said, ‘Mr. Morehart, we’ve hit a road block,’” recalled Rumbold. “’We need photos of the antenna site, and we’ve no idea how to get them.’ And, you won’t believe it, but he said, ‘Oh that’s no problem. I’m a pilot and my plane is at the Findlay Airport.’ So, the next day, we took pictures, and that was that!”
They readied the information as requested – in triplicate – and mailed off the massive amount of papers to the FCC.
Then they waited.
Nearly twelve months later, they got a telegram saying it was approved. After what was certainly a short celebration, they were off to put more work in. Rumbold and crew got some money from student government and bought the transmitter and antenna. “I remember turning on the transmitter,” Rumbold said, “opening up the microphone and saying, ‘This is WLFC, Findlay Ohio.’ Those were the first words. And they sounded so good.”
Through many more upgrades, bringing with them a bigger and better broadcast area, a host of eager student workers, and countless listeners over the years, WLFC is still intact, and, in fact, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of broadcasting in 2022. Rumbold, after his graduation from Findlay, got a graduate degree from Bowling Green State University and kept on with radio until about 1982, when, he said, the change in the industry that led to “shock jocks” and a less friendly atmosphere led him to different avenues. Now working for MedicaSafe, a medical device startup company that will potentially dispense medication safely to patients who suffer from substance abuse, he’s still helping people through new technology, however, and continuing to bring them together while at the same time, creating a more accessible world. It’s this type of hope for the future that Rumbold, who is on the UF Communications Advisory Board, finds so valuable within his work, and a labor of love from which he reaps countless rewards. And who knows what might come next? “I never thought that the [WLFC] station would cover all of northwest Ohio, and now, with internet, it’s worldwide,” he said. “You never know. I guess you’d call us pioneers,” he said.