In 1977, after a two-decade hiatus, Whitworth’s long-lost radio station returned to the airwaves as KWRS, 90.3 FM. The station’s revival was due to the dedication and leadership of student Jon Flora, ’78, journalism professor Al Gray, and political studies professor Gus Haas.
Whitworth students ran KWRS, under the guidance of faculty advisors. The students worked as general managers and program directors, learned to operate the soundboard, and developed public-speaking skills by hosting their own shows. But faculty members, including Leonard Oakland (English) and Mike Ingram and James McPherson (Communication Studies) got in on the fun, too, filling timeslots and sharing a different side of themselves with the Whitworth community.
The station’s signal grew from 10 to 100 watts as the programming style and format changed over the decades, ranging from Christian music in the late 1970s to underground, indie bands in the early 2000s. In the 1980s, KWRS Program Director Grant Miller, ’86, felt that KWRS stood out in Spokane because the station had the freedom to play new music before it hit the commercial airwaves. “We get calls and compliments from all over the city,” he said in a 1985 article in Whitworth’s alumni magazine. “And the support of the student body has probably gone up 100 percent. You walk through the dorms and all you hear are ghetto blasters cranked up, playing KWRS. That’s how we know we’re doing a good job.”
In 2011, KWRS lost its frequency due to budget constraints and to the changing landscape of college radio and media in general. Rather than fall silent, KWRS moved to Whitworth.FM, an Internet-based station with updated technology that allows listeners to enjoy its programs anywhere in the world.