KUNR 50th Anniversary



50 years ago Mary English was the first Station Manager at KUNR. She discusses the building of the station, its mission and history.

A Brief History of KUNR - Reno Public Radio

It's difficult to imagine the setting a half-century ago at the University of Nevada, Reno: The autumn leaves falling from much-smaller trees along the Quad on a still-developing campus in a truly "little city." The hand-held transistor radio was the exciting portable technology of the day - that era's iPod as FM radio was just starting to catch on.

It was in that setting that on October 7, 1963, students and staff heard the first-ever KUNR broadcast. Just fifteen minutes long, this broadcast recognized the many individuals who had come together to bring the vision of a public radio station to life on the University campus.

A few minutes of classical music brought the broadcast to an end, but it was just the beginning for KUNR. For 50 years now, broadcasts on KUNR - Reno Public Radio - have informed and engaged audiences with timely, relevant and high quality news, information and entertainment programming. Today, through NPR programs and the station's growing regional and local news broadcasts, KUNR covers the issues of relevance for upwards of 45,000 listeners in 20 communities throughout northern Nevada and northeastern California.

As public radio stations emerged on college campuses, University President Charles Armstrong received Board of Regents approval in June 1962 for a 10-watt FM radio station. The first studio was located in Church Fine Arts, with the transmitter on the roof directly above. Mary Robins English, KUNR's first station manager, commented on the station she helped literally build from boxes of radio equipment: "We had to climb a rope ladder just to access the station, which was in a loft."

With a listening radius of just 13 miles, broadcast was limited from 3:45 to 11 p.m. each day, in part due to the station's limited record collection. The Federal Communications Commission granted KUNR an increase in power to 1,000 watts in 1969, and with a new transmitter installed atop Nye Hall, listening area greatly expanded. In 1981 KUNR became an affiliate of National Public Radio and a full-service public radio station eligible for Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds. KUNR simultaneously became an outreach service of the University system, which holds KUNR's license.

This anniversary year has provided the opportunity to appreciate, celebrate and reflect on KUNR's 50-year milestone - and to look ahead to the next 50 years.