In 1963 WPKN FM began broadcasting as a 100 Watt station on 88.1 MHz
licensed to the University of Bridgeport. The station carried news from United
Press International (UPI) and also had an AM signal that broadcast directly to
A contest was held to determine the call letters of the new station. WPKN
was chosen to represent the “Purple Knights”, the name of the UB sports teams,
and the “Purple Knight Network” (WPKN) was born.
In 1965 the addition of a new wing to the Student Center was planned. WPKN’s
students consulted with Jeff Tellis, who had started at WHUS at UCONN in Storrs
and had worked at several commercial stations and the ABC Radio Network in New
York City. Tellis contributed his expertise to the design of WPKN’s new studios
and was subsequently hired as its first paid General Manager by the University.
Jeff Tellis’ tenure included a change in frequency to 89.5 and an increase
to 700 Watts in 1967, 2400 Watts in 1972, and the application for 10,000 Watts.
The new broadcast area encompassed most of CT except lower Fairfield County and
New York City (to protect the antenna pattern of WSOU in New Jersey), as well
as significant portions of Long Island.
In 1969, Bill Nolan became the first “non-student” to become a programmer,
and he paved the way for increasing reliance on community members. Bill can
still be heard broadcasting his show “Antique Blues” on Sunday nights.
Subsequently the all-volunteer staff began to be populated by a mix of UB
students and community members.
In 1976, the University of Bridgeport threatened to sell WPKN’s license to a
private corporation. The station, however, had already established a loyal and
active following and a blue-ribbon panel was established to study the potential
sale. It concluded that WPKN was a valuable community resource that ought to be
left alone and the offer was withdrawn.
Soon after, in 1978, Jeff Tellis left his General Manager position in order
to become the full-time President of Intercollegiate Broadcasting System. Harry
Minot, who had a background in commercial radio and was then a producer at
Compton Advertising in New York, was hired by UB as his successor.
However, in the mid-1980s the University of Bridgeport began to experience
severe financial difficulties. It had failed to anticipate a decline in
enrollment and embarked on an ambitious and expensive pair of construction
projects. In July of 1989 Minot was informed that WPKN would have to become
WPKN, now having to become a self-funded entity, altered its structure to
draw community people (“non-students”) into its governance. At the same time it
resolved to adhere to funding principles which would preserve the freedoms that
its programmers enjoyed and the resultant unequivocal nature of its
programming. Accordingly it refused to accept underwriting, government funding,
or “restricted” grants which might favor one program or genre over another.
In 1991 there were ownership changes at UB and severe financial hardships
In 1992, the WPKN staff, fearing loss of the station’s independent voice,
hurried to effect a transfer of the station’s license from the University of
Bridgeport, and a filing was made with the FCC. It included the transfer of the
license and all of the physical assets to WPKN, Inc. a 501 c-3 non-profit corporation.
WPKN continued in its evolution and listener support. It sought to add a
satellite, full-facility transmitter at Montauk, NY, simulcasting at 88.7 FM.
Minot departed as General Manager as of June 2008, having served almost
thirty years in that capacity. He was succeeded by interim GM Jeep Ward and
then by Peter Bochan, who came from WBAI, a Pacifica Network station in NYC. In
2011 Steve DiCostanzo became GM after an intensive search process.
Starting in 2010, a decision was made to renovate and update the studios. Much
of our broadcast equipment was 30-40 years old, and technology was fast going
digital. The middle studio was cleared out to create a dedicated performance
space, and the production room was modernized. Computerized systems are still
being installed and connected, but the main broadcast studio has yet to be
WPKN primarily funded itself through its traditional on-air drives. In 2011,
after intensive debate, the WPKN constitution was amended to allow
underwriting, within guidelines that maintain the integrity of our commitment
to freedom of expression, diversity of programming, and the mission to serve
and educate our community.
WPKN persists in its mission to stand apart from convention and to serve
diversity. Its volunteers and programmers have created an institution with
depth, importance, and passion. Its listeners have made its continued existence
possible. WPKN’s next fifty years are certain to be as exciting and provocative
as those which have already occurred.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Greater New Haven is home to a thriving arts community that includes theatre, music, dance and the visual arts. It is invested in its museums, historic preservation and the celebration of its members’ ethnic and cultural diversity.
Greater New Haven’s vibrancy is linked to its communities’ support of its neighborhoods, public gardens and sports, as well as its commitment to the protection of its people and pets.
70 Audubon Street
New Haven, CT 06150
(203) 777-2386 giveGreater@cfgnh.org
© 2015 The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. All Rights Reserved. Contact | Terms & Conditions | Privacy