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WBJU affinity reunion encourages alumni to reconnect, look forward

Visiting alumna Julie Wilson uses some of the old equipment that was on display at the reunion. Photo: Rebecca Snyder

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of WBJU, the university’s radio and television station, the WBJU affinity reunion hosted during Homecoming weekend drew one of the largest groups of alumni to ever attend a Homecoming affinity reunion.

Over 200 alumni attended the event. Among these were graduates of the broadcast engineering, radio and television and journalism and mass communication programs, particularly those who worked with the WBJU or WMUU radio stations. The reunion was held in the Davis Room of the dining common on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

Meagan Ingersoll, BJU’s director of alumni and parent engagement, said affinity reunions give graduates an opportunity to reconnect with friends, roommates, coworkers and peers who weren’t in their graduating class.

She said that while the university alumni relations office arranges class reunions, affinity reunions are self-initiated by graduates interested in catching up with old friends. “Those who have that affinity are the ones really getting to put on their own event,” she said. Randy Erickson, a 1978 broadcast engineering graduate working for Jackson Dawson marketing firm in Dearborn, Michigan, initiated the WBJU reunion and worked with current JMC faculty to organize the event.

He created a Facebook page to inform people of the event and to invite graduates of the JMC, broadcast engineering and RTV departments from the past 50 years. Erickson came up with the idea when he came for his 40-year class reunion and the Show My People television choir affinity reunion in 2017. While Erickson enjoyed both reunions, he enjoyed the affinity reunion even more, because he felt they had something more in common.

“Of the 40 people from the class of ’78, I really only knew about six or seven, but with Show My People, we worked together,” he said. “It was kind of a band of brothers and sisters.” David Lurtey, a current member of the JMC faculty, did much of the preparation for the reunion. He said the reunion wasn’t only like a typical reunion where people reconnect with old friends around refreshments. It was meant to be a time to interact with old equipment, rekindle fond memories, reconnect graduates with BJU and show them the future of journalism.

Lurtey enjoyed looking through the many old photographs, recordings and equipment from the journalism department. “It’s been a lot of fun to put together and think through how God has blessed us over the years and how God has provided for us,” he said. “I’m just honored that I could be a part of this.” Various memorabilia from days gone by were on display in the Davis Room of the dining common. Graduates recounted a time when they learned to use equipment that’s no longer in use today.

One of the items on display was a fully-functioning Associated Press teleprinter, which alumni could use to rearrange and print news stories just as they did when they were in university classes. Alumni also had the opportunity to put on a short, live radio program using a record player and operating board built by the late Bill Greaves, a former faculty member.

The reunion was not just a time of reminiscing but of looking to the future of journalism and the JMC department at BJU. Erickson invited grads to give to the JMC Next Generation Fund to support BJU’s current JMC department. He reminded grads of how they had been impacted by the department and how they could continue to impact the next generation of journalism students through new equipment and expansion of the department in the Gustafson Fine Arts Center.

Several alumni from the 1990s donated money for furniture for the lobby of the JMC wing, which is located on the second floor of the Fine Arts building. The project will begin before the end of the semester, and it will include a comfortable seating area for students and faculty of the department. The JMC lobby, once refurbished, will be dedicated to Laura Pratt, a former faculty member who was instrumental in the founding and development of the JMC programs.

Kathryn Gamet, JMC faculty member, spoke at the reunion about the future of the department.

“We will continue to grow and adapt and change as the industry changes,” she said. “We truly can’t predict what the future looks like, but we know it will change, and we have to be willing to grow and change with it.” She noted specifically the big role social media will play in the future of journalism.