Campus News

First UK-produced Radio Program Aired 90 Years Ago Today

photo of Stephen Collins Foster singing group that performed for radio broadcasts on WHAS from UK.
photo of Elmer Sulzer conducting a radio studio band

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 1, 2019) The beginnings of University of Kentucky's public radio station WUKY happened April 1, 1929, when the first UK-produced program was broadcast on WHAS Radio in Louisville. It took 11 more years before WBKY (the former call letters of WUKY) actually went on the air as the nation’s first university-owned non-commercial educational radio station. That was Oct. 17, 1940.

Radio productions on campus were abundant during the 1930s, though. Multiple programs were produced at the university and according to an April 1, 1960, Kentucky Kernel story, phone lines between Louisville and Lexington were leased to transmit the programming from UK's campus to WHAS. The story said "WHAS broadcast UK College of Agriculture programs to farmers and housewives throughout Kentucky."

The man behind those first broadcasts from UK was Elmer Sulzer, who established UK's radio arts program, served as head of the UK Publicity Bureau and directed a number of bands at UK including the marching band.  He also pioneered a system of educational radio listening centers across Kentucky.

Learn more about Sulzer in an interview that WUKY News Director Alan Lytle did with Sulzer's 92-year-old daughter Marjorie Collier in 2018. Lytle traveled to her home in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to conduct an oral history interview. 

WUKY General Manager Tom Godell's research on the station's history can be found on the Radio World website story "WUKY Turns 75."

Also, station recordings and other radio-related oral history interviews are available in both the University Archives and the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History in the UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center. Here are some examples:

Get in touch with University Archives and the Nunn Center here: or 859-257-8611.