Temple University faculty member emeritus and WRTI founder John Roberts passed away on Thursday, March 8th at his home in Rydal. Mr. Roberts was 94. In addition to being an educator and broadcast pioneer, he was also a radio and television news commentator, and an inductee to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame.
Roberts established WRTI in 1948 as a carrier current station in a dormitory on Temple University's campus. (A carrier current is a system where a radio station connects its transmitter to the electric power system of a building, and all the electric circuits in that building then act as radiating antennae.)
He described it this way:
"I can remember the very first program that ever happened. It was sort of 'What God hath wrought.' We got our transmitter in one of the girls' dormitories, and on the day we put our first broadcast on, the transmitter went on and Stan Eisenberg, our first station manager, stood at the microphone and said, 'Can you hear me?' And Dottie Anne Kelly ran down to the girls' dormitory, and when the word finally came through, she came running back breathless to say, 'I heard it, I heard it!' " - (From a 1968 interview by then station manager Jerry Klein, who is now the president of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia)
It's doubtful that Roberts could have ever foreseen the 14-station network that now broadcasts in high-definition, serving hundreds of thousands of listeners each week in the Greater Philadelphia region. ?What he did see, though, was the need for students to have a practical application for the theory they were learning in the classroom, and the power of radio to reach and serve people in a way no other medium could achieve.
Generations and thousands of students later, WRTI continues Roberts' legacy of service to our community and excellence in broadcasting in what is now the age of digital media.
We're all saddened with the news of his passing, but inspired to rise to the vision and passion he displayed every day for the craft of radio and broadcasting in our community.--William Johnson, WRTI Station Manager