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Even for a man of vision, this seemed like a stretch: A public radio network, emanating from Saint John’s Abbey and University and reaching across the community, the state and the nation.

Minnesota By Dave DeLand

When he looked around the campus he called home, Fr. Colman J. Barry ’42, SOT ’47, OSB, enjoyed the scenic view. But he saw much more than that. He saw possibilities—for Saint John’s, for its students, for everyone. “He was a man of vision who thought that the impact of Saint John’s could be considerably greater than it had been up to that time,” said Bill Kling ’64, architect of the Fr. Colman dream that became Minnesota Public Radio. “And he proved himself correct.” “It’s a remarkable story,” added Gary Eichten ’69, whose involvement with MPR transformed him from a rock ‘n’ roll DJ into a journalistic icon. “Nobody had any idea that this whole development was possible—well, maybe Bill Kling. “It was just kind of a goofy little radio station in the middle of nowhere.” That goofy little station celebrated its 50th anniversary Jan. 22, the date when KSJR-FM haltingly made its Collegeville debut in 1967. It’s now part of a 45-station network that blankets Minnesota and has grown into one of America’s premier public radio networks. Every week, 20 million listeners tune in on MPR’s national programming division, American Public Media.

Above right: Minnesota Public Radio founder Bill Kling ’64 was cultivated to launch the network during his undergraduate days at Saint John’s University. He served as MPR president and CEO until his retirement in 2011. Right: Saint John’s University President Fr. Colman J. Barry ’42, SOT ’47, OSB (left) and station manager Bill Kling ’64 examine an early program guide from KSJR-FM’s small announcing studio shortly after MPR’s launch in 1967.

10 WINTER/SPRING 2017

All that will be observed April 25 when MPR broadcasts from the KSJR studio in Wimmer Hall that helped give a half-century of SJU students the hands-on experience to play key roles in the national evolution of public radio. “I can’t imagine it happening anywhere else,” said Kling, MPR’s founder and president until his retirement in 2011. “Frankly, I can’t imagine it happening at Saint John’s. But it did. “It goes back to the nature of Saint John’s, the abbey and the university and their willingness to take risks and trust people,” Kling said. “It paid off.”

Benedictine Roots Fr. Colman was SJU’s president from 1964-71, a dynamic and progressive period in the university’s history. His ideas were rooted at Saint John’s, but his vision extended to distant horizons.

Saint John's Magazine Winter/Spring 2017  

Saint John's Magazine is published in the fall and winter for alumni, parents, friends and the Saint John's University campus community.

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