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WNSB Celebrates 40 Years

The year 2020 marks a major milestone for Norfolk State University’s radio station WNSB. NSU is celebrating the station’s 40th anniversary.  They hosted a special gala to thank its campus partners and the local community for decades of continued support. The gala was held on Feb. 22, marking the date in 1980 that the radio station first signed on the air.

dr edith thorne and student photo

The original idea for a campus radio station started in the 1970s. Faculty members Dr. Wilbert D. Edgerton, Dr. Georgia A. Ryder, Dr. Melvin O. Smith and Dr. Stanley Tickton all worked together to acquire the grant funding needed to make this dream a reality.

After the funding was secured, the next task was to actually build the radio station which was a job given to Dr. Tickton who joined Norfolk State in 1974. He applied for the FCC license, ordered the equipment and designed the studio and control room in Madison Hall.

Dr. Tickton also worked with longtime President Dr. Harrison B. Wilson Jr. to come up with a suitable name for the new station. At that time, the institution was still known as Norfolk State College, and the call letters WNSC were already taken. It would still be a few years before the institution achieved university status, so Dr. Tickton came up with Norfolk State Broadcasting, WNSB.

WNSB began with a wholly instructional format and eventually transitioned into entertainment as the station progressed. It became a full-time jazz station that played everything from dixieland jazz to smooth jazz. The station also ran a 15-minute news program featuring talented Norfolk State students. The program aired from 1976 to 1989, and a few students even went on to become successful in broadcasting. Several professionals started their careers at WNSB including news anchors Alveta Ewell, who spent 24 years at WAVY and Regina Mobley, who spent 26 years on the air with WVEC.

doug perry and teacher

WNSB has experienced several changes through the years, but one thing that has always remained is its focus on education and student success. This year, the station transitioned to the Urban Alternative format, which is designed to engage multicultural audiences. This new format honors its history of commitment to community by blending music, information and community engagement to create a family-friendly experience, according to WNSB current general manager Edith J. Lee-Thorpe.

Lee-Thorpe joined the station in 2016, and she says that WNSB’s ability to remain relevant for 40 years is the most influential aspect of its history. She also emphasizes that the station has always carved out a niche and stood firm on its commitment to the community.

Now after the launch of their new format, Lee-Thorpe has even more plans for WNSB in the near future. The station is undergoing major renovations which include moving back to the building where it all started, J. Hugo Madison Hall. This move will enhance production capacity and gives them more space to train interns.

“The future of WNSB Blazin’ Hot 91 is bright with a plethora of opportunities and success. We have a highly qualified team at the helm with experience, vision and determination to incite change in the Norfolk radio market,” says Lee-Thorpe.