Credit is always given to inventors, innovators, creators and founders, but often not given to those who’ve reconstructed, rebuilt and restored something that already existed. Those people can be just as important and the Slippery Rock University Media Hall of Fame will credit someone who did just that.
When SRU’s radio station began in the spring semester of 1960, called News From Thirty-Eight (NFTE), it was broadcast out of room 38 in Patterson Hall and featured an hour of music and news, listened to by the 300 young men living in the building. At the end of the following semester, the equipment was damaged and the station went off the air. In 1961, Slippery Rock State College student Jay Doudna decided he wanted the station back on the air, so he worked with engineering professors and students to bring it back better than ever. In 1962, the station, now called WNFT, broadcast its first record–a tape of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Doudna, referred to as “Jaybird” on-air, was one of the most important people in the radio station’s history. He was nominated for the Jim Aronson Founder’s Award this year by his friend and coworker at WNFT Terry Sullivan, another Slippery Rock State College graduate, because of his dedication to the station and his hardworking disposition despite his handicap; Doudna is legally blind and continues to work with the Society for the Blind by donating records and volunteering his time.
“Jay is an inspiration to all who know him and has developed an abiding love for and knowledge of all things radio and music,” Sullivan said in a press release.
According to Aronson, Doudna was the program director for WNFT during his time at Slippery Rock State College, designing the shows and selecting the music that would be broadcast. The Founder’s Award is awarded to alumni who inspired the Hall of Fame, and when Aronson and the board heard Sullivan’s story about Doudna, they immediately knew he should be the next winner.
“The Founder’s Award honors somebody whose work, either as an undergrad or after graduation, was essential to having the Media Hall of Fame exist,” Aronson said. “As the story unfolded, we thought it was an amazing story and a great fit for the award.”
After graduation, Doudna began work in the Radio Reading Service field and in 1973, he moved to Lancaster to work for the Lancaster County Association for the Blind, where he established the first Radio Reading Service in the state. In 1974, he moved to Philadelphia and helped launch the Radio Information Center for the Blind. Then, in 1977, he returned to Lancaster to once again work with the Reading Service until 1998 when he left the Reading Service field to take a job at the Overbrook School for the Blind as Assistant to the Director. Doudna also served on the board of the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) in the late 1980s through the mid-90s. In 2007, he met and married Elaine Boykin, retired and moved to Oklahoma where he resides today. Every year, Doudna donates thousands of records to the Society for the Blind.