Two people stand outside a building with gray siding and large windows. Large green letters in a window behind them say 91.9 WCFM, and smaller white letters say Tune in with a URL (not entirely visible in the photo).

Voices from the Past

Voices from the Past

“Relive your glory days as a WCFM DJ” read the call from Williams senior and station manager Josh Picoult ’24 in a fall 2023 issue of “EphNotes,” the college’s monthly newsletter. Picoult was conducting research for his senior thesis on the history of the Williams College radio station and hoped to reach alumni who had worked there. Available for use by students, faculty, staff and Williamstown community members, the station has had a rich and largely undocumented history since its first broadcast in 1940.

Tom Pierce ’68, general manager of the station more than 50 years ago, responded right away. For Pierce, DJing back then was the start of a 25-year career in broadcasting that included a turn as VP and general manager of CBS Radio and the COO of Knight Quality Radio. After getting in touch with Picoult, Pierce decided to drive from his home in Ashburn, Va., to Williamstown to meet the history major in person.

At the radio station in the basement of Prospect House, Pierce and Picoult talked and laughed as they sorted through 17 boxes of uncatalogued reel-to-reel recordings that Picoult had discovered in the library’s Special Collections, many of them featuring “Ephman”—a superhero character Pierce had created and voiced as a student, and, according to Picoult, “something of a legend” at the station. Picoult is helping to sort and digitize more than eight decades of station artifacts, motivated by “the sheer volume of show posters, vinyl records, program guides, photographs and letters scattered throughout the station” he says he found when he first entered the studio. “It was important to me to organize and uncover some of this hidden history.”

“Speaking as two general managers over half a century apart, I realized how much at the station had changed and how much had stayed exactly the same,” says Picoult.

Picoult has invited other DJs from the past to see for themselves how things have changed since their days in WCFM’s original home, the basement of Baxter Hall, during a “throwback” weekend March 16-17.

Illustration of a cassette tape that reads WCFM 91.9 FM, 2024 Throwback Mix, March 16-17, 2024
WCFM’s Throwback Weekend announcement

The first throwback was five years ago, when Chris Gondek ’90 and four of his college friends came to the station to fill some empty student-DJ time slots, allowing the alumni a day of nostalgic DJing. “I hadn’t been on campus during classes since I was a student,” he says. “Doing a show and meeting current Ephs was about as close as I’ll get to being a student again, and it was glorious.”

DJs Kathy Ryan ’90 and Rebecca Mattson ’90 joined a throwback in 2023 with a two-hour show of their own—bringing in unannounced special guest Gina Coleman ’90, lead vocalist and musician for the band Misty Blues. Despite what Ryan calls “a whole new landscape of equipment and technology,” she and Mattson navigated their time slot with a collection of songs that would recall their Williams experience and connect specific pieces to people they knew, even honoring classmates who had died.

Six people sit in a recording studio in various places: one holding the camera at arm's length, one sitting in a green chair, two leaning on a windowsill, one against a wall raising an arm in greeting, and one sitting behind an audio control panel making the peace sign with both hands. Lots of controls and a shelf with records are visible in the room.
Alums from the early 1990s took over the WCFM studio in March 2023.

During the first weekend of spring break this year, the full throwback schedule ranges from post-punk to spiritual jazz, including a discussion between Gondek and Picoult that delves into the station’s history and is followed by a roundtable with other DJs through the ages. “As a history major,” says Gondek, after meeting Picoult, “I wanted to kick myself retroactively back in 1989 for not thinking of the history of WCFM as a thesis topic.”

Having delved so far into his thesis, Picoult stops to admire past DJs like Pierce whose “dedication to broadcasting laid the groundwork for generations of students who followed in their footsteps,” he says. “It’s been a privilege to share that frequency.”

Find the WCFM Throwback schedule online. Requests and dedications can be sent to [email protected].

For more information on the weekend, visit WCFM Throwback’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

Listen to the recorded shows! 

Top photograph: Josh Picoult ’24 and Tom Pierce ’68, WCFM general managers 56 years apart, met in Williamstown in September 2023 to discuss the history of the radio station. Photo by Paul Neely ’68

Bottom photograph by James Small ’90

Regina Velázquez is an associate editor and senior writer in the Office of Communications.