May 23rd, 2016

Donors step in to rescue WTBU

A three-alarm fire engulfed WTBU, BU’s student-run radio station, on the morning of March 25, sending three students, a firefighter, and two BU police officers to the hospital for smoke inhalation and causing an estimated $500,000 worth of damage to the facility. Believed to have been sparked by malfunctioning equipment in one of the station’s recording studios at the College of Communication, the blaze was quickly extinguished by Boston firefighters. WTBU has been off the air ever since.

Shortly after firefighters left the scene, a second team of rescuers leapt into action: concerned donors. Two unsolicited gifts came in that first day; and by the end of the following day, 19 donors had offered a total of $1,077 to the College of Communication to help in repairing the station. By April 5, the total had grown to $5,029 from 68 gifts. Then on Giving Day, BU’s annual 24-hour fundraising drive, an additional 181 donors gave $13,877.61, spurred by a $15,000 one-to-one matching gift from Colleen McCreary (COM’95), CEO of the consulting firm CCKPartners, and a heartfelt email appeal from long-time faculty sponsor Anne Donohue (COM’89), associate professor of journalism.

“The response has been unbelievable,” Donohue told BU Today. “We have had calls from alums offering to paint, clean, do anything they can to help rebuild. One guy made a $1,600 donation, and then apologized, saying it was too small, but he had been out of work for 10 months. It’s been very gratifying.”

The College of Communication is currently developing plans to rebuild the station, which has been named the national Station of the Year three years in a row by College Music Journal. In addition to replacing equipment, those plans potentially include building two glass-walled studios on the College’s main floor, where passers-by can watch as DJs broadcast.

Efforts to raise money for the station continue. On April 20, a benefit was held at POP Allston, and all proceeds from the College’s annual year-end COMapalooza celebration on the COM lawn went to WTBU. By May 3, 261 donors had contributed $33,558.61.

The response has made it clear that experiences at WTBU, which launched in 1965, are cherished by many alumni—and in some cases shaped their lives. “Since my first shift on-air in the basement of the Myles Annex in 1995, I fell in love with WTBU. The station and all the people there helped me find my voice in more ways than one,” Eric Rasmussen (COM’99) posted on Facebook after the fire, using the hashtag #WTBUmemories. “It was a launching pad for my career in TV news, but it also allowed me to pursue my passion as a hip-hop DJ—I’m still mixing, scratching, and blending 20 years later!”

And it’s not too late to make a difference! You can still make a contribution to the WTBU Fund.

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