All it took was one phone call to generate an entire Tuesday dedicated to the celebration of an important Montclair alum. The call was from WMSC founder Ed Helvey (class of ’67), expressing the wish to visit the radio station he helped create to the station's current manager.
In the 1960s, Montclair State College was primarily a commuter college with on-campus housing for only about a quarter of the student population. Most of the commuters left the campus at the end of their classes and seldom returned to participate in the wide variety of campus activities available.
Ed Helvey, a commuter student from Clifton, felt that a college-based FM radio station could help better connect the commuter and off-campus students with their campus.
“To insiders, he’s a legend,” Dick Hinchliffe, WMSC Manager said, “but to most, they don’t know him, but have maybe heard his name.”
Helvey’s visit included a radio interview, interviews with others on campus, and a faculty lunch meeting. According to Hinchliffe, everyone who met Helvey was thrilled and impressed with his stories and exuberance.
The students quickly picked up on his love of radio, college radio, underground music, and campus life. “The students came to understand how radio becomes part of your psyche. If it gets in your blood stream, it never leaves,” says Hinchliffe.
In his freshman year, as a licensed amateur radio operator, Helvey founded the Montclair State Amateur Radio Society and then, during his sophomore year, began a campaign to build interest in creating a college broadcast radio station.
By the second semester of his junior year, he had recruited a core group of more than 25 students who became the foundation of “The Voice of Montclair State,” or WVMS, as the station was originally named.
Ed Helvey’s visit came at a perfect time for the student-run radio station. According to Hinchliffe, WMSC, approaching its 50th anniversary, is like a rocket that is about to take off. Now in its new home in Schmitt Hall, Hinchliffe reports that the station is flourishing under a new student management team, who are able to recognize its potential. “We’re in a Field of Dreams,” declares Hinchliffe.
Similar to present day, Ed Helvey’s hard work and success also began as a dream. Helvey spent the summer of 1966 exploring the Educational FM channel allocations, working with a communication law firm and broadcast consulting engineers in Washington, DC to find an available channel in the crowded New York metropolitan broadcast market.
The fall 1966 semester found the members of The Voice of Montclair State working on programming ideas and schedules, acquiring equipment including several low power AM transmitters to be installed in MSC dormitories to launch an AM carrier-current station by the beginning of 1967.
Now almost fifty years later, Helvey feels radio is just as relevent now as it was 47 years ago.
Although a radio no longer sits in every room, and stations are now accessed by new
media platforms, to Helvey, radio is still exactly the same. “It is still the audio
newspaper, and the love of radio is able to make a connection across
generations,” states Hinchliffe.