ENMU celebrates new communications building

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

KENW-TV and the Department of Communicative Arts and Sciences at Eastern New Mexico University cut the ribbon on the coming digital age Friday as the new Communication Center was dedicated.

An afternoon ceremony with students, faculty, regents, legislators and the public in attendance officially opened the facility. After the dedication the doors were thrown open for public tours showcasing the future of broadcast education at ENMU.

“This is a wonderful facility,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said. “And this is the first new building in quite a while.”

In his dedication ceremony remarks Gamble said that what ENMU values is hands-on learning. He said that the programs that would occupy the new center were a great example of that hands-on learning at its finest.

Former President Everett Frost, who started the process to get a new communication center, reflected on the early days of the broadcast program and its beginnings in the old Student Academic Services building (now the Campus Union Building), and then eventually the metal building that served as the broadcast center for 32 years.

Frost said the metal building didn’t really reflect the ideals of the university because it had been a goal of previous presidents for all the main buildings to be brick-facade permanent-looking structures denoting a solid institution. Frost said the programs that emanated from the building helped define the university, however.

“Many people in the area see KENW as their very first exposure to the university,” Frost said.

Friday evening, Studio A, the largest of the facility’s three studios, was converted to a banquet hall as the celebration continued.

While ENMU’s Director of Broadcasting Duane Ryan managed to fly under the radar in the afternoon ceremony, former students and faculty gave Ryan a large measure of praise for supplying the dream behind the program. A bronze plaque noting his achievements in launching the program and carrying it through its formative years was unveiled.

State Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell, a graduate of the program and touted to be KENW’s first sportscaster, said the program prepared him well for the world even though he didn’t remain in broadcasting. He credited Ryan with KENW’s success.

“Mr. Ryan deserves so much credit and he’s so modest,” Adair said. “There are very few people around the state who have had such a vision … to build a broadcast center.”

Ryan and Gamble credited State Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales as being one of their greatest advocates in state government.

“You make this thing so easy to do, because you do such a good job,” Ingle said of his success in securing funding for KENW. “They (students) know what they’re doing when they leave KENW, you turn out graduates that don’t have to be retrained.

“A lot of things in this world are not getting better — KENW is,” Ingle said.

After recognizing donors and supporters who helped bring the $5.2 million facility to fruition, graduates of the program addressed the audience live and on video. The lineup included students who have gone on to anchor positions in major markets as well as a variety of graduates who turned their training into successful businesses.

A brief video tribute to the late Ernie Mills, who started Report From Santa Fe on KENW, was also shown.

Director of Production Don Criss introduced a video to the banquet crowd that highlighted the history of the institution and took a light-hearted look at its digital future.

“ENMU and KENW have had a powerful impact on the broadcast industry throughout the nation,” Criss said. “This room is a miracle, it’s wonderful and I’m happy as a clam.”

Offices, labs and classrooms will be utilized immediately while the studios and digital equipment will be phased in over the next 5-7 years, according to university officials. Production of programs like “Creative Living” and “You Should Know” will likely be the first programming the center will produce digitally.

Federal mandates require that all stations switch from the current analog broadcasts to digital by 2009. The transition of that switch will be greatly eased for KENW with the new center, say station officials.