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Joe Gwathmey's career in radio dates to 1958 when he began part-time work at KBWD, a commercial station in his hometown of Brownwood, TX. He learned the craft of radio there while earning his B.A. degree from Howard Payne College. Following graduate study at The University of Denver and The George Washington University, he was hired by The University of Texas at Austin. During six years there, he managed the university's radio station, KUT-FM, and was in charge of one of the nation's largest educational radio production operations.
Joe and NPR
In 1969, Gwathmey was elected to an advisory group of educational station managers that later became the founding board of directors of NPR. He joined the staff of NPR in 1971 to help create its programming service. At various times during his tenure, he was responsible for managing NPR's program production, news gathering, engineering and promotional activities. He was also responsible for developing strategies to increase public radio participation in cooperative projects with foreign broadcasters and for marketing NPR programs abroad.
In 1983, following a period of financial crisis for NPR, Gwathmey was named vice president in charge of programming and played an instrumental role in rebuilding NPR's program services. Within two years NPR's programming had become more extensive and diverse than ever before, winning numerous prestigious awards for production and journalistic excellence.
Back to Texas
Gwathmey's return to Texas was prompted by the opportunity to bring NPR programming to listeners in the last large market in the country not served by an NPR-affiliated radio station. Following his departure from NPR in Washington, D.C., Gwathmey was honored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting with the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award, public radio's highest honor.
Upon his arrival in San Antonio in 1988 Gwathmey became the manager of classical music station KPAC-FM and helped in the final push to put NPR member station KSTX-FM on the air. He also guided a restructuring of the parent organizations licensed to operate KPAC and KSTX that resulted in the creation of the new non-profit corporation, Texas Public Radio. In 1989 he initiated plans that led to a major increase in KPAC's transmission power and to the construction of new studio and office facilities in 1992.
In response to requests to improve service to residents in the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio, TPR launched a third station, KTXI-FM, in 1998.
During Gwathmey's tenure, TPR followed a steady path of achievement, building its audience from an estimated 50,000 regular listeners in 1988 to a current total of about 150,000. Local financial support has also grown steadily, enabling improvements in its capability to produce and broadcast excellent radio. Many people now regard the San Antonio area as one of the best in the country to listen to programs that represent the best that public radio has to offer.