KUT founder Robert Schenkken passed away Wednesday. It was his hard work and fierce determination played a big role in public broadcasting as we know it today. He was also a driving force in the creation of public TV station KLRU. Schenkkan worked long and effectively for the enactment of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. No funeral arrangements have been announced yet.
In 1955, Schenkkan moved to the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught as a professor of Radio-Television and Film in the School of Communications.
That’s when he began working with university engineer Nockey Willett. They quickly focused on creating a radio station. The first step was to get a transmitter. With little money the two set out to buy one second hand. They got a call from a man in upstate New York offering a deal that seemed too good to be true.
“That was the most foul mess I had ever seen in my life. You could take a finger and just rake across anywhere, it was just a tarry oily mess. Worthless, we can’t do anything. But we’ve got the money invested for it. So we’re going to have to do something with it,” said Nockey Willett.
Willette and Schenkkan spent some time cleaning the transmitter up. After a lot of work, they were able to coax about 250 watts out of it, just enough to broadcast to the UT campus and parts of downtown.
In 1958, the University of Texas applied to name the station after UT’s original and long dormant radio station KUT.
Click the player below to hear more about Robert Schenkkan's legacy.
You can also see a slideshow from his 90th birthday celebration here.