Last week Cephas Bowles died from leukemia at age 62. Bowles was perhaps best known for his years running WBGO, based in Newark serving the nation’s largest market. At ‘BGO – Jazz 88.3 – he brought the station to full market coverage, raised millions of dollars and hired an incredibly talented staff.
I first met Cehpas in 1986 when he was running KUAT in Tucson and I started my first noncommercial GM job at KCSU, Fort Collins. Both stations were then members of Rocky Mountain Public Radio (RMPR), a regional representation organization. RMPR was a terrific resource for a newcomer like me. In the mid 1980s, RMPR managers included Max Wycisk (Colorado Public Radio), Bill Hurt (KUNC), Karen Holp (then at KRWG – now at KGOU), Jim Paluzzi (then at KBSU, now KJZZ), Carl Matthusen (former President of the NPR Board & GM at KJZZ) and Cephas Bowles.
I was like a fish out of water when I started at KCSU. I had managed and programmed commercial stations but I wasn’t aware of the idiosyncrasies of working for a university license. I was having difficulty dealing with the reality that the licensee had no idea they were in the broadcasting business.
I told Cephas about my situation when I was in Tucson for a RMPR conference. He gave me practical advice that worked. He and I kept in touch the rest of the time I was at KCSU – he was mentor and friend when I really needed it. Cephas made a difference for me and everyone in public radio.
Bowles’ family requests donations to Syracuse University Black Alumni, WBGO or Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide.