Rick Eisleben ’69 Returns to Find Chapman Radio’s Bold Spirit Still Thriving

The first two days had been a breeze, but lack of sleep eventually started catching up with Rick Eisleben as in spring 1969 he continuously spun vinyl in the broadcast booth of what was then called Radio Chapman. Somehow he made it through almost another full day as friends and colleagues “encouraged” him to stay awake — in one case by hovering over him with a Coke bottle full of water.

person holding id card

In 1969 Rick Eisleben ’69 set a Chapman on-air broadcast record at 69 hours. It was broken in spring 2015 by Angelo Carlo ’15, who broadcast for 73 hours straight.

Eiselben holds up his college radio ID. Above: Eisleben, left, sits in with Carlo at Chapman Radio.

Last November, Eisleben ’69 returned for the Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration and toured the studios of Chapman Radio, now in the basement of Henley Hall, where he told stories of his record-setting 69-hour marathon broadcast session. He even challenged current station general manager Angelo Carlo ’15 to beat his record.

This spring, Carlo took up that challenge. Carlo and others at Chapman Radio concocted a mix of music and live interviews to keep things lively — and Carlo awake. Like Eisleben, Carlo leaned on the support of friends and fellow students en route to a recordbreaking run — in his case, 73 consecutive hours.

During a photo session that brought together the two record-setters in April, Eisleben was asked if he wanted to try to reclaim the mark.

“I yield to Angelo with the greatest congratulations for a job so well done,” he said.

Of course, much has changed about Chapman Radio in the nearly half-century since Eisleben helped found the student-run station. Gone are the double turntable and CART machines, replaced by modern digital equipment. But the spirit of adventure that first put fledgling broadcasters on the air clearly still prevails as Chapman students now stream their shows online at chapmanradio.com.

Eisleben remembers that the idea of starting a radio station on campus germinated in fall 1966, with students taking the lead from the beginning. “The leadership was the students,” he said.

The first control room was a converted coat closet, but thanks to the efforts of student pioneers Eisleben, Varre Cummins ’69, Roland Foster ’68, John McCready ’71 and others, as well as faculty advisor Richard Doetkott, programming and the station’s popularity quickly expanded.

An early hallmark of the station was the creative freedom the students felt, Eisleben said. In addition to playing post-British Invasion rock ’n’ roll, the young broadcasters developed their own niches, airing student debates and interviews with Artist Lecture Series speakers. Eisleben brought his love of film and Broadway soundtracks to his three-hour shifts.

A fond memory for Eisleben is when the station received an advance copy of the Beatles’ White Album. “We were probably one of the first to play it,” he said.

These days, diverse programming still abounds, with the Chapman Radio schedule bouncing from talk to indie folk rock to Papa Moon’s Bedtime Story Hour, which features all manner of yarn, from Mesopotamian myths to Courage the Cowardly Dog.

For Eisleben, the station holds a special place in his memory, as it built lasting friendships and “led to my future occupation,” he said. Eisleben earned his degree in
religion and planned to become aminister but instead has merged his love of broadcasting with his deeply rooted faith in building a highly successful career in film and television production.

His experiences as a director, producer, editor and more have taken him to 63 countries. Currently he works with Benny Hinn Ministries, the Trinity Broadcasting Networkand Cottonwood Church, among other Christian broadcasters. He’s eager to share the fruits of his own experience with broadcasters just starting out.

“My visit to the station warmed my heart,” he said. “The spirit of the current students is kindred to what we had in those early days. They’re inventive and entertaining; they’re reaching out for something more and learning where they fit in the grand scheme of things. I think that’s what Chapman is all about.”

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