Theirs is a special friendship, going back to the fall of 1957 when the station, then known as WXU, was a one-tube transmitter located in a Brockman Hall broom closet. Schmidt, a freshman radio enthusiast, became its first station manager, responsible for keeping it on the air, which in those days meant banging the transmitter against a table until it worked. They couldn’t afford new tubes, he says.
For the next four years, Schmidt was synonymous with WXU as it morphed into WCXU, then WVXU. It was, he recalls, a time of little equipment and much ingenuity. And had it not been for the patience of former University President Paul L. O’Connor, S.J., the ingenuity exercised by Schmidt and his enthusiastic comrades could have ended the University’s radio experiment barely after it began.
For instance, there was the great Xavier-Dayton basketball broadcast of 1959. WCXU was a closed-circuit station then, meaning the signal was carried over electric wires that couldn’t reach beyond campus. But a powdery snowstorm transferred the signal to nearby high-tension electric lines and carried the broadcast across the area.
“The next morning, Fr. O’Connor received a number of calls from alumni congratulating him on airing the game,” Schmidt says. “He wasn’t happy. He thought we hadn’t been truthful.”
The electricians called to fix the problem only made matters worse. “There was a blinding blue flash, followed by complete darkness on the east side of campus,” Schmidt says. “I scrambled down the ladder to look for a phone. When I reached the bottom, Fr. O’Connor was waiting for me.”
Schmidt joined the Jesuits in 1961, going to Peru in 1967. And WVXU grew to become the flagship of the X-Star Radio Network. The station now broadcasts via the Internet, where Schmidt tunes in on his computer and thinks about how far he and his old friend have come. “Who would have thought that one day I’d be listening all the way from Peru?”