Fordham’s own listener-sponsored public radio station, WFUV, knows how to party.
The station hosted its second annual Spring Gala and Silent Auction on May 6 in the ballroom of the Puck Building in downtown Manhattan, honoring three giants: one in music, and two in broadcasting. For its efforts, the station raised some $500,000 from roughly 400 supporters who came out to honor musician Paul Simon, sportscaster Dick Enberg and PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer.
“This is a great night for what we at Fordham believe to be the most extraordinary radio station in the metropolitan area,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. Father McShane expressed his excitement at a chance to see Paul Simon some 40 years after he saw a Simon & Garfunkel concert at Carnegie Hall in 1969.
Father McShane also offered accolades to the other honorees. He lauded sportscaster Dick Enberg for his “encyclopedic knowledge of what he is addressing” and described news anchor Jim Lehrer as “a man who was fair and balanced before any other network thought it was.”
Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, received the Charles Osgood Lifetime Achievement Award in Broadcast Journalism from Osgood himself. “Being honored by this name is as good as it’s ever going to get,” said Lehrer, who called journalism “the ultimate collaborative medium” and paid tribute to the people who work behind the scenes.
Before he left the stage, Lehrer drew one of the event’s biggest laughs when he said for him, Paul Simon’s song “Trailways Bus” evoked early reminiscences of his college job as a bus station announcer at a Trailways depot.
“It was the first time I was ever paid to speak into a microphone,” he said, delivering a rapid-fire announcement of bus schedules in his native Texas twang.
Dick Enberg, recipient of the Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award, was honored via video by Scully, who could not attend because he was in Los Angeles calling a Dodgers game. Enberg, a 40-year veteran of sports broadcasting, has called major sporting events from the World Series to Wimbledon.
He paid tribute to the early broadcasters who inspired him as a lonely youngster growing up on a Michigan farm. As a child, he listened to Bill Stern, Foster Hewitt, Don Dunphy, Russ Hodges, Red Barber, Mel Allen and others through his gray Emerson radio, and imitated their play-by-play styles.
“They were the voices coast-to-coast on radio describing the big events, connecting a young kid to a sport in a moment,” said Enberg, winner of 14 Emmys and nine sportscaster-of-the-year awards. “As you look back, they were as big as the stars themselves.”
Music legend Paul Simon received the station’s Sound & Vision Lifetime Achievement Award. NBC sportscaster Bob Costas presented the award, calling Simon a “songwriter who was essential to the soundtrack of our lives.”
“This is a station I’ve been listening to for years,” said Simon, winner of 12 Grammy Awards, including a 2003 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as half of Simon & Garfunkel. “It’s always playing interesting music. It deserves to be funded and nourished by its listeners.”
Accompanied by two guitarists, Simon filled the latter part of the evening with an acoustic set of seven songs, opening to cheers with his 1968 hit “Mrs. Robinson” and closing to a standing ovation with his 1972 “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” His troubadour style and poetic lyrics were instantly familiar to many in the audience who had, perhaps, memorized the words generations ago. Proving that the gift of music is, indeed, priceless, Simon returned to the stage alone for a moving encore of “Sound of Silence,” the song that launched his career with Art Garfunkel in the mid-1960s.
A silent auction was held simultaneously, netting some $50,000 for donated gifts. In an overture of friendly competition, 11 WFUV deejays auctioned off individual iPod Shuffles with a selection of their favorite tunes. The iPod that drew the highest bid was programmed by Dennis Elsas, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Elsas’ iPod included a recording of the U2 concert held on March 6 on the Rose Hill campus.