Today, March 31, marks the 95th anniversary of WWL-Radio’s first broadcast from Loyola’s Marquette Hall. Loyola’s first wireless receiver was setup on campus in 1909 by Fr. Anton (Anthony) Kunkel using a $150 transmitter. Shortly after the University was chartered in 1912, the Wireless Radio School was established for the purposes of training students telegraphy. The school closed at the end of the 1921-1922 academic year just in time for the Physics department faculty and students to apply for a broadcast license . On March 31, 1922, Loyola broadcast its first voice transmissions (a request for fundraising support from Loyola President Fr. Edward Cummings), making Loyola the originator of New Orleans’ first ever radio program broadcast. While the call letters WWL were assigned arbitrarily, Physics Instructor and future head of the station Fr. Orie Leo Abell would use them to refer to “World Wide Loyola.”
WWL later made history by influencing the Internal Revenue Code with its request for tax-exempt status.
In 1938, a new transmitter was built in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans, near Lake Pontchartrain. While the station partially flooded in the Hurricane of 1947, it remained in use until it was again moved, this time to Estelle, Louisiana, in the mid 1970s.
WWL’s history is closely intertwined with that of both New Orleans and Loyola. Loyola eventually sold all of its media holdings in 1989. WWL-AM and WLMG (formerly WWL-FM) were sold for $12.85 million, while WWL-TV was purchased by Rampart Broadcasting , headed by alums J. Michael Early and Phil Johnson, for $102.85 million.
Much more info about the history WWL at Loyola is available in a number of publications, including C. Joseph Pusateri’s Enterprise in radio : WWL and the business of broadcasting in America, WWL: AM–FM–TV; the second campus of Loyola University (also available in the University Archives Vertical File), and Bernard Cook’s Founded on faith : a history of Loyola University New Orleans.