Keith Olbermann Makes Large Donation to Student-Run Radio Station

22 FEA Keith Olbermann Portrait
Wesley Mann

"I yell up. And the people who are up are a very small club. And they like to punish you in public when they can," says Olbermann, photographed June 3 at Shoot Digital in New York.

Keith Olbermann has given a significant donation to WVBR-FM, the radio station in Ithaca, N.Y. where his career arguably began when he was a student at Cornell University.

Olbermann’s gift will allow WVBR – a commercial radio station run entirely by Cornell students – to move into a new, bigger facility much closer to the Cornell campus. The new building on East Buffalo Street in Ithaca will be named Olbermann-Corneliess Studios, after Olbermann’s late father Theodore Olbermann and Glenn Corneliess, a former program director at the station and a friend of Olbermann’s who died in 1996 at 39.

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WVBR was forced to move from Ithaca’s Collegetown in 2000. Since then, it has been run out of a cramped studio in the basement of the National Holstein Association; students have dubbed it the Cow Palace. It is more than a mile from campus making it difficult for students – many of them unpaid and without cars – to get there. Last fall, they located a new building back in Collegetown and embarked on a seven-figure capital campaign to make the purchase possible. The new, much bigger studio will have a multimedia center where students can also train in video production, web design and online programming. And the more convenient location should once again enable the station to attract more student employees.

WVBR boasts a distinguished list of media alumnae including NBC News correspondent Kate Snow, ESPN anchor Mark Schwartz, Clear Channel executive Tom Poleman and Kathy Savitt, who last summer joined Yahoo as chief marketing officer.

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Olbermann, who graduated from Cornell in 1979, served as sports director at WVBR when he was in college and has remained an active supporter of the station. This is actually the third time he’s helped WVBR with monetary gifts. Two prior contributions a few years back kept the station from going bankrupt, according to WVBR board member Peter Schacknow, who worked with Olbermann at the station when they were students at Cornell.

"For years, we'd been looking to get the students out of The Cow Palace and back to Collegetown. Keith expressed a similar reaction the first time he visited that location,” Schacknow, who is a senior producer at CNBC, told The Hollywood Reporter. "I feel like he gave me – as well as the other alumni and current and future students – an amazing gift. But the real gift is to the Corneliess family and especially the kids, who are now seeing that unfillable hole in their lives become just a little less deep."