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Shepherd professor looks forward to retirement

March 15, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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George Wilson

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - George Wilson fell in love with music while listening to the radio on summer nights on a front porch swing in the 1940s.

His family lived in rural West Virginia above the small country grocery store they owned.

But the radio took him to places he could only imagine until he became old enough to leave home and work as an actor.

After passing on his loves of radio, music and acting to Shepherd College students for the past 28 years, Wilson is retiring in May as assistant professor of speech and radio broadcasting.

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Wilson, 61, started the Shepherd College radio station in 1973 with 10 watts that could be picked up in the Shepherdstown area.

When he started teaching the radio course, the school gave him a Zenith suitcase-style record player.

He obtained some money from the school and bought $150 worth of the cheapest microphones, tape recorders and console board equipment he could to get the radio station on the air.

In 1992, the station upgraded to 950 watts and students can be heard as disc jockeys throughout the Eastern Panhandle, Washington County and parts of Virginia.

"I love it because no other station in this area is quite like it," Wilson said.

When the station upgraded, the format also changed from Top 40 music to alternative rock preferred by more college students.

It's not the music Wilson prefers.

Wilson has a voluminous collection of albums, including show tunes, cabaret and classical.

However, he finds himself sometimes enjoying the music the students play.

"There's a wonderful sense of humor to their music. The groups don't take themselves too seriously," he said.

When Wilson was 18, he left the family's store behind and joined a theater company in Virginia. In three years, he performed or worked on the crew of 30 different productions.

The experience taught him more about the theater than school ever could.

Wilson started at Shepherd as the theater professor and directed plays there for 17 years.

Architectural features of interest throughout Shepherdstown often served as the inspiration for the scenic backdrops in his productions, Wilson said.

Wilson said he was doing contemporary American plays long before Shepherdstown started hosting a theater festival.

"I was doing it before it was fashionable," he said with a laugh. "I sort of broke the ice for them."

Wilson said directing the school plays meant long work days. He had a regular courseload to teach, then at night he would hold rehearsals. After that was done, he would work on the scenery and props.

As he prepares to retire, Wilson said he wants to have time to enjoy himself.

"I want to get back into the music. There's a lot of stuff piled up in my life and I want to do it," Wilson said.

Wilson moved to a piano in his dining room and began to play cocktail music.

"I'll get a lounge job," Wilson said. "I've thought if someone needs a piano player once a week, I'll do it."

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