For more than two decades, Denice Hamilton has played a critical role in the growth of St. Louis Public Radio.
When she walked through the doors in 1995, St. Louis Public Radio was known as KWMU, and it was a classical music station. The STLPR offices were on the main University of Missouri-St. Louis campus and the development staff was just three people strong.
Needless to say, a lot has changed. Denice sat down with us to talk about how she found her way to STLPR, and what has changed over her long tenure.
What does it mean to be an Associate Development Director at St. Louis Public Radio?
In the broadest sense, my job includes overseeing a group of four development professionals who work together to ensure that you, our members, are well taken care of. More specifically, being the Associate Development Director means that I am tasked with ensuring that we are always spending member's dollars wisely. I monitor costs, write member appeals, work with vendors, and manage customer service and reporting. In general, if it is related to serving our members, I am involved.
Tell me about your path to St. Louis Public Radio. What brought you here?
I stumbled into my position at KWMU after having worked as the Traffic Director at Crawford Broadcasting Company, a network of Christian radio stations. I had a long commute that took me through the UMSL campus, and as I was driving through one day I decided to stop and fill out an application. I didn't even know that there was a radio station on campus, but I quickly became addicted to public radio.
Let's talk favorites!
- Favorite NPR host - Joshua Johnson of 1A
- Favorite person to follow on social media - Honestly, it's my daughter-in-law. I love to follow the pictures of my grandkids.
- Favorite NPR show - Morning Edition. I listen every day.
- Favorite holiday - The Fourth of July - which also happens to be my birthday!
- Favorite spot in the city - People watching in the Central West End.
What's your favorite part of working for St. Louis Public Radio?
Every day is different. Our team is always tweaking our processes and messaging, brainstorming new ideas, and trying to do better then we did the day before. I work with a great group of fun people and I love my job.
What kind of changes have you seen in your twenty-plus years at the station?|
There are so many things that have changed. Some of the most significant include a format change from classical to news/talk and a physical move from trailers on the UMSL campus to a state-of-the-art facility in Grand Center. We have also welcomed members from Rolla and Quincy, and have grown our membership support from 7,000 members to nearly 25,000.
In terms of technology, we used to process all of our data entry manually on DOS-based, green-screen systems, and we now get the vast majority of our data from web transactions that we can import. We no longer rely on a manual credit card imprinter or a typewriter, and we can communicate with members much more efficiently than ever before.
Is there a story or two about your time here that are particularly memorable?
I have worked with the same group of people for long enough to have watched many of them have and raise their children, and that has been a joy.
I also have fond memories of visiting the construction site during the building of our home at Grand Center, doing hard hat tours and walking on the beams that are now covered by the floors under our feet.
But for sure the most memorable experiences happened during the "Love Drives" that were annual fundraising campaigns for us (until the cost of fundraising in this manner no longer proved cost effective). I read through wedding proposals, apologies, and love notes.
When you're not working, what are you doing?
- Last book you read? - The Manual of Manhood by Jonathan Catherman, which I bought as a gift for my grandson.
- How do you take your coffee? - Cream and sugar, is there any other way?
- Musical artist currently in heavy rotation? - I love gospel, and have been listening to a lot of Norman Hutchins.
- Do you play any instruments? - My instrument is my voice. I love to sing and am active in a gospel choir.
- Last movie you saw? - Wonder Woman!
Are there any STLPR stories that really stick with you?
As I think about this question I realize that I am drawn to stories about tragedy and triumph. The ones that connect me to the struggles of other people, but leave me with a hopeful feeling. I also enjoy the the incredible reporting on important issues in St. Louis, like the thoughtful coverage of the SLPS accreditation.
What's next? What are you looking forward to? What keeps you up at night?
We are always fighting to stay ahead of the curve. People are getting news all different ways, and we have to be where they are in order to stay relevant. I also think a lot about the uncertainty of public funding of public media, and feel grateful for the generosity of our members.