Dr. Len O’Kelly, a GVSU Multimedia Journalism professor, was recognized in August of 2020 with the College Media Association (CMA) Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award.
The CMA Distinguished 4-year Broadcast Award recognizes excellence in media advising among advisers with more than five years of experience on the job. The award is divided into categories. The 4-Year Broadcast Award means that O’Kelly is a broadcast adviser at a school with 4-year degrees. There are also 2-year categories, as well as categories for print, multimedia, and yearbook.
O’Kelly was nominated by Bob Stoll, who up until this past August, was the director of student life and chair of the GVSU Media Advisory Board. Stoll also appointed O’Kelly, adviser of WCKS Radio, in 2010.
Once nominated, letters of support are needed from students. O’Kelly received letters from GVSU graduates Alaina Taylor and Rachel Syrba, previous WCKS Radio managers.
“They shared their letters with me after they sent them, and they were touching,” O’Kelly said. “Phil Tower, who is the operations manager of WOOD-AM in Grand Rapids, and who has served as an industry liaison to the GVSU Media Board, also wrote a strong letter of support.”
Upon finding out he was nominated, he was asked for his advising philosophy in a document. O’Kelly submitted that and then waited to find out if he had won the award.
The award has meant a lot to O’Kelly. He indicated in his statement that the only reason he went back to school and finished his degree was to become a college radio adviser.
“I figured no one would hire a dropout, so that was my motivation to get back to school and finish,” O’Kelly said. “College radio made my career, and it is very important to me. This award serves as a nice reminder that what I am doing is hopefully making a difference in a student’s life. I’d like to think that they’ll leave GVSU and look fondly on their time in radio just as much as I do mine.”
The broadcast category award has only been awarded 16 times in the last 30 years, and no one from GVSU has ever won it.
In standard years, there would be a ceremony at the Fall National Media Convention. This year’s CMA convention was a virtual event, and the ceremony was a presentation done by video due to COVID-19.
“I’ve worked in radio for 33 years now, with time spent at some legendary radio stations,” O’Kelly said. “The station that I am most proud to be a part of, though, is our student station. I have learned so much from the students who have worked here over the last ten years, and hope that they’ve picked up a few things as well. I’m glad I went back to school.”