KDUR founder left a local legacy

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald

Jim Vlasich tells KDUR station manager Bryant Liggett stories about the early days at the station , which Vlasich started as a student at Fort Lewis College in 1975. He stands in front a picture of himself on the mic taken during the station’s first week on the air.

By Ted Holteen
Arts & Entertainment Editor

For some of us, Jim Vlasich is every bit as important of a Durango pioneer as General Palmer, Otto Mears or Henry Strater.

When KDUR, Fort Lewis College’s radio station, broke radio silence in 1975, it was Vlasich who was the driving force behind making it happen. He stopped by the station Monday and said he was beyond impressed with how things have progressed.

“It’s overwhelming – so high-tech, especially when you consider what we had,” Vlasich said. “When I got here from Denver in 1973, I realized they needed a radio station here. As I recall, there were two stations and you could get the farm report on both of them.”

Vlasich came to Durango that year as a college graduate with a degree in mathematics, but he took an interest in history and started taking classes at the college. Next, he worked with FLC administrators to get approval to start a station.

He then spent the next two years dealing with the federal government. He and his friends – all of whom worked tirelessly as volunteers – originally wanted the call letters KFLC, but it was taken, so they settled on KDUR. Once they received approval from the college and the FCC, KDUR was an instant hit.

“We put an ad in the student paper and had 50 people show up for the first meeting. So, yeah, I guess there was an interest,” Vlasich said.

And here’s a bit of trivia: What was the first record played on KDUR? It was jazz/fusion flutist Tim Weisberg.

“He had just played at FLC and I interviewed him, so he got to be the first on the air,” Vlasich said.

Vlasich now lives in Cedar City, Utah, where he recently retired as a professor of history at Southern Utah University. But his place in Durango history is secure as well.

“When I started this, I never dreamed this would still be going on 37 years later,” he said. “I didn’t have the vision to know that it would grow, and I’m amazed at what happened. It just shows you what can happen when you get enough people who care and are willing to sacrifice with a common goal in mind.”

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