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WERS GM Jack Casey Signs Off from Emerson for the Last Time

No words can do Jack Casey’s relationship with Emerson College any justice because he has witnessed the college in three distinctly unique ways.

Jack Casey headshot
Jack Casey ’69, General Manager of WERS

Casey graduated from Emerson College in 1969. He was an affiliated faculty member, and come the last day of May, he will retire as the general manager of WERS after 16 years, bringing to a close a seven-decade relationship with the College.

Casey is engaging, confident, and has educated countless Emersonians through the years. As a faculty member, he created curriculum for a radio programming and operations class. As GM, he’s taught on-air talent, and off the air, educated them on the business side of the radio industry.

“That was huge. I really worked at that, and worked at, and worked at that,” said Casey about creating the curriculum. “It was very satisfying to be an introduction to the radio industry to a lot of students.”

As with every mentor, Casey also had mentors.

Headshot of man wearing sunglasses
John M. Casey yearbook entry from the 1969 Emersonian yearbook. (Photo from Emerson Archives & Special Collections)

“I failed the audition for WECB the first semester of my freshman year,” said Casey. “I was crushed, but I hung out at the station all the time and made lifelong friends there who I got to know.”

Casey said he appealed to Jeff Greenhawt ’68, now the retiring Board of Trustees president, who had a senior role at WECB, to let him on air. Greenhawt appealed to Tom Bauer ’68 and current Trustee Vin DiBona ’66, the station manager at the time, who would later go on to great success as a producer and director of shows, including MacGyver and America’s Funniest Home Videos.

“They said, ‘OK, you can do news.’ I came in at 6:00 am in the morning my freshman year and did news on WECB. Then I begged my way onto doing a music shift. I was hooked,” said Casey, adding that he owes a lot to Greenhawt and Howard Lieberman ’68 (now WERS’ Federal Communications Commission attorney) for their mentorship.

His time at WERS has left him fulfilled.

“I’ve done everything I set out to do at the station, I think WERS has a lot of growth potential, I’m a huge fan of D [WERS Interim GM Howard Simpson]. He’s been with me for 12 years. I think he’s awesome and a perfect person to succeed me in the job. He’ll take the station to new heights and I’m 100 percent behind him in doing that,” said Casey.

During his time, WERS produced live shows, celebrated the station’s 60th and 70th anniversaries with concerts, participated in the Newport Folk Festival, and held live music weeks. But Casey said his number one contribution to WERS is something a little less flashy.

“I think honestly, number one is the commitment to fiscal responsibility. And I did that purposely, not just to help the station grow financially, but to train students for the industry,” said Casey. “The media industry looks glamorous. You get to hang with cool bands, interview celebrities, go to parties and hang out backstage. The business is about business, and about money.”

Woman helps man put on graduation garb
Jack Casey’s hood is adjusted before commencement. (Photo from Expression Magazine fall 2012)

He said he’s been relentless in driving that point home to students so they understand most decisions that will impact their careers will be business decisions about the finances of the organization. From the DJs to the accountant, employees must think about fiscal responsibility at all levels.

Through seven decades, Casey has witnessed the evolution of the radio industry, on and off the air. Things are not like the olden days, when the broadcasting curriculum was robust and approximately 20 percent of Emersonians headed into a broadcasting career. Casey said that voice-tracking (also known as “cyber jocking”) is now the rule more than the exception, due to an intersection of deregulation, consolidation, and technological advancements.

“We still have students who want to be a professional DJ, and I encourage them to be smart about it and develop additional skills, just not voice-tracking,” said Casey. He added that before the pandemic, there was a robust staff of students.

“I want them to graduate and understand the media business, understand production, marketing, promotions, sales, on-air, advertising — all of those things — and at a macro level, understanding the wherewithal of the industry and how [those things] play out.”

Business aside, Casey has had a lot of fun at Emerson. Flashback to right after being hired as GM. Throughout the months-long interview process, Casey had spoken with soon-to-be-Interim President Bill Gilligan, who is a rabid Red Sox fan.

“He would talk about how well the Sox were doing, and I’d pretend I wasn’t a baseball fan. And after I was hired, it was during the playoffs in 2004. He was in the dining hall with some other senior staff. I walked up to the table and I said, ‘I have a confession,’” said Casey. “Everybody looked at me and thought, What is this guy going to say? Did I just get out of prison? I said, ‘I am a lifelong Yankees fan.’ Bill, with his great sense of humor said, ‘I’ll never make that mistake again.’”

Man sits at radio mixing board
Jack Casey at WERS (David Rosen Collection from Archives & Special Collections)

At the age of 73, Casey may be retiring from Emerson, but he’s certainly not going to be doing nothing. Casey actually got his chiropractor degree in 1993, during a time when he thought he’d leave broadcasting. But due to life circumstances, he was not able to take his board exams, and instead, went back into radio.

“I want to use my chiropractic education. I plan to get certified as a personal trainer,” said Casey, who wants to help older adults get in and stay in good physical condition.

With his vast industry knowledge, he’s already been approached to do consulting work. He’s going to buy an RV and travel around the country, and also head over to Europe, to, among other things, attend Formula One racing events. He’s going to catch up with old friends he hasn’t seen since he was an undergrad.

“I want to do a fair amount of travel. That really is a priority,” said Casey.

Soon, traveling will go from a dream to a reality, and maybe he’ll stop having those anxiety dreams that all DJs endure.

“I’m in a studio, and sometimes it’s old-school and I have turntables and cartridge machines, and I can’t get anything to work. Sometimes the microphone works, so I have to keep talking for eternity,” said Casey. “Sometimes it’s more up-to-date, and the hard drive system went down and I’m clicking and clicking and can’t get things to play and there’s dead air. And anyone who has been on the air has those nightmares from time to time.”

His dream of what Emerson could become many years ago has become a reality.

“I’m really pleased the way the College has grown. Not necessarily its stature, and in its position in the country and the world,” said Casey. “The College’s stance on social justice issues, and its commitment to graduating good citizens.”

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