April 18, 2017
Minnesota Public Radio was established in 1967 at Saint John’s University while Fr. Colman Barry, OSB, was president.
Fifty years later, MPR will receive the 21st Colman J. Barry Award for distinguished contributions to religion and society on Friday, April 21, in a private ceremony at MPR headquarters in St. Paul, Minnesota.
It was a shaky start for KSJR-FM. On Jan. 22, 1967, the station was going to sign on for the first time, and a listening party was set up at St. Cloud’s Germain Hotel which included Barry and station contributors. The appointed hour came – 6:30 p.m. – and went. Dead air.
“Just before it was to sign on, the (station) electronics failed,” said Bill Kling ’64 to writer Dave DeLand in the winter/spring edition of the Saint John’s University Magazine. Kling was the founder and president of MPR.
It wasn’t until 9 p.m. until the problem was fixed — long after the party had ended, Kling noted.
That was one of the few missteps for MPR in over 50 years of service. Today, MPR includes 45 stations and is America’s premier public radio network. It is enjoyed by over 21 million listeners nationwide, and by a million Minnesotans.
“He (Barry) was a man of vision who thought that the impact of Saint John’s could be considerably greater than it had been up to that time,” said Kling, who received the Barry Award in 2007. “And he proved himself correct.”
The award was established by SJU in memory of Barry, a Benedictine monk of Saint John's Abbey, professor of history and eighth president of SJU (1964-71). His life was distinguished by initiatives designed to enrich the cultural and religious life of society, and was especially passionate about the intersection of culture and religion.
Among Barry's many contributions were the founding of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, and the creation the Jay Phillips Chair in Jewish Studies and the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning.
McGough Construction, which is currently constructing the Dietrich Reinhart Learning Commons at SJU, received the award in 2016.
Other recipients of the award include Donald Jackson, the artistic director of The Saint John's Bible, and his wife Mabel Jackson (2011); author and professor emeritus Jon Hassler (2003); and architect Marcel Breuer (2002), who designed the Abbey and University Church and other buildings at SJU.