(Ashland, Ore.) — Paul Westhelle, the executive director of Jefferson Public Radio at Southern Oregon University, has been awarded this year’s Madison Hodges Innovator Award for Public Radio Advancement by the nonprofit organization University Station Alliance.
Westhelle was recognized for strengthening JPR’s market position and finances, and overseeing its move last year into state-of-the-art facilities adjacent to the SOU Theater Building. The University Station Alliance, which serves as a link between public broadcast stations and the higher education institutions that sponsor them, is made up of about 50 broadcast organizations nationwide.
“I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of Southern Oregon University and one of the most loyal and supportive public radio audiences in the nation,” Westhelle said. “JPR is blessed with a university licensee that truly understands the civic engagement opportunities and public service potential of operating an NPR affiliate.
“JPR is also blessed with an audience that stands with us time and time again to support our work at levels that far exceed national benchmarks – JPR is special, thanks to our listeners.”
The innovator award is named in honor of Madison Hodges, a longtime manager and advocate of public radio stations in Florida who died in 2014 while battling bone cancer. The award recognizes success and the courage to advance the mission of public broadcasting.
In honoring Westhelle, the University Station Alliance noted that JPR is one of the nation’s largest multi-state regional, rural broadcast organizations, with 23 stations and 36 translators serving an area with more than a million residents.
The organization said that Westhelle, “with only modest resources to tap,” has built relationships with the university, its foundation, listeners and the communities served by JPR.
“Paul’s success belies the common belief that public radio can only survive, much less thrive, in large population centers with strong economic underpinnings,” the Alliance said. “He has also made the case that public radio makes great sense in a university setting.”
The innovator award was presented to Westhelle at last month’s Public Radio Super Regional Conference in New Orleans. He received a plaque and a check for $1,500.