Dialed In

These friends of KUT have made a sound decision to support UT’s radio station.
KUT 90.5 and kutx 98.9 banners on the side of a building

In 1922, UT’s physics department started a radio station as a demonstration project. The call letters KUT were issued in 1925. Two years later the station’s operating expenses became too high and KUT signed off. Fortunately, in 1955 KUT was revitalized with community donations, and KUT- FM went on the air in 1958, broadcasting with a total signal radius of 15 miles.

Today KUT is one of the best-performing public radio stations in the country and routinely has the largest per-capita public radio listening audience among the top 200 cities in the nation. More than 250,000 people listen to KUT in Central Texas each week. Among them are donors Mardy and Jeff Chen and Peggy Kress, who explain why they have decided to make a difference to the future of KUT.

There’s No Place Like Home

Mardy, M.S. Accounting ’99, and Jeff Chen. Photo: Sloan Breeden

Mardy, M.S. Accounting ’99, and Jeff Chen

Native Texan and UT alumna Mardy Chen (M.S. Accounting ’99) had been living in New York City for only two years when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 shook the nation. In the wake of the devastating event, Mardy gained a new perspective on life, prompting her and husband, Jeff Chen, to move to Austin in pursuit of their passions — and to make a difference.

While a UT student, Mardy found healing and community in the form of Bikram yoga. It was a practice she continued after moving to Manhattan, where she would meet Jeff. Yoga became an essential part of the couple’s lives as they navigated the pressures of their careers and environment.

After 9/11, Jeff and Mardy dedicated themselves to helping others experience the physical and mental benefits of yoga. In 2003 the couple opened PURE Yoga Texas, blending business and charity with their personal ambitions. But their philanthropic goals don’t stop at the yoga mat. “The University brings so much diversity and inclusivity to Austin, and its core values align very much with our own,” says Jeff.

“The University brings so much diversity and inclusivity to Austin, and its core values align very much with our own.”

To help ensure a thriving future for local public radio, the Chens established a gift in their will to support KUT. They hope their gift will inspire others to show their support for KUT or other local institutions. Mardy adds, “We are grateful to KUT for all it does for Austin by providing an opportunity for listeners to gain a new perspective through their radio programs. This gift is our way of giving back to public radio and the UT community.”

Continuing the Conversation

Dr. Peggy Kress, B.S. Education ’67. Photo: Sloan Breeden

Dr. Peggy Kress, B.S. Education ’67. Photo: Sloan Breeden

Throughout her career, former educator Dr. Peggy Kress (B.S. Education ’67) emphasized the importance of gaining a broad perspective on current affairs. Her work in staff development helped teachers explore a range of ideas, which helped them introduce students to critical thinking skills. “I was a social studies teacher and taught my students different points of view,” she says, “and I expected kids to be able to defend them. KUT is so very important because it provides outlooks and information you can’t get other places.”

Defending her own point of view was critical to Peggy’s personal success when she attended UT in the 1960s as a single mother. “Male students often would challenge me as to why I was taking someone else’s space at the University,” she recalls. “I had that conversation many times.” It took great determination for her to complete her degree, but she knew her future depended on it. “Getting a degree was really important to me,” says Peggy. “I was studying as hard as I could and hanging on and trying to make ends meet and raising my son.”

“KUT is so very important because it provides outlooks and information you can’t get other other places.”

Peggy received financial support through her work-study program at KUT, which helped her make it through those tough times. She looks back on her days at the station with great fondness and a sense of humor about how much has changed. “One of my tasks was to package huge audio reels and send them out by courier to different stations,” she laughs.

The advent of the digital age has opened new possibilities and opportunities, and Peggy wants to be part of enabling student success. The Margaret “Peggy” Kress Director’s Excellence Fund for KUT, established as a beneficiary designation of her IRA, will support paid internships to provide students who might otherwise have to find employment elsewhere the chance to gain on-the-job experience at the station.

“Internships are dear to my heart,” says Peggy. “They extend educational experiences and help students become better at whatever they decide they’re going to do in their media careers.”

Texas Leader Magazine

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