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Former KOSU news director Don Hoover to be honored with scholarship program

Don Hoover – a former KOSU news director turned political strategist – died on Dec. 27. He was 74 years old.

Hoover was KOSU’s news director in the early 1980s. He led the station to its first Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award in 1985 along with then-student reporter and future KWTV anchor Jenifer Reynolds.

The award is considered one of the most prestigious in journalism, and when KOSU won it in 1985, the victory was the first for an Oklahoma radio station since 1946. KOSU won its second such award in 2022.

Hoover graduated from what was Central State University in Edmond, now the University of Central Oklahoma. The Chandler-native worked at several radio stations in the Oklahoma City metro before moving to stations in Chicago and a network job in Washington, D.C.

But, Hoover said he wanted to move home and that opportunity came via KOSU.

"I wanted to build a first-class radio station that could compete in the commercial market," Hoover told The Oklahoman after winning the duPont-Columbia award. "For a few years we had to staff the station with students who were in the broadcast journalism program. But I knew if we could build up our audience and our subscriber levels, we could really tailor a professional station."

But, professional reporters were hard to come by in Stillwater in the early 1980s. So, he went to work with broadcasting students, said Craig Beeby, KOSU’s General Manager at the time.

Hoover pushed the news department to new heights by bringing in a “new level of professionalism,” Beeby said.

“He demanded excellence,” Beeby said. “He was strict, and he demanded the best out of students.”

Hoover had a passion for working with young people, Beeby said. And he treated students like they were professional reporters to prepare them for a rigorous career. That work and the professionalism he demanded from KOSU reporters – whether they be professionals or students – can still be felt at the station.

“KOSU is where it is today because of Don,” Beeby said. “It’s been an evolutionary process that was triggered by the work Don did.”

Doug Mitchell was a student reporter under Hoover, who later worked for NPR and founded Next Generation Radio, which trains students around the country. He said Hoover was instrumental in shaping his career.

“He was very tough,” Mitchell said. “But once you proved yourself with him, he would do anything for you… He wanted us to be the best version of ourselves.”

Always boisterous, Mitchell said Hoover pushed him and other students and prepared them for what would prove to be a difficult career in journalism.

After winning the duPont-Columbia, Hoover began reporting for KOSU at the state capitol before transitioning to a job in politics. He then worked for a number of Democrats at a time when the party dominated the state legislature.

"I decided I wanted to be more influential in the process than I could in good conscience be as a reporter," he told The Oklahoman in 1992.

According to an obituary in The Oklahoman, Hoover was instrumental in the election of former Gov. David Walters and a leader with Oklahoma City’s first MAPS campaign.

Former Gov. Brad Henry wrote on Facebook, “Don was the very first person who told me I should run for Governor. At the time, I thought he was crazy.”

Tim Allen — spokesman for Oklahoma’s Broadband Office — was Hoover’s former student and remained a close friend throughout his life. Allen said he learned a tremendous amount from his former teacher, friend and mentor.

"He was demanding and sometimes difficult, but he truly cared," Allen told The Oklahoman. "He wanted to do big things because he wanted to do something for the greater good."

UPDATED DAY: Hoover’s life will be celebrated at a wake on Tuesday, Jan. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Park Harvey Sushi, located at 200 N Harvey Ave. #100 in Oklahoma City.

With his family's blessing, KOSU is setting up a memorial fund in Don Hoover’s honor to help pay for future students to work at the station.

Rachel Hubbard serves as KOSU's executive director.
Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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