life work becomes Wartburg legacy
by Karris Golden ’98
Newsman Grant Price has devoted
his life to his family and to journalism.
These commitments made him a natural fit at Wartburg, where he has
taught communication arts courses for the past 14 years.
After a few “false retirements,”
this is it. Price, professor emeritus of communication arts, will
make the 2004-05 academic year his last.
In planning his retirement, Price
was clear that he wanted no fanfare; he’s had enough parties,
he says. However, his farewell comes on the heels of his $2 million
gift to the college, something that attracts a lot of attention.
Actually, the gift is about leaving
a bit of himself and his late wife, Fadra, in the classroom.
“I have come to love this place,”
Price says. “I see value in what we’ve done in the communication
arts department. The education our students get here makes their
An investment he made several years
ago allowed Price to make this substantial gift. “It’s
marvelous to use resources in this way, and those resources will
have a living outcome over who knows how many years to come. That
gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”
Over the years, Iowans welcomed Price
into their homes as he became one of the state’s most respected
television newsmen. They grew to know him as a man of quiet dignity
and fierce integrity. His students know him as an excellent, hands-on
teacher and as a friend.
Above all, he has always been a journalist.
He expected high quality work at the helm of some of the state’s
most prestigious broadcast newsrooms, and he held his students to
the same standard.
Price followed an interesting path
from cowboy to journalist. “In a sense, I have backed into
a lot of things that have happened to me,” he says.
Born Nov. 11, 1922, in Melville,
Saskatchewan, Canada, Price’s parents were farmers when everything
was done with horsepower, not machinery. He attended a one-room
schoolhouse, with the same teacher for eight grades. Before he entered
high school, the Prices moved to north-central Nebraska.
“My dad got a job on a cattle
ranch 20 miles south of Atkinson,” he recalls.
It was 1936, and Price lived in town, attending high school in Atkinson.
“I hated it,” he says. “I wanted to be a cowboy.”
Price did work on the 12,000-acre
ranch during breaks from school. The ranch boasted 1,500 to 2,000
head of cattle and meant long days of hard work.
So he was a cowboy, but not the kind
he aspired to become. Price longed to be like movie cowboys. “Working
on the ranch wasn’t riding the range, strapping on a six-gun
and shooting up Atkinson on Saturday night,” he says, laughing.
After graduating from high school
in 1940, Price ditched everything but his cowboy boots. He enrolled
at American University in Washington, D.C.
But the attack on Pearl Harbor made Price realize he would likely
be drafted. He transferred to Morningside College in Sioux City
to be closer to home.
Sioux City signaled his introduction
to radio at KSCJ. “There was a habit of hiring student announcers
to keep expenses down,” he recalls. “Every morning,
I’d get on the street car and ride through town with the meat
packinghouse workers to sign on the station, then I’d go to
classes. KSCJ was the lynchpin – that’s what got me
“That was a critical step for
me. I had always had an interest in speech and debate, and radio
was something that used those skills.”
He finished the semester at Morningside
before the Navy drafted him. He served in the South Pacific and
returned to Sioux City after being discharged. He got a job as a
night announcer at a radio station and re-enrolled at Morningside.
Soon after, he was offered the job
of news director at KTRI Radio. “I knew I couldn’t do
that and go to class,” Price explains. “I dropped out
of college and became a one-man news team.”
One year later, Price took a similar
job at KXEL Radio in Waterloo, where he worked from 1948 to 1959.
He saw the writing on the wall; television would eventually dominate
broadcast news. With that in mind, he went to work for the WMT organization
in Cedar Rapids as a desk reporter at the radio station.
“I did the morning news on
the radio station, because at that time, there was the possibility
that you could do something on the TV newscast, too,” he says.
Eventually, Price was offered the job as news director at Channel
2 TV and Radio, which was then part of the WMT organization.
“I inherited a very strong
news organization,” he says. “We were the powerful news
organization in the Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque market.”
In fall 1972, the Waterloo-based
Black Hawk Broadcasting Co. offered Price a job as vice president
of news and public affairs. In addition to KWWL-TV in Waterloo,
the company owned TV stations in Sioux City and Austin, Minn., as
well as radio stations in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Waterloo.
A sale to AFLAC’s broadcast
division in 1980 made Price vice president of news at KWWL. With
AFLAC, the station grew to overwhelming ratings dominance, Price
By 1989, Price was 67 years old and
thought it was time to “clear out of the newsroom.”
He retired but remained a part-time consultant, doing editorials
and the station’s public affairs work.
A fortuitous lunch with former Wartburg
Board of Regents Chairman Harry Slife and former Wartburg President
Robert Vogel ’56 brought Price to the college. “They
were crazy enough to ask me to teach here,” he quips.
Price established himself in Neumann
House, the former communication arts building, with then department
chair Robert Gremmels ’52, now professor emeritus of journalism.
Price taught a required course for broadcasting students. At that
point radio was the college’s only electronic journalism program.
Slife and Vogel believed Price could
help the department move beyond its radio-only broadcasting emphasis.
The R.J. McElroy Trust gave a major gift to install a TV studio
and lab. Funds were used to equip the college’s TV facilities
and renovate the former Liemohn Hall music building into the McElroy
Communication Arts Center.
“Liemohn Hall was ideally suited
to be remodeled for our purposes,” Price explains. “It
gave our program a proper home. The TV emphasis became a real magnet
for prospective students, and you can chart the program’s
growth from the addition of TV to the curriculum.”
When Gremmels retired in 1993, Price
cut ties with KWWL and became full-time department chair. In the
late 1990s, he recruited broadcaster Liz Mathis, now anchorwoman
at KCRG-TV9 in Cedar Rapids, to teach and co-chair the department.
His extensive work for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting helped
make the Vogel Library the collection’s permanent home.
“Grant Price is a true professional,
friend and colleague,” says Wartburg President Jack R. Ohle.
“I enjoy talking with him in the hallways, the Den or in the
communication arts offices and have appreciated his counsel, his
suggestions or just the opportunity to talk.
He is a valued faculty member and
has been a mentor to many Wartburg students. Despite his retirement,
I am sure he will remain an inspiring presence on the campus.”
Over the years, Price forged relationships
with students in and outside the classroom. He appreciates the college’s
history and connections to Germany and has enjoyed learning about
"There is an ethos about this
institution. That is something I respect, and I attach a real emotional
connection to Wartburg,” he says.
Despite his reluctance to fully retire
in past years, he believes Fadra appreciated his work. “She
valued the college, though not in the same way I did,” he
says. “She knew I wasn’t the kind of guy who retires
and follows his wife around, bothering her. She and I were partners,
so in that sense, she made as big a contribution as I did.”