WAMU hires new director

Caryn G. Mathes will take over as general manager of WAMU 88.5 FM, AU's public radio station. Her appointment comes a little more than a year after AU's Board of Trustees removed Susan Clampitt from the position after The Washington Post brought attention to a financial deficit and employee morale problems at WAMU.

Mathes, appointed in December, will replace interim director David Taylor, chief of staff to President Benjamin Ladner. Taylor addressed concerns at the station since Oct. 30, 2003, when Clampitt was let go. At that time Taylor said a permanent replacement would be found "in the next few weeks," The Eagle reported Nov. 3, 2003.

Mathes will assume the WAMU position on March 1 after leaving her current post as the general manager of WDET 101.9 FM, where she has worked 20 years. The NPR news station broadcasts in the Detroit area and is licensed to Wayne State University.

"What distinguishes Caryn is her ability as a strong manager of people and finances," Taylor said, who adds that she has "incredible energy and enthusiasm" as well as commendable experience in public radio.

The University selected Mathes out of about 100 candidates who applied or were recommended for the job, Taylor said.

"She'll be well-received by the University and the Washington community," he said.

According to Taylor, Mathes' duties will include working on the strategic process for the next three to five years, addressing issues from fund-raising to staffing and marketing.

The "A New AU" campaign, AU's largest fund-raising endeavor launched last October, aims to raise $20 million for WAMU, The Eagle previously reported.

"[We] hope to make this a major broadcast center [and] the top radio station in Washington," Taylor said.

AU will not put Mathes' work under intense scrutiny since Clampitt's dismissal, but will make sure that the station is running under a realistic budget that finishes in the black as well as making sure that the public radio service caters to the nation's needs, Taylor said.

Clampitt operated the station based on deficits in the last three fiscal years and depleted $4 million in cash reserves amidst growing staff discontent.

In June 2003, Clampitt filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Superior Court, seeking more than $12 million for wrongful termination, including $3 million for "severe physical, emotional and psychological distress." In the complaint, she defended her managerial style and claimed that Ladner should be partly blamed for the station's problems because he approved her financial plans, according to a Washington Times article. In August, AU asked the court to reject Clampitt's suit.

Taylor will remain involved in WAMU as a reporting actor between Mathes and Ladner, since the station is under the jurisdiction of the President's Office.

"We've proven success over the last year. [Things] have settled down and [we're] ready to move on," Taylor said. "All I can be now is a supporter and advocate on campus [for the station]."

Mathes has served as the president of the Michigan Public Radio Network and as a board member of the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters.

She was also named "One of Michigan's Top African-American Leaders" in 2002 by Corp! Magazine and previously was named the "Outstanding Woman in Top Radio Management" by the Detroit chapter of American Women in Radio & Television.

"It'll be great to be in a town with mass transit again," remarked Mathes, a former Detroit resident. She worked in D.C. in the mid-'70s, calling the city rich in culture.

Mathes also said that AU was not concerned about a performance in comparison with Clampitt's, but rather improving upon a strategic plan the University has implemented since Clampitt's dismissal. Ladner's vision for the station was to pave the foundations for the future of public radio since the station already has a "perfect format," she said.

"We are pleased to have a general manager of Caryn's management ability and public radio experience to guide WAMU to even greater prominence as one of the top public radio stations in the nation," Ladner said in a press release. "Her substantial experience and success at WDET-FM, her commitment to public radio, and her knowledge of working within a university station make her an ideal choice to lead WAMU into an even brighter future."

Mathes, who was sought out for the position, said she was hesitant at first, but accepted since the station is a "wonderful representation in the public radio arena."

"I am excited to have the opportunity to take the reins of WAMU, which is one of the country's great public radio stations," Mathes said in a press release. "I look forward to working with the staff to further advance WAMU as a flagship station in the NPR system and develop it into a model of what public radio can be in the future"

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