Remembering Professor Gene Free:
WFTU On-Air Studio Gets a New Name
On January 29, 2019 Five Towns College, the Mass Communication Division, and WFTU Radio dedicated the On-Air Studio to the memory of cherished Five Towns College Professor and WFTU Radio Advisor, Gene Free. As the crowd gathered in the area outside the Radio Station, dinner was served and, then, the ceremony began. There was a wonderful gathering of family, friends, colleagues, FTC staff and faculty, and FTC alumni who had cherished memories to share.
Under the leadership of Mass Communication Chair Tom Calandrillo, and WFTU General Manager, Matt O’Leary, a very special ceremony was planned to honor a distinguished individual who contributed to the growth and development of the College. FTC’s WFTU General Manager, Matthew O’Leary, also an accomplished graduate of FTC Mass Communication program kicked off the evening. President David Cohen shared some welcoming remarks referring to the great work and accomplishments that Gene Free brought to the Mass Communication program. Next up, were the especially dear and meaningful stories shared by then student, Matt O’ Leary and Mike Scudiero-two individuals who spent as much time in the old WFTU location as their beloved Professor Gene Free.
Professor Holli Haerr and several of Gene’s close friends and family shared equally heartfelt memories that spoke to and celebrated his life and achievements. This included his wife, Stephanie Free and daughter, Samantha, who sang in his memory.
Gene joined Five Towns College in 2012. Prior to that, he began his radio career in 1978 at WEJL in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He made his way to Long Island in 1988 on air and as Vice President of Programming and Marketing at WALK FM 97.5 where the station was consistently ranked number one through the 1990s. While working at 1010 WINS and Sirius XM Fox News, Gene served Five Towns College as both a Professor and as an Advisor to WFTU from 2012 – 2017.
Here are some excerpts of the kind words spoken by Matt O’Leary, “It really means a lot to me to be here tonight, to celebrate someone like Gene Free. He was my professor; he was my boss when I worked at the radio station both as a faculty member and as a student. He really went above and beyond for everyone and I considered him more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend and it’s really nice to honor him tonight.”
Five Towns College presented the first annual Gene Free Student Award to Joseph Raccuia. When Mass Communication student Starr Fuentes asked Joseph how he felt when he received the award he shared, “I really was surprised! I had absolutely no idea this was coming. I am very appreciative for this honor, and I can’t thank everyone enough. I never got the chance to meet Gene Free or work with him, but I’ve heard so many stories, it feels like I knew him. I’m really blessed that I’m the first recipient of this award.”
Here are some pictures from the Dedication Ceremony: