(April 17, 1921 - October 1, 1982)
News Manager (1944-1949), Operations Manager (1949-1956), and General Manager (1956-1982) at WOI AM-FM-Radio-TV.
Robert “Bob” Celestian Mulhall was born on April 17, 1921 at Story City, Iowa, son of Damon Xavier Mulhall and Eva Elizabeth Riney Mulhall. The family lived in Story City during Bob's early years while Damon worked as a farm laborer. The family moved first to Boone by 1930 where Damon worked as a carpenter and later to Ames where he became a custodian at Iowa State College.
Bob attended Ames High School and graduated in 1939. At Ames High, he was a star football and basketball player. In football, he excelled in punting and averaged 40 yards per punt during his senior year which earned him first team all-state recognition in 1938. He was also a first team selection to the Central Iowa Conference both in his junior and senior years. In basketball, he was team captain during his senior year and played on the third place state championship team.
After high school graduation, Mulhall attended Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and majored in English. While attending Loras he was a staff photographer for The Purgold, the college yearbook. He was also a member of the Loras College Vested Choir, the Decorations Committee, and Sigma Delta Chi (journalism.) In addition, he was editor of The Gridiron, a football program distributed at all home football games, was the Class Speaker, and worked as an announcer at KDTH radio, a station off campus in Dubuque. He was listed in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities.
In December, 1941, when the United States entered World War II, Mulhall enlisted quickly in the United States Navy. However, a few months later he was one of only 200 college students in Iowa to be issued an appointment into the Officers Procurement Section of the U.S. Naval Reserves. He continued his education and graduated from Loras College in 1943 after which he entered a naval reserve midshipman's school from which he was commissioned into the Naval Reserves.
During the next few years Mulhall became involved with the Ames Project, part of the larger Manhattan Project for developing the atomic bomb. The Ames Project was founded by Iowa State physical chemist Frank Spedding and led by chemist Harley Wilhelm. The project developed the Ames Process, which was a method for preparing pure uranium metal needed for the atomic bombs and later for nuclear reactors. The work was performed at a site on the southeast edge of the Iowa State campus and nicknamed “Little Ankeny” after the munitions ordinance plant then in operation at Ankeny, about 20 miles south of Ames. Mulhall worked as an employee of the project. Shortly after the end of the war, on October 12, 1945, General Leslie R. Groves visited the Iowa State College campus and presented to the college the Army-Navy “E” Award for Excellence in Production, an award previously awarded only to industrial companies. Mulhall accepted the award pins for employees of the project, saying, “We are proud of our production, but especially proud, each separate one of us, of the mighty miracle that is wartime secrecy.”
On June 9, 1944, Mulhall married Lois Isabel Furley in Chicago. They had eight children; Gary, Mary, Ann, Gregory, Maureen, Kathryn, Brian, and Lori.
Even while working on the Ames Project, Mulhall had begun his 38 year long career with WOI radio (and later) television. In 1944, he was hired by WOI AM radio as its news manager and assistant news editor. In 1949, he was promoted to News and Operations Manager at which point WOI also began broadcasting one of the first FM radio stations in Iowa. The following year WOI became the nation's first educationally owned and operated television station. In 1952, Mulhall was promoted to Operations Manager for WOI AM-FM-TV and also as Assistant Professor of Journalism. While working as Operations Manager, the station began stereo broadcasting. In 1975, WOI started an annual telethon to raise funds for the Variety Club which in turn helped support charities such as Raymond Blank Memorial Children's Hospital in Des Moines, the Ronald McDonald House adjacent to it, and the pediatric heart center at Mercy Hospital Medical Center, also in Des Moines.
In 1956, Mulhall was promoted to WOI General Manager and functioned in that position until 1982. He oversaw many changes during those years including the radio station being allowed to broadcast at night and the move from black-and-white to color television. He was in charge of general administration and dealt with issues such as fiscal matters, land grant proposals, funds for adult education, closed circuit television, contracts, tower and other construction planning, student operated educational television, programming, personnel and salaries, FCC licensing, relations with the ABC television network, and many other administrative functions. He also corresponded with various broadcasting associations, Iowa State faculty, staff, and administration, the WOI Advisory Committee, and affiliates of ABC and various public radio stations.
Mulhall was also involved in other professional and community activities. He was a member of the Scholarship Committee of the Iowa Broadcasters Association, the Ames Municipal Safety Commission, and the Ames Recreation Committee. In 1975, Governor Robert D. Ray appointed him to the Iowa Citizens Advisory Council on Alcoholism in which the Advisory Council made recommendations to the state Alcoholism Commission. In conjunction with this, Mulhall also served as Chairman of the Ames Commission on Alcoholism.
Robert C. Celestian Mulhall died very suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Ames on October 1, 1982. He was interred in Ames Municipal Cemetery.
Mulhall received several posthumous honors. In 1983, the ninth annual WOI telethon was dedicated to him. Also, in 2006, he was inducted into the Ames High School Athletic Hall-of-Fame by the school's athletic Department.
A major source of information on Robert C. Mulhall was found in the Robert C. Mulhall Papers RS 5/6/14, Box 3, Folder 1, Iowa State University Library and Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.
ISU Faculty Directories from 1944-1982, also found in Special Collections, detail his employment at WOI from year to year.
Articles on Mulhall were found in the Ames Daily Tribune for October 12, 1945, p. 2; February 20, 1950, p. 9; and July 30, 1956, p. 1.
Obituaries were found in the Ames Daily Tribune for October 2, 1982, p. A2 and October 3, 1982, p. 7; and in the Des Moines Register, October 2, 1982, p. 9A.
His activities at Loras College were found in the Loras College Purgold of 1943. A news clipping on his induction into the U. S. Navy was found on the website for the Ames Historical Society.
Notice of his posthumous induction into the Ames High School Athletic Hall-of-Fame was found in the Ames High School Alumni Newsletter, Volume 17, Issue 3, December, 2006, pp. 1-2.
Birth, marriage, and U. S. Navy records, and family information from the 1925 Iowa Census and the 1930 U. S. Census were found in Public Member Family Trees at ancestryinstitution.com.
Interment information was found at findagrave.com.