(1903 - 1986)
Woolfries was a prolific radio host at Iowa State, in Cedar Rapids, and in Sioux City, Iowa where he also taught high school physics.
Andrew G. Woolfries, known simply as “Andy” to his listeners, was born in Northern Ireland in the early 1900s. After moving to Iowa with his family at the age of 5, he later graduated from East Waterloo High School in Waterloo, Iowa before going to Iowa State College (now University) in Ames, where he studied physics. While in school, he worked as assistant program manager and announcer of WOI, an Iowa Public Radio station, as one of Iowa’s first radio personalities on the station from 1921-1943. In late 1942, he went back to the British Isles for several months on a special mission during World War II. After his mission, he came back to Iowa to broadcast at the radio station WMT.
The first station Woolfries worked at, the radio station WOI, is the oldest fully licensed non-commercial radio station west of the Mississippi River. Its first broadcast was an hour of concert music in November of 1921, and its first regular licensed broadcast began on April 28th, 1922. It was originally farm and weather reports only, but when Andy Woolfries began his regular broadcast, he called for the addition of educational programs. One example of these programs was called the Music Shop, a program that continues today. During the talk portion of this show, Woolfries would add biographical details of composers’ lives for his listeners. He would also announce for sports that went on, including basketball and football games. Woolfries has been described as a radio announcer who really connected with his audience; many loved to tune in to his show. He spent twenty-one years at the radio station at Iowa State. While he worked as a radio announcer, he also provided a home for eleven boys released to his custody from the boys’ state training school in Eldora, Iowa. Woolfries only supported one young man at a time; they came into his custody at different points. Though at the beginning of this support system Woolfries was not much older than the boys who came into his care, he provided a home for them and a weekly allowance, and they went to school. The first boy even graduated from Ames High School and Iowa State. When Woolfries left Iowa State, he went to the station WMT in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1942. He remained active there for about five years, even when he went to Europe during World War II. After going back to school to earn his physics degree in 1947, he retired from radio and became a teacher in Sioux City and also announced for KSCJ. In 1956, he won the Junior Chamber of Commerce outstanding teacher award, and continued teaching into the 1970s.
Andrew “Andy” Woolfries died at age 83 in 1986 at Western Home Retirement Center with no surviving family. He donated his body to the University of Iowa College of Medicine.
“Andy Woolfries Gets Degree.” Des Moines Tribune, 01 September 1947.
Bradley, Col. John S. “Obituaries.” Sioux City Journal, 30 October 1986.
Hullihan, Robert. “They Thought it was a Miracle.” The Des Moines Register, 14 December 1975.
Little, Mary. “Two Famous Movies Adapted for Radio on WMT-WNAX-KRNT.” The Des Moines Register, 24 May 1943.
“Obituaries.” The Des Moines Register, 26 October 1986.
Slotten, Hugh R. “Radio’s Hidden Voice: Noncommercial Broadcasting, Extension Education, and State Universities during the 1920s.” Technology and Culture 49, no.1 (2008), 1-20.
Slotten, Hugh Richard. “Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States.” University of Illinois Press, 2009.
White, Maury. “Boys’ Turn to Hoop It Up!” The Des Moines Register, 13 March 1979.
Woolfries, A.G. “A Radio Pioneer Woi—Ames, 1923-1940.” The Annals of Iowa 23 (1942), 309-315. http://dx.doi.org/10.17077/0003-4827.6153