Patricia Willems Papenfuss, Jour ’61
When Winona, Minn., was devastated by more than 15 inches of rain and massive flooding last summer, Patricia and Jerry Papenfuss raced to their radio station studios to respond to the need.
“The challenge was to gather staff to work through the night and the next day,” Patricia says. “Phone service was down in some areas, bridges were down and roads had collapsed. Seven deaths and hundreds of destroyed and damaged homes later we were in the thick of a major community need. While keeping the business functioning and normal programs running, we needed to find out who needed help and who could help.”
Their five Winona radio stations played a vital role in the clean-up efforts.
“Our job was to facilitate these efforts by informing the residents of resources available and letting them know about the heroes in the trenches cleaning the mud out of their homes, feeding the suddenly homeless and rounding up livestock,” Patricia says. “People needed to know where they could take a shower, when the local grocery store will be open again, when the water was safe to drink, how to safely clean up and rebuild.”
The intimate connection with the community is one reason that they have stayed committed to small-market radio. The couple own 14 small- and medium-sized radio stations in the Midwest. From humble beginnings — including an office that consisted of a card table in the hallway — they have developed the Result Radio Group into one of the most important broadcasting companies in Minnesota. In 2006, they were inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
The values that have shaped Patricia’s broadcasting career have their roots at Marquette. “This was a time of my life to explore my values and what I would make a commitment to,” she says. “I went to Marquette on a very tight budget, even taking a year off to earn enough for the next year’s tuition. I learned that money could not control my life. That had the effect of granting me the freedom to take risks and to reach for ideals. It forced me to know who I was and learn to project myself according to the values I chose.”