Summer 2001

UNC-CH Development

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It's gonna be big
Student Television alumni raising funds with challenge grant
Partial STV alumni list

When John Wilson ’85 and Walt Boyle ’86 founded STV, Carolina’s student television station in 1983, their aspirations were embodied in STV’s first slogan: “It’s Gonna Be Big.” Since then STV has grown into one of the top student television stations in the country. “It is big, and it’s getting bigger and better,” Wilson said. “With increased support from UNC alumni it will become the best.”

STV is launching a 20th-anniversary capital campaign to raise $200,000 by 2003.  Goals for the campaign funds include converting to digital equipment, purchasing additional lighting and sound equipment and adding live and Web broadcast capabilities.

Wilson’s family foundation gave STV a $20,000 cash grant for new equipment last year. Currently he is spearheading an effort to raise more support through a challenge grant from the foundation. STV will receive one dollar for each dollar it raises, up to a total of $20,000, by Dec. 31, 2001.

“Gifts like this are invaluable to help STV members get hands-on training with new equipment,” said STV station manager Andy Spain ’02. “That training will then provide us with the skills necessary to survive when seeking employment in the entertainment industry.”

In the summer of ’83, Wilson realized that UNC’s University Access Channel was not being used, and he and Boyle asked the administration for permission to start STV. The idea was for the organization to provide all students, regardless of major, an opportunity for video production experience and to provide entertainment and information to the campus and community.

“The concept really captured the imagination of UNC students, who voted overwhelmingly to provide start-up funding through an increase in their student activities fee, and then actually tuned in to our programming,” Wilson said. Their first show, produced with equipment borrowed from the department of radio, television and motion pictures (now communication studies), aired in spring 1984. STV’s own production equipment arrived in the fall of ‘84, and students frantically read the instruction manuals in order to produce STV’s second show. 

“We finished it five minutes before it was to be broadcast, and raced downtown just in time to watch it with a huge crowd on Franklin Street. We would have been satisfied simply to see a picture and hear sound, but the crowd actually loved the show,” Wilson said.

Today STV reaches 8,000 students on campus and 5,000 off-campus. It broadcasts 35 hours of weekly programming, and produces 11 shows — an action show, a news show, a sketch comedy, a sitcom, a sports show, a Cops-spoof, a dark drama, a late-night talk show, a student video projects show, and two call-in shows broadcast live from STV’s studio.

One of these shows is the new incarnation of the acclaimed General College — an STV hit series orginally created by Adam Reist ’89 about college life. The series was so popular it ran for almost 10 years with a total of 64 episodes. The show garnered praise from local and national media, and produced a loyal following in the community. 

Elesha Renee Barnette ’03 produces the revised series. As a tribute to fans of the original series, Barnette and her crew shot scenes in New York with General College alumni that tied together old and new story lines. A special hour-long episode will air in the fall featuring 12 alumni who returned to Chapel Hill for a weekend last March to rehash their old roles.

“STV fills an important gap at UNC — nowhere else on campus can one find the unrestricted access to high-quality production equipment provided by STV,” said Martin Clark ’87, the first elected station manager of STV and current member of the alumni advisory board. “It gives members the opportunity to participate in every part of the video production process from idea to final product, and then broadcast the result to tens of thousands of dorm rooms and homes.”

A biology major as an undergraduate, Wilson said STV helped him realize that his future was in film and television rather than medicine. It also helped him enter graduate film school at the University of Southern California, which he said he never could have done without the production, creative and leadership experience at STV.

Wilson went to work for Jim Henson Productions in Los Angeles, and in 1998 he and his wife, Ashley Lefler Wilson ’86 – who also helped found STV — moved back to Chapel Hill. Today his heart is in documentary filmmaking. He is producing a documentary about logging in national forests and, with Clark, a documentary on U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Wilson and Clark also produced Dr. Frank, an Emmy Award-winning documentary on former U.S. Senator and UNC President Frank Porter Graham, in 1994.

Other STV alumni remain in Hollywood. Several serve on the STV alumni advisory board, including Peyton Reed ’86, who directed the movie Bring it On; John Altschuler ’85 and Dave Krinsky ’85, co-executive producers of Fox’s King of the Hill; Dan Cortese ’90 who appeared on NBC’s Veronica’s Closet, and Bill Martin ’86 who created Fox’s Grounded for Life and was executive producer of NBC’s 3rd Rock from the Sun. All of them acknowledge the impact STV had in their successful careers.

“STV was a film school with no teachers, where you had to figure out everything —lighting, camera, editing, directing, writing and acting— on your own,” Martin said. Reed said the hands-on experience you get at STV is critical to succeed in the film and television business.

“From the writing to the editing, I still use the lessons I learned at STV,” Reed said.

Wilson hopes the challenge grant will inspire other STV alumni to contribute.

“STV did for me more than any other aspect of my UNC experience, and I want current and future STV members to have an even better experience than I did,” Wilson said.

 — Victoria Moxey ’02

 For more information about STV please visit  or contact Brad Wilson at 919-843-5376 or


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