Jerry Isenhart transferred to Pullman in the fall of 1965 with plans to continue studies for a degree in Electrical Engineering. But a chance encounter with Robert Mott, Chairman of the Dept of Communications, changed Isenhart’s destiny and he graduated 2 years later with a BA in Communications. At WSU, Isenhart quickly became a very active member of the closely knit group of students who have since become known as the Mott Squad. By his senior year, Isenhart was a member of Sigma Delta Chi and Vice President of the Pullman chapter of Alpha Epsilon Rho. He was a regular on KWSU AM, holding down assignments as daily host of station’s morning show, the “Coffee Pot Parade”, and daily host of the Noon News on the station as well. Jerry was appointed Station Manager of KUGR his senior year and as Vice President of Alpha Epsilon Rho, he was the Master of Ceremonies of the 1967 Murrow Awards Banquet, While attending classes at WSU, Isenhart was also working for 3 commercial radio stations in the Palouse, and one in his hometown, Wenatchee, Wa. when he would return for holidays and vacations. Isenhart’s education at WSU included news assignments to cover Pullman City Hall and news events at Colfax and Moscow. By the time he graduated, broadcast journalism was his forte, and radio was his love.
After graduating, he joined Bellingham based broadcast automation leader IGM (International Good Music) as a Field Engineer, where he traveled the United States installing and training organizations on the implementation of broadcast automation equipment in stations big and small. Isenhart described that experience as paid Graduate School. He used the opportunity to make many friends with owners, general managers, sales manager, program directors, and chief engineers, at some of the biggest and best broadcast companies across the nation. Little did he realize, but like his connections with Colonel Mott and the Mott Squad at WSU, Isenhart made professional friendships that served him for decades. Two years later, in 1969, Isenhart became the owner of his own KOZI Radio, at Lake Chelan, Washington; a small community radio station located 40 miles north of his hometown of Wenatchee.
Isenhart credits Washington State University with setting the stage for the opportunity to buy the Chelan station. Jerry proudly says that the owner of the Chelan station approached him, noting the seller said he had followed Isenhart’s achievements at WSU (as publicized by the WSU Student Home Town News Service ), and believed that Isenhart’s education and professional skills would make him a success. Isenhart was 25 years old when he became the owner and General Manager of North Central Broadcasting Co and KOZI Radio. In 1973 Jerry became a DIrector of the Washington State Association of Broadcasters; a position he filled for 25 years. Jerry jokingly reports that he was the youngest member of the WSAB Board of Directors when he joined, and the longest-serving Director, when he stepped down in the late ’90s.
Over the course of his 30 years in commercial broadcasting, Jerry expanded his company to include KOZI FM, acquired KULE AM-FM in Ephrata, and built KOHO-FM in Leavenworth. Isenhart’s focus in the broadcast industry was devoted to news and public affairs. Isenhart says that the lessons of his education at WSU paid huge dividends over his colorful career.
One of KOZI Radio’s legendary radio shows, that remains on the air to this day, was named from a program he hosted on KWSU. Called the 2nd Cup of Coffee, the KOZI community talk and public affairs program was first launched in 1972. He chose that name “Second Cup of Coffee” from his days as daily host of KWSU’s “Coffee Pot Parade” (an 8-9 AM daily program on the college station.)
Isenhart published a monthly station “Kiplinger” style newsletter called “Behind The Mic”, which he mailed to station advertisers and community leaders and gave them an inside look at his growing company. Behind the Mic had been the name of a radio show Isenhart admired at KWSU which aired weekly and was produced by the college professor and KWSU Station Manager, Burt Harrison, Jerry spent his broadcast years dedicated to integrity in journalism, and both he, others on his staff, and his stations were honored multiple times by Associated Press as Washington State Reporters of the Year, Station of the Year, and given the AP\s Governor’s Distinguished Service Award on 2 occasions for excellence in public service broadcast journalism. One of those was presented in 1994 when KOZI broadcast 24 hours a day/ for nearly two weeks advising listeners in the region of the minute by minute status of the worst Firestorm to invade the region in decades. It was a though every resource and skill that Isenhart’s broadcast team had developed to that time, was called on to serve the region. The stations and staff were given many many awards for unprecedented levels of broadcast excellence, including special recognition by Associated Press and the Washington State Association of Broadcasters at a special ceremony in Olympia.
While deeply engaged in community broadcasting, Jerry also took his turn at community service, He served 2 terms as a Chelan City Councilman, and 1 term as Mayor of Chelan. Jerry also served 2 terms on the Lake Chelan School Board in the 2000s after he sold his broadcast company to Harriet Bullitt (Icicle Broadcasting ) in 1999. His decision to sell was driven by his fascination with the developing potential of the Internet. In 2001 he launched one of the first internet-based community websites that emulated the best of both radio, television, and newspaper journalism (audio/photos both still and video and real-time live streams and interactive content). He named it GoLakeChelan.com.
Given Isenhart was already experienced in live-streaming his broadcast stations on the internet in the ’90s, GoLakeChelan became an expansion of the new technologies. He called his web site an “Experiment in Technology.” Isenhart was one of the first broadcasters to understand the meaning of the fast-evolving digital world. The ability to stream sporting events on-line allowed Isenhart’s organization to serve his communities with multiple channels of events at the same time. His internet media success came long before Google, YouTube, Facebook, My Space, Twitter, texting, and smartphones). He built Go Lake Chelan into a strong internet product and then sold it in 2014 when he lost his oldest son Jerald Isenhart Jr to brain cancer. Jerry Jr was a freshman at WSU when he was first diagnosed in 2012 and died a year later.
Isenhart and GoLakeChelan were honored by the Greater Wenatchee Area Technical Alliance In 2004 with the Tech Savvy Business Award and in 2007 by the Lake Chelan Chamber as Business of the Year. He sold GoLakeChelan in 2014 and in retirement is doing a lot of experimental aerial drone photography, and writing his memoirs “Nothing By Chance.”