KAUR 89.1 FM, a radio station at Augustana University, was established in 1972 by a group of students, faculty, and administrators. The idea for the station gained momentum in 1969 when students John Fiksdal and Lee Natwick attended the 1969 College Radio Conference in New York City. Augustana admissions counselor Terry Hartwick and Jay Werth, a student who had experience as a DJ, also played key roles in establishing the station.
KAUR began broadcasting in October 1972, with Jay Werth as Station Manager, David Nelson as Program Director, and Lee Natwick as Engineer. The station's programming was modeled after National Public Radio's "block programming" format, with music genres including progressive rock, classical, and jazz. Faculty members with expertise or enthusiasm for a particular genre were featured as hosts.
The station's early years featured an eclectic mix of programs, including a show called Kaleidoscope, which featured progressive, free-form rock music. Gene White, a nationally recognized jazz musician and composer, co-hosted "Jazz, the Intimate Art," while Economics professor Les Carlson specialized in jazz and popular music from the 40s and 50s. Leland Lillehaug, Augustana Music Department Chair, temporarily hosted the classical music hour, and his son David eventually became a host. The popular "Doc" Krueger, director of the Augustana Brasswind Choir, was also a program host. Mid-afternoon weekdays, Bryan Bjerke hosted "Take It Easy," which later became a national CBS news editor.
The station faced ups and downs in student involvement, with up to 80 students engaged as executive staff and announcers during the first 20 years. KAUR endured complaints about offensive language and lyrics in the 1990s but was continued by the Board of Regents, despite a proposal from Minnesota Public Radio to buy the KAUR broadcast license. The station's signal radius was expanded to 30 miles with a new tower in 1985.
In 2009, due to waning student interest, the college administration entered into an agreement with Minnesota Public Radio to broadcast its schedule on the KAUR frequency. However, KAUR's legacy as a pioneering college radio station, established through the efforts of its dedicated founders and hosts, continues to be celebrated.