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May 27, 2020

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15 with Richard Gainey, Santa, and the WONB station manager - all rolled into one

Richard Gainey will retire from ONU this year, but his gig as Santa will continue, which is good news for all the good little boys and girls, adults, too. Richard wears many hats: Mr. WONB, Mr. Claus, Friend of Unloved Pets, and Budding Artist.

As founder and general manager of the campus radio station, in 1988, what changes have you observed?
The profession is constantly changing. For example, what used to be done on a 10-foot long piece of equipment, can now be accomplished on a laptop. Radio ownership is trending toward stations being nationally owned with regional management.

What does your program prepare students for?
Multimedia journalism careers, deejays, making or selling commercials, audio and video production, and radio management, for example.

Where have your students found jobs?
They work nearby, like in Lima or Findlay, as well as the bigger cities, such as Columbus and Toledo.  Some have been with their employer more the 20 years now.

How did you become Santa?
About 10 years ago, I grew a beard...turned out I looked like the jolly ole man in a red suit. Then, I came across a Santa suit for halfprice, the rest is history.

After you sign off for the last time at WONB, will Santa still be around?
Yes, for sure. Even in February, I carry Santa coins in my pocket to give to kids who think I'm Santa even without the suit. I also have an app on my smartphone that I run that tells me, as Santa, if the kid has been naughty or nice...it always says "nice." And I show them a compass to prove I can find their house on Christmas.

I understand you have five cats.
Yes. All rescued. Two are from Florida. One is from Louisiana from when my wife Becky helped manage an animal shelter set up by LSU in Baton Rouge after Katrina. I donate a portion of my Santa appearance money to animal rescue groups.

What are your plans after retirement from the university?
I will teach part-time for a year. Recently, I have become interested in painting, especially watercolors and outdoor subjects. To be good at anything - sports, music, surgery - you have to practice. I look forward to practicing with a paint brush and easel.

Will Becky retire as well?
Yes, but she will work part-time preparing to transition the cable system. When she began the cable system here, there were only two channels. Now there are 76 channels available on the campus TV network. She also enjoys the pet rescue work that we do, so, in the near future, her added help will make more cats and dogs happy as more loving homes are found for them.

As Santa, in and out of season, Richard tries to always be nice, not wanting to sully the reputation of the beloved old man he represents. And, many will agree, he has been nice for a long time, helping the community and university.