Bob Simpson – Radio Legend

It is with heavy hearts that CIVL recognizes, on behalf of the UFV Campus and Community Radio Society, our community lost one of it’s key builders this past week.

CHLY Nanaimo, whose 101.7 FM shares a frequency with CIVL, made the following post about Bob on their website this weekend, and we also welcome you to read a letter written in nominating Mr. Simpson for a Radio Legend Award to celebrate his 50th year in broadcasting.

Thanks for everything, chief!

“I am sad to have learned today that former CHLY Station Manager Bob Simpson passed away this morning from stomach cancer in a private hospital room in Calgary. He was 75 years old and had just last night celebrated a wedding anniversary with his wife Judy.

Some of you would not have met Bob Simpson, but Bob was there for the CHLY when we needed someone capable and level headed during a difficult time for the station.

Bob was a radio veteran of 50 years by the time he retired, and was a mentor to me in numerous ways. I would even say he was a bit of a father figure during some difficulties in my personal life. I am very saddened by this loss, as I was hoping to see him again had his diagnosis and treatment regimen gone better.

A youthful Bob Simpson in his glory.
A youthful Bob Simpson in his glory.

I fondly remember the phone calls I had with him, as well as our regular lunches to discuss station business, politics, and life in general. Bob knew how to treat people well, and when to be stern. Raised on the prairies and having lived there for much of his life, he was the son of a minister (if I remember right both the politician kind and the pulpit kind), and like some from that part of Canada, a bit conservative. That said I did convince him to vote NDP in the 2015 Federal Election, something that I got a real kick out of at the time. He was not fond of Harper in those years.

Bob in his at home studio. He was happiest in front of a microphone.
Bob in his at home studio. He was happiest in front of a microphone.
Bob visiting CHLY during a fund drive after his retirement. I don't know who the other guy is, nice bike tights though.
Bob visiting CHLY during a fund drive after his retirement. I don’t know who the other guy is, nice bike tights though.

He liked his martinis, he liked his oldies, and the booth always smelled of Old Spice when he was hosting his Wednesday afternoon show Bobby Be Cool. He was a sight to behold in the booth, organized and “on” it in only the way a veteran of 50 years could be.

He loved radio.

He was a friend.”

Jesse Woodward,
Executive Director,
CHLY 101.7FM

May 6th, 2016

ATTN: NCRA Awards Community Radio Legend Award Jury

Re: Bob Simpson Nomination

I’ve had the pleasure of managing CIVL 101.7 FM for the past 6 years as of this August, and I’m indebted to a small group of UFV students and community volunteers who, from 2003 until 2009, worked tirelessly to connect with the NCRA, raise awareness in the Fraser Valley, and develop from genesis the concept and opportunity of placing Campus and Community Radio East of Vancouver.

Today, CIVL is an NCRA Award winning radio station for Programming (‘14) and Community Development (‘11), having twice been recognized by Abbotsford Community Services’ Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards for Marketing (‘15) and Outreach (‘11), and being awarded the Abbotsford Arts Council’s 2014 Arty Award for Outstanding Arts Organization, as well as that year’s Punjabi Literature Society of Abbotsford award for contribution to Punjabi Language, Culture, and Literature.

CIVL is the only Campus/Community Radio station within over 50 KM to the West, nearly 300 to the North, and almost 600 KM to the East. We are an essential community outlet in the Valley, with unparalleled isolation from our sister stations considering the population we serve. (The Fraser Valley is home to 1.5 million residents, and we are the only station to serve it with a Type A license.)

None of these accomplishments would be possible if a group of UFV students hadn’t encountered the help, early on, of one Robert Simpson. In 2008, when I first applied to CIVL’s Program Director job posting, it was Mr. Simpson’s positive and encouraging response to my application that motivated me to attend broadcast college in Ontario, in order to further strengthen my skills, which in turn allowed me to successfully apply for the Station Manager position left vacant when Bob moved to Salt Spring Island as owner/operator of CFSI-FM — a volunteer based commercial undertaking.

During the early days, Bob was the sheppard for CIVL’s flock of as yet un-call-letter-assigned small undertaking. He utilized his 40+ years of experience in commercial radio and advertising, as well as invaluable contacts at the CRTC, CBC and Industry Canada, to ensure that CIVL was able to withstand successful broadcast implementation extensions (3), change of technical parameter/broadcast location applications (2), a frequency swap and a tower lease.

It took the UFV Campus and Community Radio Society 5 years to graduate from society incorporation to FM implementation, throughout which Bob was a volunteer, Station Manager, ex-officio, and station dad to many. The skills and work ethic he instilled in CIVL’s volunteers and staff are evident in the success not only of the station, but of the founders who spent their years in academia focusing as much, if not more, on this pipe dream of a project, now become a reality, than their respective Math, Library Sciences, Pedagogy, and Philosophy degrees.

Today, these founders are Law School Graduates, Tech Firm CTOs, Librarians, and High School Teachers, having fostered an environment at CIVL where our Alum can count among them two commercial radio station drive time hosts, executive directors of two Lower Mainland Arts Councils (New West and Abbotsford), and a freedom of speech activist with millions of hits and followers on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

CIVL was built on sound fundamentals in programming procedures, organizational dynamics, and good governance. So much so, that when I arrived at this still yet-to-get-out-of-the- podcast-and-onto-FM-radio-station, trepidation mounting regarding my ability to take the reigns of this burgeoning operation, I was overjoyed to find complete training processes that were comprehensive, clear, and turnkey, ready for me to implement and orient volunteers with, perfectly melding the technical know how of professional, academic radio training, with the progressive, inclusive environment of Campus/Community Radio that makes it so essential for our ever diversifying communities in Canada.

We use these training processes, developed by Program and Communications Directors Swinder Singh and Larry Portelance, under the supervision and direction of Mr. Simpson, essentially unchanged – save for relevant CRTC updates – to this day.

Bob is the kind of person who makes you want to put your best foot forward. His achievement and dedication urge you to look inside yourself and search for the best contribution you can make to your community, and the idea that this man basically walked into campus and community radio as a commercial ex-pat 10 or so years ago, but was able to be such an essential part of such an impactful and broadly accessible community service, is a true testament to what C/C radio in Canada is all about.

This is the legacy that Bob left at CIVL, from the lens of a person who never worked alongside or under the man a single day in his life. To me, that is the definition of a legacy; the legend that carries on with those that endeavour to undertake the work you’d once begun, and have the privilege of seeing grow beyond your own efforts.

Though he spent the lion’s share of his time in the commercial sector, in the comparably short time he’s spent engaged with community radio, he’s been able to impart astonishing institutional and experiential knowledge onto the C/C sector, now on his 3rd community oriented broadcast undertaking. The impact he’s made in the Fraser Valley have been felt for the past 5 years in significant ways, and no doubt will continue to be felt as long as CIVL is operational.

I’m beyond pleased to recommend Bob Simpson be awarded with this year’s Community Radio Legend NCRA Award, to mark his 50 years of contributions to broadcast in Canada. 

If you have any questions about this letter, or Mr. Simpson’s time at CIVL, please feel free to contact me at your leisure.

My very best, 

Aaron Levy

CIVL Radio Station Manager