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KUAR Veteran Nathan Vandiver Stepping Down as GM

3 min read

Nathan Vandiver, the young broadcaster who took over for a beloved mentor to lead UA Little Rock Public Radio in 2016 and officially became general manager in 2019, is leaving the post to move with his family to Portland, Oregon.

He had been in charge of campus station and NPR affiliate KUAR-FM, 89.1, and classical music outlet KLRE-FM, 90.5, since the death of longtime GM Ben Fry, killed by a heart attack at 54 in March 2016. Fry, who first joined KUAR in 1988, had guided Vandiver’s career since he joined the station as a newsroom intern in 2009.

Vandiver’s last official day will be July 8, he told Arkansas Business on Monday. Vandiver is married to federal defender Julie Vandiver, who has taken a job with the Federal Public Defender office in Portland, Nathan Vandiver said  in an email. The couple has two boys, Henry and Charlie. UA Little Rock is at work on a job description and will post it soon to begin seeking a successor. No timeline is set.

“I’m taking some leave to move, then staying on for a period of time remotely to help the stations with the transition,” Vandiver said. “It’s hard to leave UA Little Rock Public Radio, and Little Rock, but this felt like an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.” The Vandivers have family in the Pacific Northwest, and he says the public radio program won’t be left in the lurch. “As hard as it is to leave, there is a very capable staff that will maintain and advance the service in the interim period.”

Vandiver, who is now “looking for employment in the Portland area,” told longtime colleague Michael Hibblen, the veteran KUAR newsman, that he’s proud of his tenure in Arkansas public radio. “With the death of Ben Fry, it was a big transition to make and we stabilized the station after that difficult period.”

As general manager, Vandiver developed and maintained station policy, supervised the programming staff, selected on-air programming and oversaw on-air sound quality. Even as interim GM, he helped upgrade control rooms with new consoles and audio control equipment, as well as growing donor memberships to KLRE and KUAR. Last fall’s pledge drive drew an anonymous gift of $1.5 million, a record.

Vandiver, who once interned at Arkansas Business, was hired as a KUAR reporter and sometime anchor in 2010, then promoted by Fry to program director in 2013. He completed his bachelor’s degree at UA Little Rock in 2011.

For his part, Vandiver emphasized that public radio is a vital resource in central Arkansas, and deserves continued support from the business community. “Our public radio station provides universal access to local, national, and international news as well as classical music, which is attractive to the talent our business leaders aim to bring to the region. Your support to our station as leaders in this community is imperative in ensuring we can continue to inform and feed the imaginations of such a community.”

In a statement, Sarah Beth Estes, who oversees the stations as dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, praised Vandiver and wished him well.

“We appreciate Nathan and the station staff for their efforts to enrich the lives of those who benefit from the quality news and cultural programs that are part of KUAR/KLRE,” the statement said. “Under Nathan’s leadership, UA Little Rock Public Radio grew both its sustaining members and its endowment.”
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