Monday, June 10, 2019

Our Beloved Patron

Welcome to WPVM’s new blog! Most fittingly, our first feature is Dr. Herb Johnson, the station’s main and most beloved patron.

Recently Dr. Herbert Johnson had a revelation while sitting in the lobby of WPVM 103.7 community radio station in downtown Asheville—a station which he and his wife, Ms. Davyne Dial, manage since acquiring the FCC license in 2015. He was looking at the old black and white photographs on the wall, taking him back to his childhood in Chicago when his father was a professional musician, playing during the Big Band era of the 1920s and ‘30s with the likes of Paul Whiteman, known as the “King of Jazz.”

“My God!” thought Dr. Johnson—who has had a long and fascinating life full of both disappointment and success—"my life has come full circle! It started out in ‘show business’—listening to my dad on the radio—and now it’s circled back again!” Indeed, a feature of WPVM 103.7FM is their musical programs of vintage music including live and recorded Big Band music.

The decades in-between have been just as revelatory. Dr. Johnson graduated from medical school at Northwestern in 1960 (attending less out of his own passion and more because his immigrant parents were committed their sons be “professional” men), but he was not happy in private practice—a time when family medicine was becoming too much about the business of medicine. After a stint in the Public Health Service, Dr. Johnson was assigned as doctor aboard the legendary tall ship USCGC Eagle, a Coast Guard training cutter (built in Germany before WWII), but had to retire from the Coast Guard (retiring as a full colonel) when he became sick with encephalitis. Suffering organic brain damage, Dr. Johnson spent nearly a decade relearning to speak and to walk. Wondering what to do during his rehabilitation time, he “heard” the message: “you’ll read what you’ll find most boring” and, in turn, read every available book on the stock market. (The only one he found not boring was Andrew Tobias’ The Only Investment Guide You’ll Need, reading it twice!) As a result, he became a very successful investor.

It was not the last time Dr. Johnson heard “a mystical voice,” as he calls it, speaking to him, sending him messages of guidance and instruction. Although he moved to Asheville in 1989 because of the VA hospital, there could have been a “message” of a more intimate nature in that decision because he met Ms. Dial a year later and they’ve been together ever since. In Asheville, Dr. Johnson, putting his successful investments to good use, became the largest personal donor to UNC-Asheville, starting a book scholarship for students. But the real satisfaction for Dr. Johnson—highlighting his generous spirit—was the deep pleasure of philanthropy!

Back to that “full circle.” When they had the chance to acquire the FCC license for the long-dormant community radio station WPVM 103.7FM, Dr. Johnson and Ms. Dial didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to give back to their much-loved adopted city. Concerned with the country’s dwindling sources of independent media, the couple welcomed their new career, investing time, money and joy in the station! Through the not-for-profit Friends of WPVM, they’ve established a dynamic community voice, with a roster of informed and entertaining show hosts including programs featuring music of all stripes—and with a little “show biz” vibe! ~