Liberty University’s senior video maintenance engineer Richard “Al” Stephens received a certificate from chapter chairman Paxton Durham recognizing him as “Engineer of the Year” for Chapter 78 of the Society of Broadcast Engineers during a recent meeting in Lexington, Va.
He was recognized as the inaugural award recipient for the chapter, which includes Lynchburg, Roanoke and Harrisonburg, and is one of 12 nominees for the national Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year award.
He began his career at Thomas Road Baptist Church as the sole engineer on staff installing and servicing video equipment for Jerry Falwell, Sr.’s “Old Time Gospel Hour.” Stephens is now responsible for video control operation during many university productions, including sports, news feeds, and special events. He handles routine maintenance, troubleshooting and testing of video systems, documentation of new systems and assists in the planning, construction and deployment of mission critical systems.
“He is one of the original members of our chapter, which has been in existence since the early ’70s,” said Eddie Durham, a former SBE Chapter 78 chair, who nominated Stephens for the honor, noting Stephens has served as its treasurer and chief financial officer for the past 15 years.
“TV as a whole in the analog days was one thing; in the digital age, everything was transitioning. It’s all IT-based, so you’re constantly trying to keep up,” he said. “That is what SBE is about. You try to stay current with the new technologies.”
As for his role at Liberty, Stephens explained, “We trained the students hands-on, even back in the ’70s, to do radio, television, maybe a little film, but primarily television. We’re back to the original vision of doing that exact same thing under Dr. Mintle now, and I think that’s going to work out really well. You have academics as well as the practical hands-on stuff, so when the students leave here, they’ve got a good balance of both.”
The SCCA’s broadcast division includes WRVL(FM) and WWMC(FM) — a student-run station — as well as TV stations WTLU (LP) and full-power station WEFC, formerly WDRL.
Stephens is currently involved in facilitating Liberty’s transition to HD broadcasts starting this fall, including the installation of equipment in a control room at the Vines Center that will be used for sports broadcasting.