Sonny Cavazos

2022 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2022)

Dedicated to broadcast engineering for more than 30 years, Manuel “Sonny” Cavazos II has demonstrated excellence and innovation in the field.

His humble beginnings started in the Audio/Video Department of Edinburg High school in the late 1980s.

While attending college, he got a job in the engineering department at KRGV-TV in Weslaco.

After holding various positions at KENS-TV San Antonio and KVEO-TV Brownsville, Sonny took the helm as EVP/Director of Technology for Entravision Communications – where he has been for more than 20 years.

His thirst for knowledge and his commitment to the industry can be seen firsthand in the work that he has done not only in Texas, but throughout the country…

  • Designing and building master controls, news production control rooms and radio control booths…
  • Trekking through muddy sites and up mountains to install transmitters and tubes…
  • Designing RF systems for transmitter installations…
  • Automating network signals for ad delivery, live news and traffic reconciliation…

Much like George Marti, Sonny has devoted his career to improving Television and Radio broadcast signals, processes, and operations.

When he joined Entravision in 1997, the company was growing rapidly – acquiring many broadcast properties – all under his technical leadership.

In 2019, he led the project to consolidate all of Entravision’s master control operations to McAllen.

Not a small task!

The project involved designing the playout and delivery of more than 180 video streams via IP, all from the McAllen HUB to Entravision’s 24 markets across the country.

Because of his leadership and vision, Entravision was able to launch its first five markets within 10 months of the initial project announcement!

Sonny shares his knowledge freely and is always willing to take time to teach and explain.

He is continually promoting broadcast in the community, mentoring master control operators and proctoring exams for them to become SBE certified.

Throughout his career, his ideas and implementation to improve RF have proved to be crucial in growing stations’ over-the-air market coverage, resulting in improved signals and greater audience delivery.

He has literally grown up with our industry, but also recognizes the importance of learning and staying up to date with all technical aspects and trends by studying and sharpening his skills.

His ability to evolve with the ever-expanding needs of not only RF, but also digital and IT, has made him one of the broadcast industry’s most well-rounded engineers.

Sonny Cavazos

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Norm Philips

2021 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2021)

Texas Radio engineering and the name Norm Philips go hand in hand.

Philips started working at the Morehead State University Radio Station while pursuing his degree in Electronics and Radio/TV.

While still in college, he worked at several commercial stations in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

“It was in Ashland, Kentucky in 1973 that I met Norm Philips, ON THE PHONE,” said Dan Halyburton, former Senior VP/General Manager of Group Operations for Susquehanna Radio Corp.

“Norm was doing the night shift at WKEE and I needed a midday jock. I called the request line, told him who I was and asked if he be interested in making the move to WTCR – a 5,000-watt daytimer.

“He told me his real interest was being an engineer, and I said even better! Our chief was talking about retirement and we were building new studios and a new transmitter site.

“Norm made the move…and the move to our new studios cemented our friendship. The new studios were close to complete and the 5KW Gates was moving to the new site when the old 5kw transmitter bit the dust.”

Halyburton and Philips wired the new studio over-night and early the next day, they fired up the transmitter and WTCR was back on the air.

In 1997, Halyburton moved to the PD position at WFMS Indianapolis and he told Susquehanna Radio about a smart young Chief Engineer – Norm Philips.

Philips got the gig and advanced to Regional Engineer over the company’s stations in Ohio and Atlanta.

He transferred to Dallas in 1984 as Regional Market Engineer Manager while overseeing stations in Atlanta and San Francisco.

Susquehanna added stations in Houston in 1986 – and the list of acquisitions kept growing. Philips had his hands in all of them.

Legendary engineer and Susquehanna VP Engineering, Charlie Morgan, built the foundation one of the best built radio-groups in the country – and he mentored Philips.

When Morgan announced his retirement, Philips became Senior VP Engineering for Susquehanna.

He designed and rebuilt studios, transmitters, towers. You name it – Philips has done it.

When Cumulus bought Susquehanna in 2006, he did some contract work for Continental Electronics and eventually was one of two Engineering VPs for GAP and Townsquare Media…managing nearly 200 stations across the US.

After working in the industry for nearly 50 years, Norm retired in 2016.

Much like Legendary Broadcaster George Marti, Norm Philips inspired a legion of broadcast engineers who are sustaining Radio stations throughout Texas today.

Norm Philips

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David Stewart

2019 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2019)

In the tradition of Broadcast Legend George Marti, TAB’s 2019 Marti Award recipient has been active in nearly every facet of the business.

Broadcast colleagues know David Stewart as the consummate engineer, starting “in the trenches,” while still in high school in his hometown of Lubbock.

The Lubbock Public School System had a series of electronics courses taught by a teacher who moonlighted as a local Radio engineer.

The courses produced several well-trained broadcast engineers who – to this day – serve in technical and ownership positions at Texas Radio and Television stations.

He attended Texas Tech University and served as on-air talent at the campus Radio station and handled master control and engineering for KTXT-TV.

In 1985, Tichenor Media System needed an engineer to work on station startups, as well as restore operations to once successful AM and FM stations across Texas. He would spend nearly 12 years with the media group.

Heftel purchased Tichenor in 1997 and that company morphed into Hispanic Broadcasting, then merged in 2003 with Univision Communications. Stewart stayed with the group through all the transitions.

He served as corporate engineer/director of engineering and VP of engineering for Hispanic Broadcasting and Univision Radio for 13 years.

In that capacity, he oversaw more than 40 engineers from all over Texas.

During his time at Univision, Stewart even helped relocate the FM plant at the Empire State Building in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Stewart was instrumental in the efforts surrounding the Emergency Alert System.

He worked closely with former TAB President Ann Arnold in crafting the Texas State Emergency Alert System plan – as well as helping his fellow broadcasters create their own local plans.

In 2004, he started the Moving Target Consulting Works company, specializing in upgrading AM, FM signals of all sizes for family-owned, owner-operated and estate-owned signals.

In 2007, he became managing member of “Lamesa’s Home Town Radio” KPET-AM-FM.

He’s also a partner in the management group that owns KWFB “BOB FM” Wichita Falls.

“David Stewart is your ideal engineer. Throughout his career, he’s never wavered from providing the best engineer/consulting services, while keeping his values and worth ethic high,” said Bill Cordell, Cordell Communications/KMAT Houston.

David Stewart

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Erik Disen

2018 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2018)

Erik Disen has spent more than 44 years in engineering management supporting Radio stations across the United States.

He recently stepped down as Regional Vice President of Engineering for CBS Radio, now Entercom. He served as Chief Engineer for the Entercom stations in the Dallas-Fort Worth market for more than 20 years.

Industry colleagues say that Disen’s career embodies the concept that you should cherish the past and smartly embrace the future.

He dedicated the past several years of his career to modernizing CBS Radio’s AM transmission facilities throughout the country, including the legendary KRLD-AM Dallas-Fort Worth.

Under his stewardship, Disen modernized all of Entercom’s Dallas-Fort Worth stations to be fully digital, making the sound quality state of the art.

“Erik’s work breathed new life into our stations and ensured they can continue to be clear, reliable sources of news, entertainment and life changing information to millions of daily listeners,” said Brian Purdy, Entercom Regional President.

Over his decades in broadcasting, Disen has mentored countless young (and not-so-young) broadcast engineers, who are accountable and responsible for maintaining technical facilities, licenses and serving communities all over the United States.

Disen’s culture of helpfulness, initiative and volunteerism continues to advance the broadcast industry.

He was integral in working with TAB to position KRLD and Texas State Networks as a key component of the statewide distribution system for emergency alerts.

“Erik’s legacy of excellence is found not just in the fine work he did for so many Radio stations, but also in the team he built that will sustain our operations for years to come,” Purdy said.

“To him, an engineer is not supposed to just support the enterprise, but to lead the way in solving problems and improving efficiency for our team and listeners throughout Texas and our nation.”

Erik Disen

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Errol Coker

2017 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2017)

Texas broadcast engineer Errol Coker has worked at many AM and FM facilities in his 60+ years of being in the industry and he has done it all – engineering, on-air work and management. His long career has always been centered on the quality, integrity and betterment of the art and science of Radio.

He started his career at KNET-AM Palestine on his sixteenth birthday, taking transmitter readings and announcing from the time school was out until 10 pm.

The chief engineer, Jimmy Richardson, mentored him, gave him electronics books and helped him study for his 2nd Class FCC License and later for his 1st Class License.

Coker worked at the studio until he went to college at the University of Houston, majoring in Radio/TV and working at a nearby Hi-Fi store.

The store owner had applied for an FM station license.

Coker went to Beaumont and picked up a GE transmitter that had been stored for several years and worked for months to get the transmitter operational.

The station hit the airwaves on February 2, 1958. KFMK at 97.9 was the first independent FM station in Houston and all the audio equipment was built in Coker’s workshop from Hi-Fi equipment.

Coker met engineer Gerald Chinski at KXYZ-AM, who had a contract to build another new FM station and hired Coker to help with the construction. The new station was KHUL-FM at 95.7 MHz and Coker served as the first chief engineer for that station.

Coker signed KHUL on the air on October 4, 1959 – becoming the first FM station in Houston to broadcast in stereo. Hurricane Carla destroyed their tower and antenna but Coker led the charge to get the station back on the air in five days with a temporary antenna.

While in college, Coker had served as student assistant at KUHF-FM and KUHT-TV. He and the crew of the live, Friday evening program always talked about buying their own station.

They started looking in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas but ended up purchasing KCLW-AM Hamilton 900 AM. They had main studios in Hamilton, but remote studios in Gatesville and Comanche. Long distance, equalized phone lines were very costly at the time.

Coker went to Cleburne and met George Marti; Mr. Marti thought that five guys at 25 or 26 years old with a radio station was great! He helped Coker round up enough used and demo equipment to have Marti equipment instead of phone lines.

Coker moved to Conroe in 1965 and built all new studios (with all new equipment) for KMCO 900 AM. After four years, he moved to Houston’s KNUZ-AM and KQUE-FM.

KQUE was one of several FM stations licensed for super power with 280,000 watts H&V and had 16 bays horizontal and 16 bays vertical fed by two 20 KW transmitters.

He returned to KMCO after five years and oversaw construction of an entirely new site and building as well as two additional stations, towers and transmitters.

In the late 1980s, Coker took over Bill Cordell’s position as technical director for the Rusk Corporation (KTRH/KLOL Houston) when Cordell elected to go full time into his communications and broadcasting engineering business.

“Over the years, Errol has proven his zeal and passion for Radio. He is known for his impeccable workmanship in all projects, while focusing on the task at hand,” Cordell said.

“Like Mr. George Marti, Errol is pragmatic and to the point. And like George Marti, one of the most colorful and kind gentlemen you will find.”

Coker has spent the last 12 years working for Bruce Munsterman and helping build the KHCB-FM Radio Network. The network now consists of 43 radio stations serving Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, as well as two in Florida.

“Over the years, Errol has worked tirelessly for commercial and non-commercial stations alike, regardless of format, class or size of station,” Munsterman said.

“One of the amazing qualities is his ability to learn, adapt and recommend the best of standards in a changing industry. From wire recorders and cart machines to digital boards and such, Errol has seen huge changes over the years. But he has always kept quality and a good work ethic as his key contributions in a business where the temptation to cut corners is always prevalent.”

Errol Coker

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Mike Wenglar

2016 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2016)

TAB’s 2016 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence honors one of the hardest working engineers in Texas broadcasting – in both Television and Radio…and photography!

Like many broadcasters, Mike Wenglar’s interest in all things electronic and the world of broadcasting began early in his life.

He was born and raised in El Campo and during his sophomore year of high school began working at KULP-AM 1390 doing a show called “Mike’s Corner.”

In addition to his duties at KULP, he worked part-time as a police officer and crime/accident scene photographer for the El Campo Police Department.

After high school, he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Biloxi, Miss. He continued to do his radio show via tape until he was sent to a base in Germany.

After leaving the Air Force, Wenglar returned to El Campo and began working with his father’s plumbing business. A friend told him about a new television station coming to Austin.

He applied as an engineer/technician at KVUE-TV (even though it would pay less than his plumbing job) and in 1971, he helped sign the station on the air. After only four months, he was named chief engineer, a position he held until being named vice president/chief engineer in 1989.

Mike Wenglar first crossed paths with George Marti in the 1970s. Working on the weekends for an RF testing and integration company, Wenglar would accompany the owner (Bob Williams) to do studio and transmitter installations, drafting, RF measurement and other technical tasks.

Wenglar said the highlight of his job was to take the testing equipment up north to Cleburne – to the Marti RPU factory.

Throughout the day, Wenglar would do FCC-type acceptance testing on Marti’s new transmitter inventions.

Marti’s radios never failed the required tests leading Wenglar to say, “Cleburne is a nice little town with one brilliant man!”

In 1993, Gannett Broadcasting awarded him their most prestigious engineering award for his outstanding contributions to KVUE-TV’s success.

In 1998, Wenglar saw a need for a task-specific IFB telephone after seeing news departments and other remote crews use a touchpad telephone with a concoction of adapters and transformers to give the field talent an earpiece for IFB. He knew there HAD to be a better way,

Wenglar developed the belt-pack worn QTEL IFB phone, a small box the size of a portable two-way radio. It quickly became popular with TV stations, networks and uplink operators all over the world.

He also saw a need for a battery-powered stereo VU meter with a stereo phase display. This unit, known as the “FieldVU,” became a popular device for field news and satellite truck operators to troubleshoot analog audio problems in the field.

In 2009, Wenglar constructed a streaming video box for doing live remotes instead of using ENG vans for spot news coverage.

The hardware was really not ready for prime time, but this two cellular card system worked as long as there was not too much cellular traffic at the location.

The unit was used to cover severe weather with large hail in northwest Austin, as well as the Echelon building plane crash in February 2010. KVUE-TV was first on the scene with this instant video streaming of the crash aftermath.

Station news crews still call the unit “The Wenglar Box.”

Today, this technology is almost used more than live ENG/SNG units.

In 2006, KVUE-TV honored Wenglar with an award for 35 years of outstanding work.

“Throughout his years of service, Mike has been instrumental in creating and maintaining one of the most respected television stations in the state of Texas. I affectionately called him ‘the backbone’ of KVUE-TV,” said Patti C. Smith, former KVUE-TV president and general manager.

Wenglar retired from the station in April 2016 after 45 years.

Throughout his career, Wenglar has been a tireless volunteer for the TAB – everything from helping with construction of the TAB building, assisting with the state EAS Plan and serving as the official photographer for TAB events.

In 1999, TAB awarded Wenglar with a Special President’s Award for his tireless dedication and volunteer efforts.

Broadcasters presented him with the Pioneer of the Year Award in 2011.

In 2000, Wenglar had the opportunity to purchase KULP, his hometown radio station. His goal was to keep it the same as he remembered it.

The station still features the popular polka-time, swap-shop and local sports programming – three staples of small town radio.

In 2011, Wharton County proclaimed November 20 as “Mike Wenglar Day.”

His passion for KULP and his eye to detail and engineering excellence has created a facility that would be the envy of most broadcasters.

His managing partner, Stephen Zetsche, handles the day-to-day business of the station.

One KULP alum from Houston asked Zetsche, “You have better equipment than we do – and we’re a big company? How do you do it?”

Zetsche replied, “It’s easy. I have Mike Wenglar!”

Mike Wenglar

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Harry Thielemann, Jr.

2015 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2015)

Without engineers, there simply would be no broadcast.

And for many in South Texas, there is no engineer like Harry Thielemann, Jr. – widely known and respected as the Dean of the broadcast engineering community in the southern reaches of the state.

While much of Thielemann’s 46-year career in the broadcast industry has been based in the Rio Grande Valley, he got his start far from there at the Delaware Technical and Community College and the University of Delaware.

His first job in 1969 at WBOC AM-FM-TV in Salisbury, MD, proved fertile ground for mastering new technologies as he led the TV station’s conversion to color and was one of the first to introduce FM radio in the region. He also set up “DJ-assist” systems, the forerunner of today’s automated studios.

In 1983, he was promoted to Chief Engineer when Draper Communications purchased the stations. Draper acquired KGBT-TV Harlingen in 1990 and Thielemann transferred to South Texas with the company where he was introduced to his first VHF facility. He quickly began modernizing the operations with TV stereo audio and eventually led the station’s DTV transition.

In 2006, he accepted the position of Chief Engineer for Entravision Communications in South Texas, then led by Sonny Cavazos. He has since dedicated himself to sustaining and improving the group’s radio and television operations on both sides of the southern tip of the Texas-Mexico border.

This cluster of four FM stations and two full-power and four low-power TV stations – all under one roof – represents one of the largest broadcast operations anywhere in the country. The responsibility of maintaining and troubleshooting the infrastructure is immense and Thielemann relies on creativity and teamwork to ensure the group’s overall community service mission succeeds.

Despite the heavy weight of this responsibility, Thielemann routinely lends his expertise to other broadcast operations in the market in the interest of furthering the broadcast engineering expertise in the area and advancing the industry’s service to one of the poorest regions of the state.

His dedication to education and innovation doesn’t stop there, as more than a few equipment vendors have learned when he modified their products to overcome glitches and integrate them with other products.

One such project involved protecting equipment from lightning damage. A suite of systems routinely experienced problems with lightning and, after meeting with heavy resistance from the manufacturer, Thielemann made several modifications that averted additional failures.

Six months later he received calls from the equipment salesman asking about the status of their equipment. It was operating flawlessly.

When Thielemann learned that all the vendor’s installations had a problem with lightning he agreed to assist them and saved their product.

With all the stations and six network affiliations, Thielemann cites as one of his biggest challenges the rate at which technology changes.

Being a lifelong learner, the short lifespan of new equipment poses as much excitement as frustration.

“Live news programming must be delivered with flawless execution. The latest tools, lighting and cameras are items most viewers never see, but allow the teams to succeed in a competitive news landscape where ratings influence substantial revenues,” said Christopher Moncayo, Entravision SVP.

“Harry’s ability to address any issue is a talent and quality that comes with experience.”

Thielemann’s passion for taking the stations into the future extends to finding the next generation of broadcast engineers.

He routinely participates in job fairs and other employment programs to showcase the equipment and processes broadcast engineers use on a daily basis.

All his TV and radio stations are firmly entrenched in serving the community and he continues to be inspired by the fact that his engineering plays a key role in helping the stations do just that.

A strong advocate for TAB’s efforts on stations’ behalf, Thielemann serves as an industry ambassador of sorts as he models the best that broadcast engineering offers the local community.

Harry Thielemann

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Jack Sellmeyer

2014 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2014)

George Marti is a true Texas broadcasting pioneer and has taught, mentored and set the bar for generations of broadcast engineers in Texas and across the nation.

The first recipient of the George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence has enthusiastically followed in his footsteps.

Jack Sellmeyer epitomizes engineering excellence.  

He’s one of the few engineers with experience in the broadcast equipment manufacturing environment, as station engineer and as a consulting engineer. 

Engineers say he “wrote the book” on many of the practices and procedures that they use today.

In addition, he pioneered the use of such techniques as moment-method modeling of AM directional antennas.

Sellmeyer was 15 years old when he started at KPBM as a summer relief guy in his hometown of Carlsbad, NM.

After an enormous amount of persuasion – aka “pestering” – of the chief engineer at Channel 6 in Carlsbad, Sellmeyer was finally hired. 

He wound up building the audio console and wiring all the audio gear.  He considered this an excellent opportunity to learn and spent his summers working full-time there.

In June 1956, Sellmeyer began doing “grunt work” for KAVE Carlsbad, but went on to various positions in the engineering department.

He spent several years in Las Cruces as chief engineer at KGRT.  In 1960, he oversaw the construction of a new on-air and production studio and installation of a new transmitter for a power increase to 5-kw plant from a 1-kw plant.

He also modified several “retired” land mobile VHF radios for use as “broadcast quality” remote pickup systems.  He designed and constructed a remote studio which would fit in a Corvair Greenbrier van.

The unit also was used on scene for promotions and operated in conjunction with the modified VHF land mobile remote pickup system.  It contributed a considerable amount of revenue to the station.

In 1964, Sellmeyer constructed a facility for KRWG at New Mexico A&M College. 

While completing his education at Arizona State University, as chief engineer of KRUS in Glendale, he built new facilities for the station.

Sellmeyer supported an overseas military communications program until January 1967.  He transferred into broadcast product support and traveled to radio stations using Collins equipment to assist in troubleshooting unusual problems and restoring operations of off-air stations.

In 1969, Sellmeyer went to work for Gates in Quincy, Illinois.  As a Senior Engineer in the FM Engineering Department, he developed the modulator and Automatic Frequency Control modules for the TE-1 Solid State FM Exciter to correct frequency stability problems.  Additionally, he worked on advanced development of high power FM amplifiers.

As Chief Engineer at WGAR Cleveland, Sellmeyer not only managed personnel, but also constructed transmitters, designed circuitry, prepared procurement documents, supervised construction of a new antenna system and oversaw construction of a new three studio plant.

After three years there, he returned to Collins Radio in Dallas as senior engineer and helped return the company to profitability.

In addition, he developed a series of three audio consoles for the radio market in the mid 1970s.  He’s the co-inventor of the patented automatic modulation sensitivity control.  With his help, Collins garnered three patents. 

When Collins Radio closed its doors Sellmeyer decided to “hang out his shingle” with his own consulting firm in McKinney.

Like George Marti, Sellmeyer has been deeply involved in educational work to assist other engineers.  
He’s acted as a friend and mentor, always willing to share his vast array of knowledge to better serve the engineering community.

His ability to make complex issues easy for GMs, owners and others has made him active in educational work at many NAB technical seminars and workshops, especially in the area of AM directional antennas. 

He’s a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. 

The NAB honored Sellmeyer with their Radio Engineering Achievement Award in 2009 for a lifetime of work.
Sellmeyer always remembers the great advice he received from Bill Taylor, principal owner of KGRT in Las Cruces and KBIM Roswell.

Taylor’s theory he passed onto new employees: “Consider the business like a three-legged stool.  One leg is programming, one is sales and one leg is engineering. 

Without all three working at the same level, the stool is not level.  And if one of them is missing, it falls over.”

As a consulting engineer, Jack Sellmeyer makes sure the engineering leg of the stool always stands strong.

Jack Sellmeyer

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