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WBGO Mourns the Loss of Chris Tobin, Our Chief Technology Officer and Radio Engineer


Chris Tobin, WBGO’s Chief Technology Officer, died on Saturday. He was 59.

The cause was a heart attack, which Chris suffered while overseeing the installation of a new HVAC system at the station, in Newark, N.J.

His passing was met with shock and deep sadness by the staff of WBGO, who knew Chris as a brilliant engineer, an instinctive problem solver and an irrepressibly positive colleague. “A consummate professional who took pride in his work,” recalls longtime host Rhonda Hamilton. “I never knew him to say an unkind word or complain about the many challenges he faced in keeping the station running as smoothly as possible.”

Christopher Tobin was born on Aug. 4, 1961. He grew up in New York City, and fell in love with radio from an early age. “As a small tot, I enjoyed the magic of the box on the kitchen table in my house,” he recalled in a https://youtu.be/AUQBPG6A8y8">2013 interview with the GFQ Network. “Trying to figure out how somebody can talk to me through this thing that sits on the kitchen table with one wire coming out of it, the power cord.”

A lifelong tinkerer, Chris got involved in broadcasting at a school radio station. He was entirely self-taught as an engineer — an obsessive reader of magazines like Popular Mechanics and Scientific American, and a beneficiary of trial and error. He also logged time behind a microphone, learning both sides of the radio equation.

His first job came through a friend referral, at a small station in Connecticut. His next job was on Long Island, and from there he made the move to New York City — stepping up to the ABC Radio Network, in a job as Data Systems Manager. His work subsequently took him to CBS Radio (1010 WINS) and Westwood One. He was also co-host of This Week in Radio Tech, a weekly podcast for broadcast engineering professionals.

Chris came to WBGO as Chief Engineer in March of 2015, and left a deep impact on the organization. Among other things, he helped develop the station’s video capacities, streamlined our operations, and handled the logistical curveball of this year’s pandemic lockdown.

“WBGO’s successful transition to remote operations, necessitated by the outbreak of COVID-19, couldn’t have happened without Chris’ ingenuity, creativity and expertise,” attests Steve Williams, our incoming president and CEO. “His drive to keep us on the air was, of course, the common instinct of a veteran broadcaster. But his humanity and humility was unique — he genuinely cared about the health and welfare of his colleagues, and traveled many miles out of his way, personally delivering computers, microphones, CDs and all the necessary tools to make sure everyone had everything they needed to work effectively from home.”

Credit Isaiah McClain / WBGO
Chris Tobin at WBGO on Dec. 11, 2020.

“He was a wonderful person to work with – cheerful, positive, energetic and always generous with his time,” says Bob Ottenhoff, Interim President & CEO of WBGO. “What made him so exceptional as our CTO was the combination of technical skills and his appreciation of what it takes to create excellent content. He was always innovative and creative in whatever he did and made tremendous contributions to WBGO’s success. He will be sorely missed.”

Chris Tobin’s contributions will continue to carry WBGO forward, and his spirit lives on along with his memory. “I was always learning,” he recalled in the 2013 interview with GFQ, “reinventing myself, reinventing the knowledge, learning and learning.”