Morning wake-up show personality with a great sense of humor. Began a tradition of honoring listener birthdays by making on-air wake-up calls to them on their special day. Often hosted the Sound Off program.
In February 2004, when I caught up with him, Tom was in Indianapolis as Vice President and General Manager of WIBC radio and the Network Indiana and AgriAmerica radio networks. He had been in those management positions since June 1994 when Emmis Communications bought WIBC and WNOU.
WIBC is the rights holder to the Indiana Pacers, the Fever, Indy 500, Brickyard 400, the IRL and the U.S. Grand Prix Indy. It operates the largest newsroom in Indiana (WIBC is the flagship station for the statewide news network, Network Indiana).
Prior to his time in Indianapolis, Tom spent more than five years as General Manager of WCKY in Cincinnati. Before that, he worked 7-1/2 years as Vice President and General Manager of WIRE, WXTZ, Network Indiana, and was Director of FM stations for Mid-America Media.
He also served as Vice President of WFOG, Norfolk, Virginia. He began his career as a morning personality and news director at WRWR. He was also an account executive and local sales manager for ABC’s WRIF in Detroit and WDAI in Chicago. He graduated from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, in 1973.
Unfortunately, Tom died of cancer July 5, 2009. His obituary gives the reader a sense of the man and his attitude toward life.
July 9, 2009: Nationally recognized radio executive, active community leader and beloved husband, father and friend Tom Severino succumbed to cancer on July 5 after a determined and inspiring five-month fight. At the time of his death, Tom was serving as Vice President and Market Manager of Emmis Radio in Indianapolis.
A quick wit who never passed up the opportunity for a practical joke, Tom blended his sense of humor with a strong, focused leadership style to create successful and devoted radio teams. He led and lived with energy, enthusiasm and, typically, a big grin. “He had a passion for life,” his wife, Linda, said. “He enjoyed everything he did.”
Tom grew up in Cleveland and started his radio career fresh out of Murray State University in 1973, taking to the airwaves as the morning voice and news director of WRWR in Port Clinton, Ohio. That beginning launched a more than 30-year career during which Tom worked as an air personality, account executive, retail sales manager, station manager, general manager, market manager and radio group vice president in a variety of markets.
Tom and Linda married in June of 1977; two years later, the couple found themselves in what would ultimately become “home,” Indianapolis. Tom arrived on the Indy radio scene in 1979, spending seven and a half years here as Vice President and General Manager of WIRE, WXTZ, Network Indiana, and Director of FM Stations for Mid-America Media.
He left for a few years in 1986 to work in other markets, spending time with the American Broadcasting Company at WRIF Detroit, Mich., at WDAI in Chicago, Ill., and in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he spent five and a half years as general manager of NewsTalk WCKY and Adult Contemporary Majic 92.5. Under his leadership, WCKY was the 1993 Marconi Award winner for Large Market Station of the Year.
It would not be Tom’s only Marconi achievement. Tom returned to Indianapolis to join Emmis Communications in June 1994, and climbed through the ranks to lead the radio group to many successes. His most recent role put him in direct responsibility for radio stations WIBC 93.1, WLHK 97.1, WFNI 1070, WYXB 105.7, and Network Indiana. With Tom at the helm, in 2003, WIBC received the Marconi Award for Medium Market Station of the Year. In 2005, the NAB recognized WIBC with two Marconi Awards – one for NewsTalkSports Station of the Year and the other for Legendary Station. In January of 2004, Radio Ink Magazine presented Tom the 2004 Radio Wayne Award for General Manager of the Year. Tom has been named as one of the top 50 General Managers in America by Radio Ink Magazine since 1998. He was also ranked #1 in 2003 and 2004, in the Medium Market Category.
“As a man and as a radio professional, Tom exemplified the values on which Emmis was built,” said Jeff Smulyan, Emmis CEO, and Tom’s longtime friend. “I’ll miss him.”
As Tom was building his successful radio career, he also was becoming a community asset. Locally, he served on boards and committees for Indianapolis and Central Indiana nonprofit organizations and oversaw the development of programs raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities.
Personally, he took special pride in his work as a member of the board of the 500 Festival – and in the opportunity to drive the Corvette provided to board members during the month of May.
Tom’s success in radio and community activity was overshadowed by only one thing: his passion for family and friends. He and Linda have three children: Tom, of Bloomington, Ind.; Carly, of Chicago; and Tony, of Indianapolis. He is also survived by his sister Marian Mantel of Cleveland, and brothers Joe Severino, of Cleveland, and Tony Severino, of Kansas City, Kan.
Tom is the son of the late Joseph and Rose Foliano Severino of Cleveland. Tom seized any opportunity to spend time with the people he loved. As his children grew up, he coached teams and enjoyed school activities. He also enjoyed gardening and growing flowers, but his favorite hobby, Linda says with a laugh, was “annoying people.”
A calling will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Emmis headquarters, 1 Emmis Plaza, 40 Monument Circle, Suite 700. A funeral mass will be held at Holy Rosary Church, 520 Stevens St., Indianapolis, at 10 a.m. Friday. Arrangements were entrusted to Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center, Broad Ripple.
Published in The Indianapolis Star on July 9, 2009
Weekday evening personality originally from Sandusky. Moved to new startup station KADQ in Rexburg, Idaho, after a few years.
Tom is shown above during 1975 in the WRWR air studio. Two turntables are to his right; the control board and main station microphone are behind him. Cartridge machines, the station audio limiter, weather radio receiver, reel-to-reel machines, record bins, and other miscellaneous equipment were at his left.
Tom generously allowed twelve-year-old me to visit the station in the evening hours so I could watch him work and begin to understand how radio stations operate.
John began work at WRWR in 1969 during the summers. They hired him full-time in October 1972 as Sports Director and Announcer.
In 1975, WRWR promoted him to Operations Manager, in charge of scheduling air shifts and some programming. It was around that time that he created the “Vacationland Connection” weekend programming format that promoted weather forecasts four times per hour, along with such features as a fishing report, reports from Put-in-Bay, the Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce, the Coast Guard, etc.
He was the voice of Port Clinton High School sports during the early and mid-1970s. He broadcast such events as the Men’s Bowling Championships, the Ottawa County Track Meet, and High School Wrestling (with Tom Severino at his side).
John left WRWR in 1977 to take the position of General Manager of the Port Clinton Press newspaper. In 1979, he purchased an interest in what was radio station WAWR in Bowling Green (known then as WKIQ, and now as WRQN).
John edits and publishes The Beacon, a free weekly newspaper for Ottawa County, Ohio, and continues the old WRWR program name “Sound Off” through letters-to-the-editor columns.
Randy was the evening show presenter in WRWR’s later years. Moved in 1983 to WCPZ in Sandusky, where he still makes his living working on the air and serving as their very popular morning personality. He recently (2019) celebrated his 36th year anniversary there!
Yes, many other talented people worked at WRWR over the years. Were you one of them, or do you know one of them? Please get in touch! We’re especially interested in collecting more sound recordings of the station. Thanks in advance!