Mark Persons, CPBE AMD CBNT, has spent his entire
life around broadcast engineering. His father,
Charles B. Persons, worked in radio engineering as
far back as the 1920s, and one of Mark’s earliest
projects was helping his dad build KVBR(AM) in
Brainerd, Minn., in the 1960s, when the son was just
16. It is in his DNA.
Mark Persons in his natural environment.
A half-century later, Persons has been named the
Robert W. Flanders SBE Engineer of the Year for
2018. The award recognizes a member who has excelled
in his or her career while furthering the mission of
Radio World spoke with Persons about his lifelong
career in radio.
As far as his technical knowledge, Persons is
largely self-taught. “I was never much for formal
education,” he said. “Whenever I had a new project,
I just figured it out as I went along. My dad also
taught me a lot, and I built around 30 Heathkits.”
Persons also became involved with amateur radio at
age 16. “It’s just a natural extension of being an
engineer,” he said. “Back in the day, virtually all
broadcast engineers were hams.” He built most of the
equipment and was always more interested in making
circuits work than talking on the radio.
He made a brief exodus from broadcasting to serve a
stint in the U.S. Army. Persons taught electronic
component-level troubleshooting at Ft. Monmouth.
N.J., and then spent a year in Vietnam as
sergeant-in-charge of an avionics repair shop,
keeping OV-1 Mohawk surveillance aircraft flying.
MORE THAN A JOB
His broadcasting career took an unusual turn when he
returned to civilian life. After working briefly in
his family-owned station and doing contracting on
the side, he jumped into contract engineering full
In his shop in 1967 …
“The timing was right,” he said. “In the late
’70s, the FCC began deregulating the industry, and
stations weren’t required to have a full-time
engineer on staff. I always treated the engineering
business as a profession. I dressed the part and
acted the part, and soon got a reputation as the guy
who could build and fix things. I started out
covering the entire state of Minnesota, but
gradually had to shrink my service radius as the
customer base grew.”
Persons and his wife Paula wound up taking care of
more than 100 stations. Along the way, he built 12
stations, mostly in the Midwest. That work included
building phasors from the ground up for four new AM
directional stations. While this was going on,
countless other stations were rebuilt or upgraded.
Radio World readers know his articles featuring
technical tips; he has written over 175 engineering
articles for regional and national publications, and
was involved in the design of eight broadcast
products manufactured by Zercom Corp., including the
Max-Z Remote Broadcast Telephone.
… and 1988.
At age 71, Persons has closed his contracting
business and declares himself formally retired.
Nevertheless, he continues his interest and
involvement with broadcasting, as a mentor to four
young broadcast engineers and as a participant in
the NRSC’s committee on AM improvement. He also
www.mwpersons.com featuring answers to many
SBE’s national meeting this year will be held in
October near Boston. The Engineer of the Year award
was named for the late Robert W. Flanders in 2011;
he was director of engineering at WRTV(TV) in
Indianapolis for many years and was fifth president
of the SBE.
Six winners of the SBE Chapter Engineer of the Year
Awards were automatically nominated for this
national honor. Persons represented Chapter 17.