The Innovator Award

“A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.”
            --Oliver Wendell Holmes

Through great ideas come great results. The early pioneers of physics, acoustics, electronics and telephony forged their ideas through innovative thought. The same is true today with individuals who further the science of radio broadcasting.

The Innovator Award was created to recognize the individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the radio broadcast industry through the development, design and introduction of technology that further advances the science of radio broadcasting. The recipient of the Innovator Award has shown unique vision and understanding of the radio broadcast industry. This insight has helped the recipient to develop products and services that have shaped and continue to evolve the technology of radio broadcast engineering.

The five people profiled on the following pages have been nominated as candidates to receive the first BE Radio Innovator Award. All of them have made important contributions to radio broadcast engineering. They represent the spirit of ingenuity. These individuals have demonstrated exceptional creativity and inventiveness in their work.

Their collective work spans the entire radio broadcast signal chain, covering all aspects of capturing, storing, modifying and transmitting sound to radio listeners. It is likely that you have used a product that was the result of the efforts of at least one if not all of the nominees.

Please read the nominations on the next few pages and consider the accomplishments of each of them. Consider the contributions of each and how those contributions have augmented and propelled radio forward to the next level. Once you have considered each nominee, please cast your vote. The results of the Innovator Award will be announced at the NAB Radio Show in Seattle in September and in the October issue of BE Radio. The nominees are listed alphabetically.

Voting for the 2002 Innovator Award is now closed. Thank you for casting your vote. The winner will be announced at the NAB Radio Show in Seattle on September 12, 2002, at 5:00 p.m., and will be announced in the October 2002 issue.

Kevin Lockhart, CEO
Prophet Systems Innovations
Ogallala, Nebraska


Kevin Lockhart is the founder and CEO of Prophet Systems Innovations, an Ogallala, Nebraska-based company that produces digital automation systems for the broadcast and entertainment industries.

Lockhart was born in North Platte, NE, on October 12, 1962. He attended Ogallala Public Schools, graduating in 1980. He studied business at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Lockhart was enlisted in the U.S. Army from 1986 to 1989, serving as a helicopter crew chief and attaining the rank of E-4.

A member of a longtime broadcasting family, Lockhart literally grew up in the radio industry. Over the years, he gained experience in all areas of the business, working as a disc jockey, sportscaster, engineering technician, sales representative and manager. Lockhart's unique combination of radio experience and technical expertise led to the creation of completely new technology. He is a pioneer in the digital era that has changed the face of broadcasting.

In 1989, Lockhart's father, Ray Lockhart, was looking for a way to replace outmoded and unreliable analog equipment at the family's radio stations in Nebraska and Colorado. Kevin Lockhart designed a system that stored audio directly on computer hard drive, and Prophet Systems was born.

Since then, Kevin Lockhart has directed development of all broadcast products, which have included Audio Prophet, Audio Wizard, Wizard For Windows, and NexGen Digital Broadcast. Prophet Systems broadcast systems are installed at 1,409 radio stations worldwide. The company has grown from one-full time and one part-time employee to over 110 employees.

Prophet Systems' central file server concept, coupled with the deregulation of radio station ownership in 1996, established the company as the leading digital automation provider in radio group consolidations. Capstar Broadcasting Group purchased Prophet Systems in 1998. Prophet Systems is now a division of Clear Channel. Users of Prophet Systems' technology include Rick Dees and Rush Limbaugh.

Awards, Honors and Distinctions:

Kevin Lockhart, 2001 Entrepreneur of the Year; Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship Prophet Systems Innovations, 2001 Outstanding Industry; Nebraska Diplomats, Dept. of Economic Development Prophet Systems Innovations, 2001 Best Exhibit; International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions

Geoffrey N. Mendenhall, P.E., Vice President, Advanced Product Development
Harris Broadcast Communications
Mason, Ohio


Geoff Mendenhall has been involved with the design of broadcast equipment for more than 35 years. Mendenhall graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology with a degree in electrical engineering. While at Georgia, Geoff designed, hand-built, and FCC type-accepted, WREK, the institute's student FM station's 425W FM broadcast transmitter, kicking off his broadcast career.

As the broadcast industry's leading expert on FM transmission, Mendenhall has contributed to improvements in the technical quality of FM broadcast transmitters for over 25 years. First known for the development of the Harris MS-15 FM exciter in 1976, followed by the Broadcast Electronics FX-30 in 1980, the BE FX-50 in 1989, the Harris DIGIT CD, all-digital FM exciter introduced in 1994 and most recently the new Harris DEXSTAR IBOC exciter. Each of these exciters, in its own time, became the industry standard. Today, more than 10,000 FM exciters on the air worldwide, carry Geoff Mendenhall's design innovations.

Mendenhall has also had a major impact on the design of modern FM transmitter power amplifiers, including many innovations in high-efficiency, high-power, single tube, RF amplifiers and solid-state RF driver systems. His work on high-power amplifier input and output circuits have improved the bandwidth of FM transmitters significantly, making them nearly transparent to the FM signal from the exciter. He more recently has pushed solid-state technology to the point were a 10kW solid-state transmitter is now as affordable as a transmitter with older tube technology.

Some of his key contributions to the FM broadcast industry include the following:

  • Introduced circuit enhancements such as the TCXO, dual-speed phase-locked loop, ultra-linear modulated oscillator, and balanced composite baseband input to broadcast FM exciters.
  • Brought the first totally digital FM exciter with digital audio input and uncompressed, 950MHz, digital STL to market.
  • Technical papers and chapter contributions to broadcast texts.

Awards, Honors and Distinctions:

Recipient of the 1999 NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award

Holder of four U.S. patents for broadcast equipment innovations

Registered Professional Engineer (Illinois)

Senior Member of IEEE

Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE)

Eugene Novacek, P.E., President
ENCO Systems
Southfield, Michigan


Eugene Novacek, P.E. founded ENCO Systems in 1983, after completing his undergraduate and graduate work in Engineering from MIT - The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The 80's found ENCO providing custom mission critical hardware and software applications to industrial manufacturing facilities. In 1992 ENCO introduced DAD486x, the pioneering graphical interface, hard drive and network-based audio storage and automation system. “DAD” received a Pick Hit award in 1993 from Broadcast Engineering magazine. Gene has made presentations at several international, national and regional broadcast conferences and is widely regarded as an expert in digital audio delivery systems for the broadcast industry.

Since 1992, Novacek and ENCO have been in the forefront of the growth of this industry segment. From promoting the use of non-proprietary hardware to being a co-author of the Cart Chunk standard for audio file transfer, to creating a programming language in an audio delivery product and redefining what it means to be responsive to customer needs; Gene has led, and in some cases pushed, this industry segment. Gene remains committed to open standards and communications between systems and utilizing customer requests to drive new development.

Gene continues to program and actively manage the day-to-day operations of ENCO Systems, Inc. in his hometown of Southfield, Michigan and the new ENCO Systems, Ltd. Operation near London, England. He has assembled and maintains a team with the same core values of excellence, responsiveness and attention to customer needs. Gene Novacek is an innovator, who has driven a large amount of the digital hard drive storage improvements and innovations over the past decade.

Awards, Honors and Distinctions:

In 1993 DAD received the Pick Hit Award from Broadcast Engineering magazine.

Robert Orban, Vice President and Chief Engineer
San Leandro, California


Robert Orban received the B.S.E.E. degree from Princeton University in 1967 and the M.S.E.E. degree from Stanford University in 1968. In 1970, he founded Orban Associates originally as a manufacturer of studio equipment. In 1975, Orban Associates introduced the original Optimod-FM 8000, which was the first in a long line of innovative broadcast audio processors from the company. In addition to Optimod 8100, 8100XT, 9000, and 9100, Orban also designed most of the studio products from the company, including a stereo enhancer and various spring reverbs, de-essers, and parametric equalizers. In 1989, Orban Associates, Inc. was acquired by AKG Acoustics, which, in turn, acquired the assets of dbx Professional Products in 1991. After this acquisition, Orban was heavily involved in the design of the dbx Project 1 processors, including compressors, a mic processor, and a parametric equalizer. Several patents resulted from this work. Orban remains actively working for the successor company, Orban/CRL, as Vice President (Chief Engineer). Orban was actively involved in the NRSC committee efforts that led to the NRSC-1 and NRSC-2 standards for AM, and has continued his membership in the NRSC to the present day. He has published refereed papers and engineering reports in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, Journal of SMPTE, and Transportation Society of Automotive Engineers. He has also been published extensively in Radio World, BM/E, and other trade press publications. He is the author of the chapter on “Transmission Audio Processing” in the NAB Engineering Handbook, 8th edition. He currently holds 25 U.S. patents.

Awards, Honors and Distinctions:

In 1973, he was elected a Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society. In 1993 he shared with Dolby Laboratories a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1995, he received the NAB Radio Engineering Achievement Award.

Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, Founder
Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. KG
Wedemark, Germany


As founder of Sennheiser Electronic GmbH, Prof. Dr.Fritz Sennheiser brought many of the audio industry's watershed products to market, including the radio standard MD 2 and MD 21 microphones; the world's first shotgun microphone (MD 82); the MD 421 studio microphone with sales of over 400,000 units; the Mikroport wireless microphone system (in 1958); the world's first open-air headphones (HD 414); introduction of infrared transmission technology; Miniaturization of the SK 2012 transmitter and EM 1036 receiver, HiDyn RF noise-reduction technology; Assistive Listing devices; development of the NoiseGard and Digital Infra-red headphones, the evolution microphone assembly line and launch of the highly successful evolution wireless systems; and DVD-quality microphone technology (MKH 800: 20Hz - 50,000kHz). He founded the company in 1945 with a team of seven engineers and built the company up to its present stature of more than 1,400 employees and sales of nearly $200 million worldwide. Today, Sennheiser has four factories, one each in Wedemark and Burgdorf, Germany, one in Tullamore, Ireland, and one in the U.S. in Albuquerque, NM, as well as 10 sales subsidiaries and around 70 sales partners in all continents. Still active in the day-to-day operations of the company, Prof. Dr. Sennheiser recently celebrated his 90th birthday and was presented with the AES Gold Medal at AES Europe 2002.

Awards, Honors, Distinctions

In 1987, Prof. Dr. Sennheiser was awarded a Technical Oscar for the MKH 816 shotgun microphone. Nine years later, the U.S. television industry presented him with an Emmy Award for pioneering achievements in the field of wireless transmission technology. For nearly 20 years, he served in various capacities for the Association for Audio and Video Technology, ZVEI. In 1981 he was awarded the Karmarsch Commemorative Medal by Hanover University.

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