Max Henstell, '09, is one of two California natives who graduated from SUNY Fredonia this May. The former General Manager of WNYF TV, he was a creative and leading force in numerous projects, including the five year plan to convert WNYF to High Definition.
Aug. 24, 2009 -- Most people would say Max Henstell grew up in paradise. What else would you call life in Southern California, just four blocks from Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean?
All that sun and surf would make any winter-weary Western New Yorker envious, but Henstell wanted something unique.
That something was SUNY Fredonia, even though it seemed a world away at the time. Four years later, Max — one of just two members of the Class of 2009 to hail from the Golden State — now holds a degree in TV/Digital Film Design and Production.
“I decided to go somewhere different, and Fredonia was pretty different,” Henstell said. “I didn’t really mind the weather.”
In fact, Fredonia was his first choice, and he actually likes winters here more than those in California. He looked at schools with higher price tags, but in the end Fredonia — ranked as the 48th-best value in the U.S. for out-of-state students in 2009 by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine — was a no-brainer.
Despite knowing little about television, Henstell joined the WNYF-TV staff following the Fall 2005 Activities Night. He quickly immersed himself in the station, was made its chief engineer as just a second-semester freshman, and was promoted to general manager his senior year.
“He really excelled at representing the station and achieving major goals,” said John McCune, ’01, staff adviser to WNYF, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this fall during Homecoming.
Tucked in the basement of Hendrix Hall, WNYF helps students learn all aspects of how a TV station is run. Its alumni have gone on to work in markets such as Las Vegas, Hollywood and New York, and join such prestigious organizations as ABC News, ESPN and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
WNYF students produce original dramas, talk shows and sporting events. Last year cooking and music video shows were added, which Henstell said were very popular. Bands performing live gigs in studio or around town were also added, and “Late Nite Fredonia,” a talk show that featured President Dennis Hefner among its guests, was revived.
Henstell also began broadcasting Rockin’ the Commons, a music festival staged in the heart of the village to benefit Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He oversaw the renovation of WNYF’s production facilities as well, and organized the airing of Fredonia State Hockey’s “Pink the Rink” cancer awareness promotion during a Buffalo Sabres broadcast in 2008, which generated coast-to-coast coverage for the university.
Blue Devil hockey also served as an inspiration. Hauling equipment to Steele Hall every game was always a hassle, so Max designed and built a video cart large enough to accommodate every device — from cameras to computers that run graphics and scoreboards — needed for remote broadcasts.
He also initiated WNYF’s transition to high definition video. Working with McCune, Max and his colleagues presented a plan that earned the support of the Student Association — to the tune of $34,000 to begin the five-year transition.
“We won their hearts, and they graciously granted us money for the cameras,” Henstell recalled.
He later updated WNYF’s website to provide easy access to program information and schedules, officer listings and contact information.
Amazingly, Max’s campus involvement hasn’t been limited to WNYF. If there was an event that required on-site lighting or sound, you’d be sure to see him there, donning a headset as a member of Sound Services. As equipment manager and later promotions manager, Max helped bring dozens of events to life, including Latino festivals, a cappella performances, and the three-day “Battle of the Bands”.
He also found time to work at Academic Information Technology (AIT), which provides multimedia services to students, faculty and staff, as well as ResNet, an information technology help desk on campus.
Henstell counts Vince Quatroche (electronic media writing) and Kay McDonough (video/film documentaries) among his favorite Fredonia professors. He also credits Art Walker, AIT’s video engineer, as a key reason he was able to earn an internship with a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles last year.
“I really learned a lot from them,” Henstell said.
Now that he has earned his degree, Max is keeping his options open as to what his next steps might be. He remained in Fredonia this past summer, helping to prepare new WNYF General Manager Tim Hawco for next year. Ultimately, Max hopes to work as an engineer or cameraman at a network or cable operation.