Get to Know Sarkes Tarzian’s Geoff Vargo

Geoff Vargo’s first job broadcasting job was as a part-time DJ. Now, he is a man with many titles: Executive Vice President of Sarkes Tarzian, Inc. (ST), President Radio Group, President and General Manager of WGCL-AM and WTTS-FM and member of the Sarkes Tarzian Board of Directors.

His primary responsibilities are managing the day-to-day operations of WGCL and WTTS as well as working with General Manager Lee Tobin in Fort Wayne on the strategic planning, operation and management of WAJI-FM, WLDE-FM and WAJI HD2.  

Geoff’s Career Path

Geoff’s first experience in radio was at his alma mater, the University of Dayton. In 1970, he was hired by his program director, Chris Cage, as a part-time weekend disc jockey for the university-owned 50,000 watt commercial station, WVUD-FM.

To this day, Geoff cites Cage as one of the most influential people in his life.

“(Cage) taught me about programming and the importance of owning what comes out of the speakers. He also instilled a competitive spirit in my radio work life,” he said.

Geoff worked at WVUD as an undergraduate at Dayton and after graduation, George Biersack, chairman of the communication arts department and general manager of the station at the time, hired him as a salesperson and a speech instructor for his department. Shortly after, Geoff began programming the station as well. 

Around this point in his life, Geoff said he “was lucky enough to meet the love of [his] life at the university, Sue Strack” and “squeezed in a wedding in 1975.” They both began working on their master’s degrees at night shortly after marriage and, in 1977, he was hired for his first general manager position by a consortium of owners that purchased an FM start up in Dayton, WDJX-FM. He managed the station until being hired as an associate professor and general manager of WVUD by Dayton.

Later, he was hired by his current employer, Sarkes Tarzian, to manage its FM station in Fort Wayne, WPTH-FM (which is now WAJI-FM). He was promoted to President Radio Group in 1988 and moved to Bloomington to manage both WGCL and WTTS. This upcoming August his 36th year with the company.

Geoff credits Tom Tarzian, Sarkes Tarzian CEO, with giving him opportunities not only to manage the company’s radio properties but also to experience the workings of a broadcast company as a member of the corporate management team and board of directors.

IBA Involvement and the Future of Broadcasting

Geoff said he is involved with the Indiana Broadcasters Association because the basic governance responsibilities for board members fits well with Tarzian’s beliefs about their industry. He wanted to be part of an organization that would work at promoting the industry’s well-being and “the lunches at the quarterly board meetings aren’t bad either,” he joked.

Goeff believes the main benefit is the IBA’s advocacy for its members and their business.

“All the IBA’s benefits revolve around this umbrella,” he said, “including being our industry’s ‘voice’ with the state General Assembly, both House and Senate in Washington and the FCC, (and) main coordinator for the State EAS Plan.”

Geoff also said the IBA promotes the industry with college students with its scholarship program and statewide job fairs.

Despite the difficulty of predicting change, Geoff said it is essential that owners and managers are flexible, ready and willing to change in order to keep the industry a vital part of communities.

“I wish a crystal ball was available! Change on so many fronts is happening at a rapid clip,” he said. 

A Family Man

Vargo and his wife, Sue, have two sons, Andy and Christopher. Andy is an Indiana University grad and commercial photographer living in Denver. Christopher is married, and both he and his wife are professional ultra-marathon runners sponsored by Hoka. They live, coach and train in Flagstaff, AZ and are about to make Geoff a grandfather later this summer.

In the midst of all his broadcasting work, Geoff finds time for golf and guitar, though said he plays them both “not well.”  Additionally, he is a self-proclaimed “frustrated photo-artist” and dreams that some of his creations will be collectables.

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