No one embodies the phrase “be proud of who you are and where you are from” more than Jim Waterbury does. James B. Waterbury was born at Allen Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, where his father was Chief of Staff. Although he pursued careers in education and broadcasting, Jim’s path eventually led him full circle to the prestigious institution where his life began. Jim Waterbury is known for his passion for the community and his capacity for leading and mentoring those around him. Perhaps a career in formal education ended in New Jersey, but the teacher continues to teach.
Jim attended Princeton University and graduated in 1969. While there, Jim found an outlet for his creative and musical interests and formed a band with fellow students. Groupies of “Charter Bus” can still catch a performance at Princeton reunions. With a degree in English, the Waterloo native moved to New Jersey to teach high school English for three years. On the first day of school, he met the love of his life, Carol.
Ready for a new challenge, Jim took a position in sales at KWWL and Jim and Carol moved to Jim’s hometown. In 1979, Jim took over as Promotions Manager then moved briefly to Sioux City to oversee a sister station and later returned to Waterloo as General Manager in 1983, a position he held until 2001. Jim led the station to dominance – doubling the ratings of competitors and making KWWL one of the most watched NBC affiliates in the country. He became president of the NBC affiliates board, giving Waterloo, Iowa strong influence on the entertainment choices being made for the entire country. Many outside Iowa sought his talent, but Jim chose time and time again, to continue to work in his hometown.
“Many entrepreneurs are like the thunder of a storm. They are loud and attract a lot of attention, but it’s the lightning that does all the work. Jim is the lightning, the spark which has made KWWL a powerhouse of Eastern Iowa, right from downtown Waterloo. He wasn’t the pioneer of broadcasting, but he built a station to a level few could have imagined for an Iowa TV station,” says Mark Mathis, Partner of Amperage.
At KWWL, Jim authored the Gold Star Teachers Awards and continues to emcee that annual recognition event honoring leading educators 30 years later. He and his team were also instrumental in bringing Iowa basketball to television through the Iowa Television Network. Watching Iowa Hawkeye basketball games became the priority in living rooms throughout the state and bested any NBC broadcast in its timeslot.
While at KWWL, Jim was called to be a trustee for the R.J. McElroy Trust – a leadership position he still holds today over 30 years later. “I think Jim’s greatest success is the way he has influenced the people around him,” says Stacy Van Gorp, Executive Director of the McElroy Trust. “He is always trying to help an organization, the person next to him, or his family.” In addition to his leadership role at the R. J. McElroy Trust, Jim has served on the board of the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra Board, the Waterloo Community Playhouse Board, and the Black Hawk County Gaming Association Board.
In 2001, Jim made a career change, leaving KWWL to become the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Allen Hospital. Jim beams with pride and enjoys telling the history of the campus itself. And although Jim has not taught in a classroom for over 40 years, he is still regarded as a teacher and mentor to many people in the community. A proud father and grandfather, Jim Waterbury is the man “who keeps the fire going during the hurricane,” as David Sparks of Heartwood Investments likes to say. Jim’s commitment to the community is only rivaled by his commitment to his family – wife Carol, children Libby and Dan, and granddaughter Natalie.