For more than two decades John Lienhard has told the stories of how human creativity forms our culture through the KUHF Radio program, “The Engines of Our Ingenuity.”
A professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and history at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, Lienhard is the writer and host of the weekday radio show heard nationally on public radio.
To date, he and several other UH faculty members have shared the stories of the inventive minds and innovative technologies that have reshaped modern society in more than 2,580 episodes. Now, through a project designed to aid KUHF with its operating costs, Lienhard has collaborated to package engines-inspired content on a CD.
“The Soul of a City,” is the newest in a collection of 15 cassettes, and in recent years, CDs, that have come out annually to assist the station. Each one has great impact according to Debra Fraser, KUHF station manager. On average, the CDs raise more than $100,000 each year for the station.
“It’s a big part of what keeps public radio alive in Houston,” she said.
Operated independently from UH, the station relies on individuals and companies to cover their yearly operating costs. The CD is meant to serve as a thank you gift to those who make a donation of $120 or higher during a nine-day, on-air spring campaign beginning April 15.
Collaboration on the CD is a project that has, for a long time, been close to Lienhard’s heart. Tuesday night, he shared this with an audience of roughly 100 at a party celebrating the CD’s release. In honor of its city theme he read the next day’s engines episode centered on cities and their secrets, even sharing places in Houston that are uniquely his—most of which are on the UH campus. He encouraged others to find their own places that make their city special to them.
“Our secret place might be no more than a special shop or restaurant,” he said. “No matter, a city becomes ours when we feel we own its special places. When you or I own our city, we become its custodian. And that’s the point at which all those secret places truly serve the common good.”
Music on the CD is composed by Lienhard’s son, Andrew, and features well-known guitarist Erich Avinger and Houston Symphony violinist Ferenc Illenyi. Besides Lienhard, University of Houston’s Richard Armstrong, an associate professor of classical studies; Andy Boyd, an adjunct professor of industrial engineering; and Roger Kaza, an assistant professor at the Moores School of Music, are contributors to the content. The city theme was inspired, Lienhard said, by an article he wrote for Houston’s Cite magazine on city infrastructure last summer.
In roughly 68-minutes spread over 12 tracks, Lienhard, Boyd, Armstrong and Kaza attempt to define what a city is and means. Packaged on the tracks—stories of how cities are born and die, ancient cultures and even infrastructure.
Lienhard’s show airs weekdays at 7:35 a.m. and 7 p.m. on KUHF 88.7 FM.