WESS Staff Honors Professor, Radio Host with Newsroom Name Change

Photo Courtesy/ Kerri Manning Elisa Chase, ESU graduate and adjunct faculty member, passed away on Jan. 7 She was heavily involved in WESS radio station and was the station's news director.

Charlese Freeman 

Student Life Editor 

“She was a shining star. You never saw her without a smile. She had this big bold laugh,” said Kerri Manning, Pocono 96.7’s events and promotions coordinator.

Staff and students plan to rename ESU’s WESS 90.3 newsroom the Elisa Chase Newsroom.

Known by her radio name, Elisa Chase, students and faculty mourn the death of a beloved radio personality and adjunct professor, Elisa Caffese-Lee. ESU’s student-run radio station, WESS, hopes to keep Chase’s name alive by renaming its newsroom.

After meeting with the ESU Foundation, the radio staff has launched a GoFundMe page — hoping to raise $10,000 for the name change: 

“You knew she was in the room. She was very caring and compassionate. After reading about everything she did, the idea of dedicating the newsroom came up,” said Jonathan Mostafa, the promotions manager at 90.3 WESS.

Chase was not only admired by the campus community, but loved by the surrounding community. Arrangements have been made to raise donations for her scholarship. She established the Chase News Director Scholarship for ESU students looking to thrive in the communications field.

“Because she had this job at the radio station, she provided an excellent opportunity for students to do internships at Pocono’s 96.7,” said Dr. Rob McKenzie, ESU’s communication chair.

This year’s reward recipient is Nick Ortiz.

“Elisa made every one of her students feel like a family member. She was like a mother to her students. What more could you ask for in a professor?” said Ortiz.

Prior to her death on Jan, 7. Chase explained in a Facebook post she was suffering from kidney failure caused by an immune-blood disorder, but she was eager to return back to the show:

“I will do my very best to bounce back,” she wrote. “I look very forward to coming back to the Gary in the Morning Show soon! All of the love and support I have received has been overwhelming. I love what I do and I love that I get to do it with all of you.”

Her passion and eventual career began as an undergraduate student at ESU.

Chase received her bachelor’s degree in communications from ESU. As a student, she was the news director for 90.3 FM WESS. During her time at ESU, she snagged an internship WSBG Radio, and meet her future co-host Gary Smith, known as Gary in the Morning.

Speculations about Chase’s longtime radio partner, Smith’s retire flooded local media.

However, during a phone interview, Smith responded to questions regarding his retirement:

“The honest answer is… I don’t know what I’m doing. I just know I can’t do the show without Elisa,” said Smith

Smith explained he and Elisa would talk for hours outside of the radio show. Some even called Chase Gary’s “radio wife.”

Chase, after Smith was fired from WSBG radio, was without radio work for some time. During this break, she received her master’s degree from Villanova University.

McKenzie offered Chase an adjunct position at ESU. McKenzie shared his feelings of sadness, explaining that he’s known Chase for almost 20 years.  

He even prepared a eulogy for her funeral service. McKenzie was unable to read the eulogy,but he wrote about his thoughts and memories of Elisa. 

“Fabulous Elisa was in fact fabulous. I will sorely miss the sound of Fabulous Elisa’s footsteps shuffling down the hallway past my office, where she would often call out to me with that uplifting Elisa-energy we have all experienced,” McKenzie wrote.

“She loved the radio, even working here on a part-time salary, she decided to donate $500 a year,” Dr. McKenzie said.

Chase enjoyed video-games, shoe-shopping, making sandwiches, hockey games, baseball, the history channel and the show Shark Week. As listed on her Facebook page, but also stated by those who adored her.

She loved Italian food, said McKenzie. “She comes from a big Italian family.”  

The news of Chase’s death left students, friends, and family heartbroken. Shortly after, the community receives more devastating news — news of Brett Lee’s, Elisa’s husband, death — just 12 days after his wife’s.

Friends and family, however, are continuing to focus on her impact in the community. She was active in many organizations in Monroe County such as Toys for Tots and Big Brothers & Big Sisters.

The Elisa Chase Celebration of Life will be on Friday, Feb 21., from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The program will be at The Lounge at Baymont Inn. The celebration features a live DJ, dancing and is open to all ages.

All donations from the event will go towards building the Chase News Director Scholarship, just one aspect of Chase’s Legacy.

For more information or to contribute to the GoFundMe contact Jonathan Mostafa at jmostafa@live.esu.edu.

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