Kristi Lee Named to 2022 Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
As a child, Kristi Lee had no aspirations to work in radio. In fact, the only reason she signed up for a radio class was because a classmate at Ben Davis High School suggested she do so. That one decision altered the trajectory of her life.
“I got the bug,” says Lee, who credits one of her teachers, Dana Webb, for instilling confidence in her regarding her natural broadcasting skills. Webb told her she had talent.
“Nobody had ever said anything like that to me before,” Lee says. “Teachers are so valuable because one good teacher can change a child’s life forever.”
That certainly was the case for Lee, who began her broadcast career the summer she turned 16, working at WNON in Lebanon. From there, she worked part time all through high school at WEIR, 1430 AM, which at the time was a country music station.
Before leaving for college, Webb suggested that Lee get her Federal Communications Commission license in order to make her more marketable. She did, and in 1980 her phone rang with a job offer from WRTV. She stayed there for six years, working her way up to technical director.
She began working part time on nights and weekends in 1982 at Q95, finishing her shift at 6 a.m., when “The Bob & Tom Show,” a top-rated morning program, was starting. When they decided to hire a news girl in 1987, Lee was the perfect choice, as she liked to banter with them as they chatted between their shifts. That was 35 years ago and she’s still going strong. Lee says she feels blessed.
“In this business, longevity at one station is so rare,” she says.
Lee was chosen to be included in the 2022 Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame, an exciting and humbling honor.
“This recognition acknowledges that I’m not just a sidekick,” she says. “I’ve done all of these things.” Some people may not be aware of the extent of her accomplishments in the broadcast industry. Besides being a radio personality, she has also worked as a television engineer, TV anchor, and correspondent for ESPN and ESPN2. For a while she worked full-time at “The Bob & Tom Show,” then traveled on the weekends for ESPN, catching a flight to the east coast on Friday as soon as she got off the air and returning on Sunday. For two years, Lee also hosted a podcast called “Kristi Lee Uninterrupted.” Born with an unfailing work ethic, she worked seven days a week, including holidays, until her two children were born (they are now 24 and 20).
“A lot of people think of me as the girl that gets made fun of on ‘The Bob & Tom Show,’” Lee says. “Believe me, it was a long, arduous journey to be that person they make fun of.”
In addition to her vast body of work, the Hall of Fame honor acknowledges her commitment to community involvement. She’s on the board at Ascension St. Vincent Foundation and the Indianapolis Zoo, she volunteers at Second Helpings, she’s participated in countless golf outings, and she has hosted events for charity galas. She even participated in Hamilton County’s Dancing With Our Stars.
“It’s hard for me to say no,” she says.
Through the years she’s worked every shift imaginable. In her 20s she enjoyed working from 4 p.m. to midnight, because she could go straight from work to Broad Ripple to socialize. Working mornings, however, gave her time with her children in the evenings. Not that rising at 4 a.m. is always fun.
“I don’t ever see the sun come up on my way to work,” she says. “Unless I oversleep.”
Speaking of sleep, she averages about six hours of shut-eye each night.
She’s gotten to meet all sorts of cool people and celebrities including Dolly Parton, who came to “The Bob & Tom Show” when Lee was eight months pregnant.
“During the break, Dolly was brainstorming baby names with me,” Lee says. “She was so sweet and acted like she’d known me my whole life.”
Lee also got to meet – and befriend – her teenage idol, Peter Frampton.
“He was one of the first concerts I ever saw,” she says. “I was 16 years old at Balboa Park in San Diego, and I fell in love with him the minute he walked on stage. Now we have each other’s phone numbers. We both have goldendoodles so we get them together to play sometimes. The fact that I can call Peter a friend is mind-blowing to me.”
In her free time Lee likes to read, garden, golf, travel and practice Pilates. Though she openly admits that she can’t cook worth a darn, she’s proud of her accomplishments and grateful for the life she’s lived.
“Honestly, as I look back on my life I wouldn’t change a thing,” Lee says. “Well, except maybe to tell myself to just relax and know that everything will work out in the end.”
Not that the end of her career is coming any time soon.
“I’ll keep doing this until Tom quits, and he’s got a 6-year-old if that tells you anything,” she says with a chuckle. “Seriously, there’s no reason to leave my job. I love going to work every day. My radio family is my life. Those are my people.”