On the cover of the birth announcement Mark Gilman’s parents sent out in the spring of 1960 is the drawing of a baby with a microphone announcing his birth. Decades later, the selection of that card for Mark’s arrival leaves one wondering “How did they know?”
Mark Gilman is Salem born and bred. He grew up watching his dad Jerry coach the offensive line at South Salem High. Mark began playing football as an 11-year-old when the local Boys Club began sponsoring teams. He subsequently played through junior high school and then at Sprague High School, where he was “a hard hitting, but decidedly average” part-time starter for the Olympians his senior year. Gilman's sports experience left an indelible mark on his life, and he was determined to keep sports in his life.
Mark has been a big part of high school sports coverage for the Salem-Keizer area since the mid 1980s. As a sportscaster for three different radio stations—most recently KBZY Radio—he has been on hand to observe many historic events involving Salem-Keizer high school sports teams and brought the high school sports experience to many, many people.
Mark actually got into radio broadcasting as a teenager, spinning records at Christian Radio Station KCCS, at the age of 18. He obtained a Television Production degree at Mount Hood Community College in 1980. That experience included work at Oregon Public Broadcasting and an invaluable radio internship at KEX Radio, where he helped to cover the eruption of Mount Saint Helens.
After graduation from MHCC, Mark began working at KGAY (now KYKN) Radio, where he cut his teeth as a news reporter and then news director. Salem was a hotbed for big news in the 1980s, and Mark dealt with much of it. Those stories ranged from the tragic Oregon Museum Tavern shooting in 1981 to the prison escape of child killer Elizabeth Diane Downs in 1987 to the exploits of the Rajneeshee religious cult in Antelope, Oregon from 1981 to 1988 . Gilman was recognized numerous times by the Associated Press as a result of his eight years of work with KGAY.
Prior to 1986, his radio station actually was a “sundowner station”, going off the air at sunset. This meant no sportscasting opportunities. In 1986 KYKN Radio made changes that allowed the station to broadcast at night. KYKN added sportscasting veteran and mentor Mike Allegre who taught Gilman the craft of sports announcing. He began with playoff games for Salem Academy football and later moved to football and basketball games for the McNary Celtics. Allegre eventually took his broadcast talents to Portland. His departure opened a door. Through that door walked Mark and his dad Jerry, the broadcasting duo so familiar throughout Salem-Keizer and who have given so many hours and so much effort to support, honor, appreciate, and promote high school athletics.
It's hard to tell the story of Mark Gilman without talking about his dad Jerry. Jerry began his career as a math teacher at South Salem High. He spent 32 years as a prep football coach—beginning at South as an assistant under 2018 Beacon honoree Marv Heater. In 1971 Marv was part of the coaching staff that brought Salem-Keizer and South Salem the first undisputed state football championship. He later coached at both McNary and Sprague High schools. At Sprague he served as the school’s first head football coach in 1972. Outgoing and not afraid to share an opinion, Jerry was a natural behind the microphone. But he did like to quip that his opportunity came because “my son got me a radio job.” Together, this “dynamic duo” shared the excitement of prep sports on KYKN, later at KSLM, before finally landing at KBZY Radio in 1994.
Eventually Mark followed in his dad's footsteps as a teacher. He began his classroom career at Silverton High School in 1991, moving to North Salem High School in '98 as an English teacher. He “graduated” as a Viking when he retired in 2020 after a 30 year career.
Mark and Jerry’s father-son broadcasting partnership, which began in 1987, developed into a dedicated focus on Salem-Keizer athletics. As of 2021, Mark has broadcast 17 separate state championship events for football, basketball and baseball—most of which included Jerry. The duo’s enthusiasm and good humor entertained audiences for years, and earned Mark and Jerry the appreciation of a community, not to mention a handful of honors. When Jerry passed away from cancer in 2020, many people from the Salem-Keizer community mourned along with the Gilman family.
Mark’s focus on local prep sports has never wavered, although he did expand his own efforts to include other arenas. He spent six memorable seasons broadcasting football and basketball for his alma mater, Western Oregon University. Before that, he spent two seasons with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes minor league baseball squad. During that stint, he traveled with the team across the Northwest League, covering players the likes of major league all-stars Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. Additionally, for six summers, Mark teamed with local broadcast buddies Allegre and Craig Spivey to set up and provide radio and online broadcasts of games from the Little League Softball World Series in Portland.
Despite losing Jerry, Mark's broadcast career has marched on. Long-time local football coach Rick Lacey and former Statesman-Journal sportswriter Gary Horowitz have joined Mark to keep the focus on high school athletics.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a tough time for all of sports, but especially for prep sports. When the regular seasons were canceled, most coaches and broadcasters were not optimistic that any games would be played. But they were wrong. Although schedules were shortened and juggled on the calendar, local teams were allowed to play. And thanks to generous donations of sponsors, those games were aired on KBZY with Gilman and Horowitz behind the mic. Football games in the winter were cold, basketball games in gyms in the spring were quite warm, and all seasons were short. But the Salem-Keizer community rallied. Kids got a season, most especially seniors. Gilman was proud to be a part of it.
A great addition to Mark’s broadcasting experience was the establishment of Capital Community Television – CCTV. CCTV also provided extensive coverage of local sports for the Salem-Keizer area. Working with CCTV (now Capital Community Media) over three decades sharpened Mark’s skills in front of the camera. He learned a lot and forged strong friendships with many members of the crew.
Mark’s 2021 football season was interrupted by COVID-19 on a more personal level when he contracted the virus in early October of 2021. Bent but not broken, he beat it and finally returned in late October.
That 1960 birth announcement was indeed prophetic. And thank goodness for Salem-Keizer high school athletics that it was. For his relentless promotion and appreciation for high school athletics, Mark Gilman is a Beacon.
Mark and his wife, Theresa have been married since 1981. They have three adult daughters - Heidi, Jamie and Kristy.