When the weather is miserable some people get upset with the weather forecaster, as though he or she controls the downpours or heatwaves as well as reports them.
Dave Nussbaum (Kappa Chapter ’01, Delta Tau Chapter ’03) gets it.
Since graduating from college, he’s been the guy in front of the early-morning weather map in Erie, Pennsylvania, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and, presently, in New Orleans.
Despite or in spite of being terrified of thunderstorms as a child, he always wanted to “do weather on TV,” Nussbaum said of his career choice. “I didn’t like them,” he said of noisy storms, “especially the ones at night.”
On a trip to the library, in third grade, his mom suggested that he sign out a book on weather, as a way to learn more about it. She could never have imagined the impact of that advice. “After that, I checked out every single book the library had on weather,” Nussbaum said.
He wanted to know everything about the what, the why and the how.
Nussbaum said he became even more fascinated with weather when faced with significant storms -- Hurricane Hugo in September 1989, Hurricane Andrew in August 1992 and the “Super Storm,” which impacted 26 states in the U.S. and large areas of eastern Canada with frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall in March 1993.
“The Weather Channel was just weather at that time, and I watched religiously,” he said.
At the end of high school, Nussbaum applied to colleges across the country. “I loved Penn State, but was offered a cross country scholarship to CalU,” he said, noting that he thought he’d take general education courses and then transfer to Pennsylvania State University’s main campus. But, when he found out that CalU was building a brand new science and technology center, with a lab and a broadcast studio, he sensed he was at the right place.
With just a dozen students in the program, the hands-on opportunities were far greater, he said. “It was a small program, but there was individual attention; I had the ability to play with the toys and learn from upperclassman.”
At CalU he opted for a major in operational meteorology after a mentor suggested that he not just limit himself to television. He could also work for the government or in education, he was told.
Then, as his time at CalU was winding down, Nussbaum was asked by one of his professor to consider Mississippi State. “I had no plans to go to grad school,” he said, but the professor was leaving CalU, heading for Mississippi, and needed a paid teaching assistant.
That cinched it. He declared his major in broadcasting meteorology.
At CalU, Nussbaum became involved in Phi Sigma Pi after another student in his residence hall suggested checking it out, he said. “It was a small school so the Greek life was not as big …,” Nussbaum said. “I met new people and am still in touch with a lot of them.”
Realizing how invaluable the networking was as an undergrad, Nussbaum set about starting a Phi Sigma Pi Chapter at Mississippi State. “It was challenging to found a Fraternity Chapter at a new school, especially where there is a huge Greek life,” he said. But, in November 2001, the Delta Tau Chapter was chartered.
After graduation he returned to Pennsylvania to report the weather at a station in Erie. Later he took a position in Baton Rouge. It was here that he connected with the Gamma Theta Chapter, an active group of Phi Sigma Pi Alumni from Louisiana State University. “I got to know a lot of them and became close friends with Brothers in the area.”
Though he didn’t realize it when he was younger, all of the attributes of the Phi Sigma Pi Tripod had been an influence on him. “You don’t actually see that in college,” he said, “but they fall into place.”
For him, Leadership has been most profound.
He counts on his passion about meteorology to help lead his audience to understand what is happening with the weather and how they will be impacted. “TV business is rough,” he said. “You have to love what you do, especially with newsroom numbers now at a third or a quarter of what they used to be.” Interestingly, he said, “the biggest competition is the smart phone.”
Nussbaum is now an on-air meteorologist with WWL-TV in New Orleans, where he lives with his wife and son. He likes working for a local market rather than a national network, he said, because he can keep in touch with his audience, visit schools, give talks and attend events.
From storm terror to storm explainer Nussbaum said, with all puns intended, that throughout his career he’s drawn from strengths he acquired through Phi Sigma Pi. “Life has brought me many types of storms, but through the support from fellow Brothers and the Fraternity, I was prepared to weather them with ease.”