WILL’s Talk Show Staff Members to Retire
David Inge, longtime host of WILL-AM’s morning talk show Focus, has announced his plans to retire from the University of Illinois and WILL Radio before July 1, as have the station’s Afternoon Magazine host Celeste Quinn and Focus producer Harriet Williamson.
The loss of three key public affairs staff members in a short time period, partly because of upcoming changes to the U of I retirement system, will be a challenge, said Illinois Public Media general manager Mark Leonard. However, WILL remains committed to interactive local talk radio programming as a way to engage listeners around issues and ideas, he said.
“David’s insatiable curiosity, patience and grace will be impossible to replace,” Leonard said. “His daily program is a safe haven for complex ideas and discussion, moderated with the deft touch that is David’s signature.
“We are planning to carry on the strong tradition that he, Celeste and Harriet have established over the last 30 years,” Leonard said. “We’ll be hiring people for several positions to help us do that.”
Inge, who will retire June 30, estimates he has conducted more than 12,000 Focus interviews in his 29 ½ years as the program’s host. He started working at WILL Radio as a classical music announcer, then became a reporter, and became one of the rotating hosts when Focus first went on the air. He also hosted WILL-TV’s public affairs program Talking Point from 1992 until it ended in 2001, and numerous WILL-TV specials, including recent programs on community hunger and housing.
Inge said that after 35 years in radio, he’s ready to explore using his skills in other ways. “I’ve had this great opportunity to do a program and make it mine,” he said. “I hope I’ve made a contribution to life in the community. I’d like to find other ways to contribute.”
Quinn, who is married to Inge, began working at WILL in 1980. She was a prize-winning reporter covering police, courts and the city councils before hosting The Afternoon Magazine beginning in 1993. She also hosts Focus when regular guests on dog training, computers and nutrition appear, and for the past year, has been editor of WILLConnect, Illinois Public Media’s community engagement website. She will retire April 30.
“Celeste’s passion about individuals, their lives and their experiences has translated into great stories and interviews on The Afternoon Magazine and our listeners will miss her, as will we,” said Kimberlie Kranich, director of community content and engagement for Illinois Public Media.
Quinn said WILL will always be part of her life, but from now on she’ll be a member of the radio, TV, online audience. “WILL is like a home to me―my co-workers are like family,” she said. “It was here that I met the love of my life, David Inge.” The couple will celebrate 24 years of marriage this year.
After starting as a volunteer, Williamson joined the staff of WILL in 1996 after careers as a medical librarian and nurse. She researches and develops topics, and schedules guests for the program. “She’s been an integral part of the Focus program,” said Inge. “People don’t realize how important the producer is for shaping the show.” With 40 slots a month to fill, it is a big job, he said. Williamson has increased the number of high-profile writers on the show and has strengthened contacts on the University of Illinois campus, said Inge, who has worked with seven different producers during the time he has been Focus host.
Williamson said she’s been a huge radio fan since she was a kid staying up late to listen to music and talk programs. “The opportunity to work at WILL was spectacular for someone who has been passionate about radio all her life,” Williamson said. “Working with David Inge and Celeste Quinn has been a joy.”
Quinn said the decision to retire was difficult for all three of them. “Especially in this time of transition for the talk programming, we hope people will continue to enthusiastically support Illinois Public Media,” she said.