WILL: The first 100 years

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

WILL at 100: For two decades, Ed Kieser was WILL’s go-to guy for weather

Weather forecasts are a standard part of nearly every radio station’s programming in the U.S. But for many years, WILL went beyond forecasts from the National Weather Service, with its own staff of weather forecasters to provide in-depth forecasts and coverage of severe weather.

football players lined up from one side of field to the other ready to kick off
University of Illinois Archives

(W) I-L-L! I-N-I!

Today’s listeners might not immediately associate WILL with sports, but for a time, tuning to WILL was the only way to catch Illini football, basketball, and baseball games outside of the stands. 

man and woman sit around radio in 1930s

Supporting area farmers from the beginning

In 1930, 27% of farmers had a radio set, while only 10% had electricity. Many farmers saw its immense value not only for connecting them with the world but also for protecting their livelihoods, and WILL has provided this vital resource for area farmers since the station’s inception.

Children on the set of Olive Lives Here with Scratcho the Scarecrow

A place to learn before PBS KIDS

Known in the beginning as the “University of the Air,” WILL has always seen the importance of educational content. College lectures dominated the airwaves during the first few decades, but WILL soon realized radio’s potential for broadening the minds of children, producing the beloved radio program Stories ’n Stuff and later innovative television shows in an era before PBS.

brochure says this is the NAEB tape network

Public broadcasting’s roots in Urbana

In 1948, Illinois Professor of Communications Wilbur Schramm brought a loose-knit group of educational radio station managers, called the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB), to Urbana to discuss their mission and how to attract funding. These discussions and subsequent conferences would go on to form the philosophical cornerstone of public broadcasting as we know it today.

Illinois Public Media

WILL At 100: Looking Back On A Century Of Broadcasting

URBANA - 2022 marks the 100-year anniversary of WILL-AM, the oldest component of Illinois Public Media. The University of Illinois launched the station at a time when the idea of using radio to reach a mass audience was new and cutting edge. There was no FM radio or TV, no internet or social media. The first trans-Atlantic telephone call was five years away.

four people stand in a line with a framed proclamation

Celebrating a century of making waves

April 6, 2022, marked 100 years of WILL-AM, the oldest component of Illinois Public Media and one of the first radio stations in the country. We commemorated the occasion with a special ceremony at Campbell Hall.