WILL: The first 100 years

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.

piano and microphones in radio studio from 1930s

Musical beginnings

Music served multiple functions during WILL’s first two decades on air. It was a way for the University to project a certain image of the institution—one that was cultured and high-minded—to those who tuned in across the country. It was also a way to draw listeners in so that they would be induced to listen to the educational content.

Illinois Alumni Magazine

WILL At 100: From its first broadcast on April 6 1922, WILL evolves from high-tech novelty to pioneer broadcaster.

One hundred years ago, on the evening of Thursday, April 6, 1922, the University of Illinois’ radio station went on the air for its first broadcast at 833 kilohertz (the station moved to 1100 kHz in 1924). WRM, the service that would become WILL Radio, was cutting-edge technology in 1922. Americans were still figuring out what role radio broadcasting would play in their lives.

Two men working in room with transmitter and vacuum tubes
Illinois Public Media

The Early Years

WILL went on the air for the first time on Thursday, April 6 at 8:30 pm. On that storied night, four men gathered around a 50-watt vacuum tube in the University of Illinois' Electrical Engineering laboratory and broadcast a thirty-minute program, which could apparently be heard within a 500-mile radius of the Urbana campus. Read more about "The Early Years" here.

Gordon Parks/U.S. Library of Congress

Langston Hughes poetry reading, recorded by WILL Radio

WILL-AM Radio turns 100-years-old in April 2022. Throughout the year, we’re bringing you stories about the history of this station. Much of that history can be found in the recordings it made and archived over the years. One recording dates back to March 1957, when Langston Hughes (1901-1967), one of the 20th century’s leading African-American writers, paid a visit to the University of Illinois.

Woman points and man reads paper on TV set

Early home-ec programming provided ‘gateway’ to higher education

For many at the time, Miss Heathman was synonymous with WILL’s original home economics programming, created in partnership with University of Illinois Extension. By 1949 she was the host of two daily radio shows on WILL, Jessie Heathman and Homemakers Quarter Hour, and by 1957, she was producing, writing, and starring in Your Home and Mine on WILL-TV.