Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation

Our MIssion

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation contribution to broadcasting in Wisconsin encompasses a strategic, long term vision for enhancing, promoting and supporting the broadcast industry by encouraging the preservation of broadcast history, participating in public affairs activities in the State of Wisconsin and providing educational opportunities for professional broadcasters and those who seek future careers in the broadcast industry.

WBA Hall of Famer Susan Knaack is being remembered for her 38-year broadcasting career in the Fox Valley.

Knaack died Wednesday. She was 77.

Knaack started her broadcasting career in Oshkosh with stints at WAGO and WMKC from 1971-77 where she was a talk show hostess, copy writer, sales assistant, and traffic director. In 1977 she moved to Woodward Communications’ WHBY/WAPL in Appleton, as Creative Services Director. She moved into sales in 1980, became Sales Manager in 1982 and General Manager in 1984. In 1989 she became Vice President of Broadcast for Woodward, expanding the company’s holdings from four to nine stations in three markets in Iowa and Wisconsin.

During her broadcast tenure in Appleton, she also served as an instructor in the Communications Department of the Fox Valley Technical College.

Knaack served eight years on the Board Directors of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and was its first woman Board Chair in 1993-94.

Her obituary said that in retirement, Knaack continued to mentor women in their career navigation and actively supported programs and organizations that focused on empowering women.

She was inducted into the WBA Hall of Fame in 2004.

Visitation is scheduled for Oct. 2, from 5-7 p.m. at the Schramka-Densow Funeral Home in Thiensville. A funeral service is scheduled for Oct. 3 at 10 a.m. at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon.

In lieu of flowers, memorials to Family Sharing through Crossroads Presbyterian Church would be appreciated.

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The honorees named for the 2020 WBA Hall of Fame and Local Broadcast Legends will be honored in 2021 and no new honorees will be selected in 2021.

The WBA Board and Foundation Board voted in July to have the 2020 selections for both honors be inducted during the WBA 2021 Summer Conference. The boards also voted to not solicit nominations for 2021 Hall of Fame and Legends inductees.

“It is important that the individuals honored each year are given a special ceremony dedicated to them and their fellow honorees,” WBA President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind said. “Inducting the 2020 Hall of Fame and Local Broadcast Legends inductees along with the 2021 individuals would detract from the special event we hope all our honorees experience.”

The 2020 Hall of Fame inductees are Thom Gerretsen, Wayne Larrivee, Jack Mitchell, and Nancy Zieman.

The 2020 Local Broadcast Legends are Karen Dalessandro, Erin Davisson, Peter Murphy, and the team of Bill McCollum and John Moser.

They will be recognized June 18, 2021 at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan.

WBA Hall of Famer Tommy Lee Bychinski is retiring after 50 years in radio and television.

“Mr. Radio” in Reedsburg, Bychinski had a 44-year career in radio built on a strong foundation of community service and involvement.

After attending Brown Institute, he began his career in 1964 at WIGM radio in Medford and after two years began his 33-year run with Goetz Broadcasting. For Goetz he served in Marshfield at WDLB as a sports announcer and air personality from 1966-72 and then moved to their stations in Reedsburg, WRDB/WNFM, as an account executive. In 1979 he became station manager and led the stations, even after Goetz Broadcasting was disbanded, until his initial retirement in 2008.

The last 12 years Bychinski delivered newscasts for the Reedsburg Utility television station. He covered local government meetings and community events. He retired June 12. He turns 74 in December and wants to spend more time with his family and traveling.

Throughout his career Bychinski dedicated himself to community service and industry service. He served the Chamber of Commerce, local school district, the city council, the county board, the volunteer fire department, his church and the Knights of Columbus, all in the Reedsburg area. He served eight years on the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Board of Directors and was Chairman of the WBA Board in 1999.

A morning producer at WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee is the recipient of the first ever Results Broadcasting Education Grant.

Rachel Frye graduated from Western Illinois University in 2013 and began her career with a six-radio station cluster in Macomb, Illinois before taking a job at WTMJ-AM in June 2014. She started part time as a reporter and board operator and in February 2016 was hired full time as producer of Wisconsin’s Morning News. Her duties have since expanded to include producing digital content and leading station events.

Vice President and Market Manager Steve Wexler said Frye is the kind of employee every employer would covet. “She’s hard-working, sets a very high bar of expectations for herself and our team, and sweats the details.”

Frye said her goal was to pay off her student loans by the end of the year, and the grant will be a huge help toward making that goal.

“This grant money is so much appreciated, especially during these unstable times,” Frye wrote. “I encourage anyone who is considering applying in the future to do so. It’s a truly great program targeted at helping Wisconsin broadcasters.”

Steve Wexler and Rachel Frye

The Results Broadcasting Education Grant was established to provide student debt relief to broadcasters working in Wisconsin. It was created from what used to be the Results Broadcasting scholarship. Recipients get $1,000 to put toward relief of student debt.

“Results Broadcasting is so proud of the dedicated men and women in the Wisconsin over the air radio and TV industry working in all phases of the business,” wrote Results Broadcasting owner and WBA Hall of Famer Bruce Grassman. “It is an opportunity to help people with some of their student debt and to let them know they are part of the greatest state of broadcasters…Wisconsin. Results Broadcasting is proud to continue this award for many years to come.”

More than a dozen broadcasters applied for the grant. The recipient was chosen by a sub-committee of the WBA Foundation Board.

Applications for the next grant will be accepted starting Jan. 1, 2021 and the deadline will be Feb. 28, 2021. Find more details on the WBA Foundation website.

The deadline for a fellowship for photographers is coming June 1.

The Rick Jowett Fellowship was established in 2017 by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation to support educational opportunities for photographers and videographers who work in media in Wisconsin.

Recipients of the fellowship can use the grant for professional development in the areas of photography and videography. Applicants must specify how the funds will be used.

Potential uses include but are not limited to courses offered by the National Press Photographers Association, the Poynter Institute, or any accredited college or university.

This fellowship intends to award a total of up to $2,000 in grants annually to multiple recipients to cover part or all of the recipients’ expenses.

Submission deadline is June 1. Apply here

About Rick Jowett

Rick grew up in a media family. His grandfather was CEO of Forward Communications which owned several television stations throughout the country. His family was also involved in the print media, the Wausau Herald. While in high school Rick began his career as a photographer working for the Wausau Herald.

Rick Jowett completed his degree in journalism (UW-Madison) in the late 70s. Following graduation, Rick started his career in broadcasting as a still photographer at WMTV-TV, in Madison, Wisconsin.

Rick began working with the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 1985 as the Association’s event photographer. He served graciously and unconditionally until his passing.

Five Wisconsin Broadcasters have been chosen as 2020 WBA Local Broadcast Legends.

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Local Broadcast Legends Award was established in 2015 under the direction of Bruce Grassman, owner/president of Results Radio. The Local Broadcast Legends Award is a great honor and recognition for individuals that work behind the scenes and within their communities fulfilling the commitment broadcasters have made to serve their local communities. They are individuals who exemplify localism. This award is a means to extend recognition of these individuals beyond their local communities.

Individuals with 15 years or more service in Wisconsin broadcasting may be nominated by their company, co-workers, community leaders, family members, and friends. The station or organization which the nominee is associated with submits the nomination on behalf of the nominating individual(s).

The WBA is grateful to Bruce Grassman for his vision to establish a means for dedicated local broadcast employees to be recognized for their contributions to Wisconsin broadcasting. This award is for those who unconditionally support their stations and community.

Profiles of these and past Local Broadcast Legends can be found at the Wisconsin Broadcasting Museum website.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s honorees will be recognized during the 2021 WBA Summer Conference at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan.

The 2020 WBA Hall of Fame inductees will be announced Wednesday.

Our 2020 Local Broadcast Legends honorees are as follows:

Karen Dalessandro

Karen Dalessandro is among the most recognizable voices in Milwaukee radio touching generations of listeners with her energy, passion, and love of people.

Karen started her career in 1981 at a small station in Michigan while still attending radio school. She moved to Milwaukee in 1998 when she was offered the opportunity to become morning host on country station WMIL-FM. She was, at the time, the host of one of only a handful of female-led morning shows in the nation. Awarded Broadcasting Personality of the Year by the Country Music Association in 2001 and 2015, Karen was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2017 she moved to afternoons on WKTI-FM and in 2019 joined WKLH-FM as afternoon host.

Karen’s community efforts are countless. She co-hosted the annual Child Abuse Prevention radiothon that has raised an average of $300,000 a year. She raised thousands more for the same cause when her show took over the new Miller Park, and later the Fiserv Forum, to sit in every seat in the new stadiums. As founder of Karen’s Check Up for Chicks, she provided hundreds of breast cancer screenings for women in need.

In her more than three decades on the air, Karen has lived up to her reputation from her peers as the “gold standard of excellence in the broadcasting industry.”

Erin Davisson

Erin Davisson inspired television viewers in the Green Bay market with her persistence and professionalism in the face of a health crisis that nearly took her life.

Erin started her career in 1982 as a radio news announcer at WSPT-FM and WXYQ-AM in Stevens Point. She also worked at WSAW-TV in Wausau as a news anchor and reporter before joining WFRV-TV in 1988.

It was after that move that Erin staged a public battle with Wilson’s Disease, a rare and potentially fatal genetic disorder that prevents blood from clotting. She suffered three life-threatening episodes of internal bleeding. After medications failed to reverse or control the illness, a successful 13-hour liver transplant operation in 1990 saved her life.

Erin shared every step of her journey with her television audience in the hopes of promoting awareness of organ donation and transplants. She remains an advocate for the organ donation program.

Erin has won numerous awards for her excellent journalism and is a mentor to young journalists just starting their careers.

Erin’s peers say, “Her kindness, professionalism, and love for our business continues to be an inspiration to us and to others in the community to strive to follow their dreams even when things go wrong in our lives.”

She will retire in fall 2020 after 37 years in broadcasting and 32 years at WFRV-TV.

Peter Murphy

Peter Murphy (1935-2015) had a long career in radio highlighted by his distinction of hosting the first live radio talk show by telephone in the nation and a reputation for vigor and success.

In 1957 Peter met a farmer in Hartford who had pulled over to help with a flat tire. After hearing Peter’s voice, the farmer asked him if he wanted to be the voice of his basement radio show and Peter accepted.

Peter started at WKTL in Sheboygan and stayed for a year before moving to Eau Claire in 1958 as program manager at WEAQ. In 1960 he took over as the host of a morning talk show named The Party Line, later referred to as The Peter Murphy show by his listeners. He hosted this show for 30 years. He interviewed people from all walks of life including numerous celebrities, politicians, athletes, astronauts, and from his local community. More than 7,000 interviews took place from Peter’s booth. He was the voice of his people.

Peter’s greatest achievement was his five minute live, in-air, radio show from a Blue Angels fighter jet in 1976. In radio history, no other broadcaster can claim this same accomplishment.

A mentee to Peter once said, “Peter expected much of himself, inspiring the rest of us to match or at least catch the daily routine of success, self-confidence, and loving enthusiasm for the job that lay ahead of him.” 

Bill McCollum and John Moser

Bill McCollum and John Moser are institutions in Beaver Dam whose decades-long work has exemplified how committed radio personalities and leaders can have an immeasurable impact on a community.

“Uncle Bill” has been with WBEV and WXRO for 57 years with 43 years hosting The Morning Show, connecting with listeners on a personal level. Over the years he has accepted all opportunities to volunteer and he continues working at the station in retirement. He was the top biller in the sales department for 50 years. In 2017, the road on which the stations are located was renamed Bill McCollum Way.

John has been with the stations for 47 years. Over the years he served as news director, program director, sales manager, and finally as general manager. He is semi-retired but still co-hosts The Morning Show and continues to lead by coaching teammates across Good Karma Brands. John was named Beaver Dam’s Citizen of the Year in 2016 and continues his involvement in the community in a number of leadership roles.

Both Bill and John were involved in numerous station initiatives to help raise money and awareness in the community, including the annual Children’s Radiothon which has raised $1.9 million over the years.

WBEV/WXRO General Manager Ryan Gabel wrote of Bill and John that, “Their localism and impact are felt by everyone who works at the station, our listeners, and those in the Beaver Dam community.”

WBA Hall of Famer Mike Elliott had a career in radio that spanned more than 50 years and a love of sports that he used to inspire those he led through his amazing career.

Elliott died Monday. He was 82.

Elliott started his career at WACE radio in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1954, where he was a sports announcer for Springfield College games. Early career stops as an announcer took him to Stockton, California, Boston, Atlantic City, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. He began his Wisconsin broadcasting career in Milwaukee in 1973 when he signed on as host of WTMJ radio’s mid-afternoon music show. He served WTMJ a total of 13 years during three different tours of duty working as an announcer, sports personality on radio and television, and as radio program director.

In 1983 he was the play-by-play voice of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros, before returning to Milwaukee as program director at WISN radio. In 1996 he became Operations Director and a sports anchor for Sports America and then from 1997 to 2000 he had music shows on WZTR-FM in Milwaukee.

Elliott made his final move in 2000 to WBKV/WBWI, West Bend, as Operations Director and morning show host on WBWI. After his retirement at the end of 2005 he continued to work part-time at the West Bend stations.

Elliott was inducted into the WBA Hall of Fame in 2007.

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Our Mission

The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation contribution to broadcasting in Wisconsin encompasses a strategic, long term vision for enhancing, promoting and supporting the broadcast industry by encouraging the preservation of broadcast history, participating in public affairs activities in the State of Wisconsin and providing educational opportunities for professional broadcasters and those who seek future careers in the broadcast industry.