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WUWM's first general manager Ru Hill, who launched the station, has passed away

Courtesy of Dr. Ruane Hill
Ruane Hill, WUWM’s first station manager, working at the station in the early days of WUWM.

The man responsible for putting WUWM on the air has passed away. Dr. Ru Hill died at the age of 99.

In 1963, Hill was hired by the UW Board of Regents to create a public radio station at UW-Milwaukee. A year later, WUWM started broadcasting with Hill as its general manager. He held that role until 1976.

Hill also taught at UWM for more than three decades and was the first chair of the Mass Communications Department.

Four years ago, Hill spoke with Lake Effect’s Bonnie North as the station celebrated its 55th anniversary. Below is the original story from 2019:

A lot of things happened in 1964. In the United States, the landmark Civil Rights Act was signed into law. The U.K. exported Beatlemania to the world, and established the world's first pirate radio station, Radio Caroline. And across the world, another radio station came on the air: WUWM. 

On Sep. 9, 1964, WUWM began broadcasting with Dr. Ruane Hill at the helm as the station's first general manager. The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin system had tasked Hill with creating the station.

READ: Public Radio Is Still 'A Beacon' For WUWM's Bob Bach

Credit Lauri Jones
Bonnie North speaking with Dr. Ruane Hill in 2019.

"The Regents had decided Milwaukee is big enough, and brawly enough, and troublesome enough [that] it ought to have its own radio station, WUWM. They were amazed at Milwaukee and wondered, 'Where do we start?' " Hill explains.

He says he was asked to do three jobs with one salary: "A third of me was to be director of radio and TV, and to put a radio station on the air as soon as possible." Another third of him was to teach two courses at the university, and the last third would be creating programming for the burgeoning, statewide TV network. 

"I try to be modest about it, but I'm just so proud. It's just great ... I knew our goal was solid — to be a community service."

Credit Courtesy of Dr. Ruane Hill
A telegraph congratulating WUWM on its first birthday.

A year after his hiring, WUWM was on the air. What had started as a student lab quickly evolved into a full-fledged radio station, growing alongside a nationwide movement to create a national public radio service. At the time, the radio waves were ruled by commercial radio and many had started to switch their focus to rock music. 

"There was a place for serious talk and serious questioning and serious discussion, and we could provide it," Hill says.

He continued to run the station as the general manager until 1976. And although he left his post more than four decades ago, he says he continues to listen to the station, "starting at 4:30 in the morning, and during the day to find out what really happened, and at night when I check out." 

Hill remains a super-fan of the station he helped create, 55 years later. 

"I try to be modest about it, but I’m just so proud. It’s just great ... I knew our goal was solid — to be a community service," he says. 

Editor's note: This story was first published November 9, 2019.


Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.