Gene Purcell, director of Wisconsin Public Media, died Saturday from injuries sustained in a traffic crash last week. He was 61.
A longtime public broadcaster, Purcell spent more than a decade leading the organizations that manage and maintain Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin’s statewide network of radio and television stations.
“Gene led a reinvention of Wisconsin Public Media that continues to expand and improve our service to audiences and Wisconsin schools,” PBS Wisconsin Director of Television Jon Miskowski said in a news release. “Everyone who worked with Gene knows his warmth and his kindness, and feels this loss deeply.”
“Gene was a terrific boss and friend,” WPR Director Mike Crane said in the release. “I admired him so much and will miss him deeply. He was also the quintessential broadcaster — totally dedicated to serving our communities — a model for us all.”
Purcell had led WPM since 2018. He oversaw its administrative transition to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
“Gene brought a passion to his work,” UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the release. “He was deeply committed to the Wisconsin Idea that both Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin embody. He leaves behind him a legacy of excellence in these organizations. More than that, he was just a great person who drew people in. We will miss him.”
Prior to his time with WPM, Purcell was executive director of the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board for more than a decade.
“All of the people at ECB and WPM loved Gene, and have been deeply affected by this sudden and tragic loss,” ECB ED Marta Bechtol said in the release. “It has been a joy to work side by side with him. He has left a permanent mark on our organization: he made us better.”
Earlier in his career, Purcell worked as a reporter and as manager of WPR’s La Crosse bureau.
He is survived by his wife, Ruth, his mother, Toni, along with three brothers and a sister. There will be a celebration of Purcell’s life, but the date has yet to be announced.