Gene Purcell

Gene Purcell (1960-2021) was a leader in public broadcasting in Wisconsin whose numerous accomplishments are accentuated by his humility and passion for journalism. As his career expanded into new leadership roles, he maintained his love for production and being on the air.

Gene was instantly at home behind the microphone when he took his first step into broadcasting as a host on WLSU in La Crosse where he was a college student. After a short stint in commercial radio, he returned to WLSU as a journalist where he rose through the ranks to be news director, program director and station manager, later joining WPR as southwestern regional manager. From there he moved to Madison to accept a job as deputy director, and later, director of the Educational Communications Board. In 2018, he was named Director of Wisconsin Public Media.

During his career, Gene led public media on many important initiatives, including addressing engineering issues, EAS and public alerting, fundraising, public access to government, an expansion of broadcast and digital services, and transitioning public media from UW-Extension to UW-Madison.

Gene’s sensibility and mild temperament exemplified the spirit of public broadcasting in Wisconsin. He was admired for his leadership and those who met him always felt heard, valued, and befriended.


  1. Mary Kay Dadisman

    Gene was kind, smart, and very skilled in his profession. I liked him immensely. We were colleagues for many years at Wisconsin public radio and worked together both on and off the air. Gene loved life and it showed. He told great stories, laughed a lot, and was simply amazing on the air – friendly, accessible, and sounding like he was simply talking, not reading a script. Even as a top executive he remained humble and self effacing. I think of Gene often. We need more people like him in this world.

  2. Eric Fleming

    Gene was truly a great man and I wish I spent more time with him. We shared our love of indie bands, playing guitar, and just listening to music. He always gave me his attention and was so humble and gracious on every matter. I really miss him. He came to a few of my gigs and that meant so much to me. I was blessed to be in his presence. I’m sorry that I took that for granted in most cases. God Bless you Gene. You taught me a lot.

  3. David Purcell

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, Mary Kay and Eric – those are great memories and remembrances.

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