On-air honor: KUFM's William Marcus recognized for years of service
On-air honor: KUFM's William Marcus recognized for years of service

When William Marcus packed his bags and left his remote hometown of Wibaux for college at the University of Montana, he didn't really have a plan.

It was the early 1970s and all Marcus really knew was he wanted to know more.

At UM, his simple - albeit heady - quest took him on an unexpected journey that led him to the School of Journalism, where he received a bachelor's degree in the radio-television program. As a student, he landed a part-time job at the fledgling campus radio station, KUFM, and found his life's work.

As if someone was building a sidewalk ahead of him, Marcus said recently, his path was found at UM.

He didn't know at the time that he would stick around 31 years, and along the way help build KUFM into a powerhouse station, that he would help secure its affiliation with National Public Radio or serve as a host and interviewer for Missoula-produced national programming.

But he stayed his course, one he found intellectually stimulating and filled with stories about the state he loves to call home. His work eventually expanded, and while raising the profile of - and the funds for - the radio station, Marcus also helped build a telecommunications center at UM. These days, his official title is director of UM's Broadcast Media Center, which includes public television programming and is home to the award-winning show he hosts called "Backroads of Montana."

On Thursday, Marcus' journey and his work will be publicly honored in Helena when he is bestowed the 2007 Governor's Humanities Award from the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

"William has distinguished himself in a variety of media, both in Montana Public Radio and Montana public television and broadcasting," said Mark Sherouse, executive director of the Montana Committee for the Humanities.

"In all his work he has always brought Montana's humanities and literature and culture to the forefront, and because of his work, he has brought to all of us a greater understanding of ourselves and the state."

When two librarians - independent from each other - nominated Marcus for the recognition, the award committee let out a collective "yes, of course," Sherouse said.

"William is a natural for this award," he said, "and we are honored to give it to him."

The award, which is given every two years, honors individuals who have made outstanding achievements in humanities scholarship and service, and whose work has enhanced public understanding and appreciation of the humanities.

Marcus is one of five Montana residents who will receive the award at ceremony led by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and celebrated at an evening banquet. The other honorees are Rose Marie Goetz Aus of Glendive; Marvin Granger of Billings; Eve Palmer Malo of Dillon and Johnnie Lockett Thomas of Miles City.

"I am very honored by this," Marcus said, "but I also know that the recognition comes as part of all the work of the people at Montana Public Radio and MontanaPBS.

"This is not my accomplishment alone."

Among a long list of people who share the success of the UM-based programming, Marcus said, are Ray Ekness, Gus Chambers, John Twiggs, all of whom make the "Backroads" television show possible and Michael Marsolek, who directs programming for Montana Public Radio.

"I know this award is for the work of everyone," Marcus said, "and I plan to accept this honor in their names as much as mine."

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