The Michigan Association of Broadcasters (MAB) is sad to report the passing of MAB Past President, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, MAB Foundation Honorary Board Member and former WOOD Grand Rapids executive Willard "Bill" Schroeder. Schroeder passed away Tuesday, February 23 at his home in East Grand Rapids. He was 96.
Schroeder's Michigan connection began in 1950, when the new WOOD Radio/Grand Rapids owner Harry Bitner hired him as general manager of the station. At that point, WOOD Radio was making plans to add a television station and on October 15, 1951, WOOD-TV went on the air with the first "live" programming in West Michigan. In 1962, WOOD-FM signed on. Under Bill's guidance, WOOD Broadcasting introduced area residents to everything from color television to personalities such as Bruce Grant, Frank Slaymaker and Buck Matthews. Upon retirement as general manager of the TV station, Schroeder remained active as president of WOOD Broadcasting until 1984 when the stations were sold.
Through his broadcasting work in West Michigan, Schroeder was elected president of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters in 1963 and in June of 1964, he was elected chairman of the board of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). He assumed the job would be traditionally honorary; but after NAB president LeRoy Collins resigned to join the Johnson administration, the NAB decided to create a two-man team to head the association. Schroeder became a working chairman, assigned to Washington in partnership with NAB president Vince Wasilewski. For the balance of his term, he juggled two hats and occupied two desks, one in Washington and the other in Grand Rapids.
During his life, Bill was named "Man of the Year" by both the United Fund and the Advertising Club of Grand Rapids. He served on the boards of the YMCA, Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Way, St. Mary's Hospital, Aquinas College, West Michigan Public Broadcasting and Kendall School of Design.
Bill Schroeder was honored by his fellow broadcasters with the MAB's prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also a member of the MAB Foundation Founders Club which provides scholarships to deserving broadcast media students in Michigan. Those desiring to make contributions to a scholarship fund in Bill's honor may do so by clicking this link to donate online or contacting Julie Sochay at email@example.com.
Schroeder was born June 6, 1913 in St. Louis, Missouri. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in journalism school at the University of Missouri. Upon graduation in 1934, Bill was recruited by Hearst Corporation, and at age 23, became a radio advertising sales person at the Hearst station in Pittsburgh, WCAE. He later rose to the position of sales manager of the station and then was transferred and promoted to the general manager position at the company's New York City station. While in New York, Bill met his future wife Barbara, who was teaching radio at Briarcliff College. He and Barbara eventually would have three daughters, Gail, Sally and Christine, and one son, David.
A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. March 6 at the Kent Country Club in Grand Rapids.