William McKibben

William T. McKibben

1929 - 2020

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Obituary of William T. McKibben

McKIBBEN - William T. "Bill" Of Grand Island, NY, July 20, 2020. Beloved husband of the late Carolyn A. (Aylor) McKibben; dearest father of W. Mark (Carol) McKibben, Tracy M. (Kevin) LeBlanc and Robert L. McKibben; step-father of Catherine and Carolyn DeLorenzo; also survived by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. No prior visitation. A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the convenience of the family. Mr. McKibben was a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War, was inducted in the Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005 and active in many community organizations. Arrangements by: ERIE COUNTY CREMATION SERVICE, (716) 824-6435, 873 Abbott Rd., Buffalo, NY 14220. Please share your condolences at: www.ERIECOUNTYCREMATIONSERVICE.com Donations may be made in W.T. "Bill" McKibben's name to the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. Here is a direct link to assist with making a donation: https://www.buffalobroadcasters.com/w-t-bill-mckibben/?fbclid=IwAR1B_gyVOVOXStzs9vAFu5tG39rBdxMNa0zOoiGkX8C1Yo8FyJRQNZQFMMo Obituary: W.T. "Bill" McKibben (09/08/1929 - 07/20/2020) “Be swift to love, make haste to be kind” McKibben died (7/20/2020). He was born to Walter & Ruth McKibben, and grew up in the Pittsburgh, PA. area. He was attracted to radio as a teen, working part-time at a station in New Kensington, PA. He attended but did not graduate from Syracuse University. His first job was at WACB in Kittanning, PA where he was the morning DJ, news director and by the time he was 19, station manager. He went on to head other radio stations including WIL in St. Louis, the anchor property of the Balaban Stations and one of the leading rock stations in the country while still in his mid 20s. He developed a reputation for his labor relations skills. He credited his father who had been a union official, impressing on him a key factor, “learn what the men really want.” It taught him that what the union leadership wanted was often not what their members really wanted. When asked about his rapid advancement, he pointed out that there were about 1,000 radio stations in the country when he got his first job and ten years later there were 5,000 radio and 2,000 television stations. He joked that if you showed up for work on time two days in a row they made you general manager. He moved from St. Louis to Buffalo to head the WGR Stations for Taft Broadcasting. A little over a year later he moved to the WBEN stations owned by the Buffalo News. Coming from the rock radio world, he was very research oriented, something television stations didn’t pay much attention to in the 1960s, since they all were generating huge profits. His research based innovations at Channel 4 boosted the station’s newscasts from an average 11 share to a 42 share in less than 90 days; revenues soared as well. After six years he realized his dream and was able to become majority owner of WEBR radio. As he would point out he was too focused on the dream and his timing couldn’t have been worse. He passed up a couple out-of-town broadcast opportunities and launched a communications/marketing firm with his daughter Tracy. The loss of two major accounts just as Tracy’s boys were coming of school age prompted them to shutter the firm. Bill continued to consult in the field and he carried on a writing practice up to his death. He became interested in Business Ethics and published a book, “Play Nice, Make Money” in 2007. McKibben liked to say that he was raised by a tribe of powerful women. Not that his Dad was weak, it takes a strong man to make a strong woman happy. He fought in broadcasting to give women opportunities not usually available to them. He had some luck with on-air jobs but was frustrated in many cases when the audience just didn’t accept them and ratings fell. He moved a woman, Irene Runnels, from a support role in sales into an Account Executive position. When the media director of the largest agency in town commented, “she better not show up here,” McKibben cancelled all of the agency’s accounts. It took less than an hour for the president of the agency to call and apologize for any “misunderstanding.” Runnels went on to become the first woman to become general manager of a major market radio station. She was very active in the American Women in Radio and Television. Following her death the AWRT established a scholarship in her name; it is still awarded annually. McKibben was very active in the Civil Rights movement in St. Louis and in Buffalo heading the group that brought community organizer Saul Alinsky to Buffalo and in creating Build, the community organization credited with minimizing violence in the city during the 1960s. Alinsky considered Build his most successful group. He and McKibben hit it off from day one; they developed a close personal friendship that lasted until Alinsky’s death. He was hired at the WBEN stations by Alfred Kirchoffer, the legendary head of the Buffalo News. They became very close during his time at the WBEN Stations, the elderly Kirchoffer treating him almost like a son. Their friendship continued after Kirchoffer’s retirement and up until his death. McKibben never forgot Kirchoffer’s love of chocolate, baking his friend and mentor a rich tunnel of fudge cake every year for his birthday. McKibben often said that he gained a Doctorate at the Kirchoffer School of Ethical Journalism. McKibben was active in many civic organizations. A favorite was the United Way where he served as a Vice President and a member of a small unofficial Inner Circle of advisors to Bill McFarland who headed the charity in Buffalo. They remained close friends until McFarland’s death. He frequently chaired special committees created to settle disputes with agencies over funding and policies. He sat on the Board of Directors of a dozen or more community service organizations, notably the YMCA and the Council of Churches. He avoided displays of authority or power, preferring to quietly work in the background for the good of the community. However, he wrote and delivered daily on-air editorials; he never hesitated to use the power of the stations to support the good of the community. In April 2017, he lost the love of his life, Carolyn. He is survived by three children from his first marriage, Mark, Tracy McKibben LeBlanc, and Bob, step-daughters Catherine and Carolyn DeLorenzo, as well as the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who amazed and amused him. Donations may be made in W.T. "Bill" McKibben's name to the Buffalo Broadcasters Association. Here is a direct link to assist with making a donation: https://www.buffalobroadcasters.com/w-t-bill-mckibben/?fbclid=IwAR1B_gyVOVOXStzs9vAFu5tG39rBdxMNa0zOoiGkX8C1Yo8FyJRQNZQFMMo Arrangements by: ERIE COUNTY CREMATION SERVICE, (716) 824-6435, 873 Abbott Rd., Buffalo, NY 14220