WPM Director Gene Purcell dies in motorcycle crash, medical examiner confirms

Gene Purcell, 61
Gene Purcell, 61(University of Wisconsin)
Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 12:19 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Dane Co. authorities have confirmed the death of University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Public Media Director Gene Purcell in a motorcycle crash early last week. Purcell, 61, died Saturday from the injuries he sustained in the wreck, the Dane Co. Medical Examiner stated.

Purcell had led the UW division since 2018. In that role, Purcell helped transition the Wisconsin Public Media, which provides statewide access to Wisconsin Public Radio and PBS Wisconsin, from being a UW-Extension division to one that’s part of UW-Madison. He also guided the public media organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic, the university noted in a statement following his passing.

“Gene brought a passion to his work,” UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said. “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.”

Before taking over at WPM, Purcell spent more than ten years as the executive director on the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, one of the bodies that manage and maintain WPR’s 37 radio stations, and PBS Wisconsin’s six television stations. He also held leadership roles with the National Educational Telecommunications Association, Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and the University Lincensee Association, UW continued. The UW-La Crosse alum was also recently named board chair of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Gene was a terrific boss and friend,” WPR Director Mike Crane said. “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.”

According to the Madison Police Dept., Purcell’s motorcycle collided with another vehicle last Tuesday, July 27, near the W. Beltline Hwy. and Todd Dr. interchange. Officers responded to the scene shortly before 3:30 p.m. where they found the him unconscious.

The vehicle that collided with Purcell’s motorcycle ended up striking an electrical pole and exposing live wires. The Todd Dr. exit was closed for nearly three hours while crews worked the scene.

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