Chicago Public Radio loses a key visionary
Carole Nolan, with her dog, Millie, inside her condo at the Moorings, a retirement community in Arlington Heights, shortly after she was inducted into the Illinois Seniors' Hall of Fame.
DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO, 2007
By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
The founding president and CEO of WBEZ-FM lived quietly in her Arlington Heights condominium in retirement, secure in the knowledge she built the station into one of the premiere public radio outlets in the country.
But the station was never far from Carole Nolan's mind. She kept it on in her home, all day long.
Carole Nolan passed away July 5 from complications from muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease. She was 80.
"She was unbelievably brilliant — and shrewd," Torey Malatia, president and chief executive officer of Chicago Public Media in an online tribute. "Her motherly appearance notwithstanding, she was an incisive business professional, who let no obstacle, no matter how formidable, stop her."
Nolan began her career as a science teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, but her boss soon suggested she become a science consultant. In 1960, they created closed-circuit television programming for the schools that brought science curriculum to inner city students.
"We started with a science program," Nolan said in a 2007 Daily Herald interview, "because most of the teachers were afraid to teach it. With this programming, the teacher had a partner."
That same concept of partnering to provide listeners with more educational content and information from different perspectives, continued to drive Nolan throughout her professional career.
She pioneered educational programming on Channel 2 and 5, and as telecommunication and broadcasting director for the Chicago Public Schools. In 1967 she assumed the reins of WBEZ, which at the time was owned by CPS, and broadcast only five hours a day.
By 1970, Nolan joined 90 other telecommunications leaders across the country who had gathered to form National Public Radio.
"I surrounded myself with people who shared the dream," Nolan said in 2007, "to increase its power, its number of hours and better programming."
When CPS wanted to sell the station in 1989, Nolan successfully negotiated the sale to Chicago Public Media, a nonprofit organization she helped to start, over interested cash buyers. She ultimately obtained permission and funding to build their recording facility on Navy Pier.
In retirement, Nolan stayed out of the limelight, except in 2007, when she was one of four people inducted into the Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame. She cherished the plaque she received, which read: "Your achievements will inspire Illinoisans of all ages, for generations."
Nolan had no immediate survivors. A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 10, at Our Lady of the Wayside Church, 440 S. Mitchell Ave. in Arlington Heights.
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