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2020 Public Media Impact Award Recipient Beany Tomber

w.r. richards
Beany Tomber at a Ready to Learn event in 2013.

Retired WKAR Public Media trailblazer Ilene “Beany” Tomber has been honored with the 2020 Public Media Impact award, presented by the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters. During her time at the Michigan State University-based public broadcasting station, Tomber created and led the corporate development division and launched and led numerous education and community engagement programs that continue to impact Michigan’s capital region community today.

The award was announced on July 17, 2020 online at www.michmab.com. The annual gala awards event was canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Beany has truly been a trailblazer for WKAR and our mid-Michigan community,” said Susi Elkins, WKAR general manager. “Her work to build corporate support for our mission and her passion for education has made the kind of impact that defines public media and continues to inspire us every day.

The MAPB presents Public Media Impact Awards to professionals and donors for their contribution to public broadcasting in Michigan. The awards are given to recognize outstanding individuals for their innovation and creativity in the field of public radio and television and to increase awareness of public broadcasting and the contributions talented individuals make to the industry statewide.

“Beany personifies the very best attributes of public media,” said Gary Reid, former general manager at WKAR, who nominated Tomber for the award.  “Over her 55-year career she has dedicated herself to children, education and the pursuit of knowledge.”

“Beany truly set the foundation at WKAR for educational programs and resources,” said Robin Pizzo, WKAR director of education. “I am honored to continue her tradition and build upon her vision for education in our community.”

As director of corporate development at WKAR beginning in 1982, Beany formed partnerships with businesses and agencies to help ensure mid-Michigan's public broadcasting television and radio stations could provide trusted news, educational, and entertainment programming for the community. 

Following her passion for children and education, Beany launched WKAR’s Ready to Learn service in 1996, providing training and resources to educators and families across mid-Michigan. In the years that followed, she expanded WKAR’s education and outreach efforts to include PBS Teacherline, PBS LearningMedia and the Community Cinema and Indie Lens Pop-Up film series. 

Beany’s underwriting experience and grant writing ability led to CPB, PNC and numerous other grants in support of Head Start, Impression 5 Science Center, and other early education services for mid-Michigan. 

In 2000, Beany founded the Early Childhood Literacy Coalition, made up of area libraries and the Great Start Readiness program. 

Beany also had a key role in creating the WKAR original television series “Curious Crew,” hosted by award-winning science educator Dr. Rob Stephenson. In six seasons on the air, the science show for kids has won numerous regional and national awards and is seen on PBS stations across the country.

Beany retired from WKAR in 2017. She continues to stay in touch with WKAR leadership, offering help and guidance drawn from her years of experience and passion for her community. 

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