Language arts teacher Wendy Rice reminisces on successful radio career

By Ella Narag, News Editor

Taking out a pencil and a notebook, Wendy Rice listened to and researched all the records in her reach. When she first started, she was told she needed to know more about music to be on the radio. 

She quickly became one of the most music-knowledgeable radio journalists, spending over 35 years discussing her thoughts as a DJ for WXRT-FM Chicago.

Wendy Rice, a Champaign-Urbana native, has spent over three decades in broadcast journalism. She entered the University of Illinois in the fall of 1976, starting at WPBS in 1977 and moving into WPGU the following school year as program director.

In the summer of 1979, a WPGU alumn in Peoria offered her a job to DJ and direct music at a local radio station. She worked in Peoria for three years, deciding not to graduate from the University. 

Rice interned at WXRT in the summer of 1978, and, after working in Peoria, she accepted a job offer at WXRT in Chicago. The Adult Alternative Album radio station serves as one of Chicago’s most popular, and there she shared her passion for alternative music with listeners. 

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“I loved music … and I jumped at the opportunity,” Rice said. “I wanted the alternative type of music — that was my interest. I had offers from other stations in Chicago, but (WXRT) was the only place I wanted to work at, and so I was lucky.”

At WXRT, she hosted a show named the “Saturday Morning Flashback.” The four-hour show looked at various aspects of one year — from news to music — and Rice hosted the talk show examining the different parts in a retrospective fashion.  

She called “Saturday Morning Flashback” her “biggest work and pride” at WXRT. She said it quickly became very successful and became a large part of her brand today.

Rice, who does not currently work in the journalism industry, now works full time as an eighth-grade language arts teacher.

People frequently ask Rice if she misses WXRT, she said. However, because they changed what she used to do and discontinued her program, Rice said she “can’t really miss something if it changes that much.”

“For now I kind of weave it into my teaching,” Rice said. “I teach kids how to make podcasts … and it’s a lot of fun.”

After years of working as a teacher, she looks very fondly of her time in radio journalism.

A highlight of her time at WXRT was meeting her husband, whom she shares three kids with and has been married to for 35 years.

Rice also appreciates the environment at Illini Media that encouraged her to explore music.

“It was a really great experience, starting out at WPGU, with people who just really believed in exposing people to new music and a shared goal of ‘progressive’ music,” Rice said. 

 

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