Tess Mern (Tad) Williams (1924 – 2009)
Early Life and Education
The son of Elmer Williams and Laurin Olsen Williams, Tess Mern (Tad) Williams was born March 23, 1924 in Declo, Idaho. He attended school in Inkom and Declo, Idaho and Lakeview, Oregon, where he graduated in 1942.
In 1951 Williams earned a BS degree in Agricultural Engineering from Oregon State University, where he was affiliated with Theta Chi fraternity. He earned an MS degree in Technical Journalism from Iowa State University, the first university to have a program in television, in 1956. He earned his PhD in Communications from Michigan State University in 1971. He also completed a six-week course from the 1948 Radio Institute in Los Angeles, sponsored by the University of California and the National Broadcasting Company.
Williams learned about broadcasting during his studies at Oregon State and later went on to work first as a Sportscaster for a radio station in Burley, Idaho. He earned his Master’s degree at Iowa State University while working for a radio station in Ames, Iowa. As television became more and more popular, he took the job as the announcer for a new television station in Ames.
Williams later received an invitation to go to Tacoma, Washington, to help get their Channel 13 station on the air. He was a film editor and program director at KMO-TV in Tacoma, Washington and at KOIN-TV in Portland, Oregon. While there, President Ernest L. Wilkinson of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, invited him to help get Channel 11 activated for the school.
He joined the faculty of Brigham Young University in 1960 as an assistant professor and Director of Broadcast Services and was primarily responsible for the launch of category:KBYU-FM radio and KBYU-TV.
Up to this time the television channel had been a struggle to get up and running. The station had run for a year before going bankrupt, so the big challenge when Williams arrived was getting the money to reactivate the station. He went with President Wilkinson to speak with the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who owned BYU, to see if they could get the money.
After speaking with the First Presidency they were able to get the money they needed and Dr. Williams was charged with the responsibility to get the station on the air. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, who was serving as an assistant to the leaders of the church at the time, told Williams, “You just bought yourself a television station. Go back home to campus and get the station on the air as quick as you can. We need it and the church needs it.”
Williams worked diligently on this responsibility and played an instrumental part in the successful creation of KBYU-TV channel 11. He was the Managing Director of Broadcast Services for KBYU-TV from July 1960 to August 1966.
In 1970 he joined the staff of the Utah State Board of Higher Education, serving as Coordinator of Statewide Television, including Telecommunications and Instructional Television, where he served for 17 years with "distinction, impartiality, wisdom, and foresight," according to an official proclamation presented to him by the Board. He also received a Distinguished Service Award from KBYU-FM on November 20, 1985, in recognition of his important contributions there.
During his years at the Board of Regents, Williams also taught classes for the BYU-Salt Lake Center and became interested in career counseling, leading him to establish the Utah Education/Career telephone hotline which he coordinated with the Board of Regents. Following his retirement from the Board of Regents in 1987, he served as a consultant for the LDS Church in the Public Affairs, Communication, and Audio-Visual departments until 2004.
Family and Personal Life
Williams served in the Army Air Corps from 1942-1945 as a pilot trainee. He married Maxine Hoggan of Burley, Idaho on September 23, 1949 in the Salt Lake Temple. They had two children, Dorice and Alan Mern. Williams was a devoted husband and father who adored his family. He was known by family, friends, and associates as an exceptionally kind, compassionate, and caring man. He was a peacemaker and mediator, and also had a delightful sense of humor.
Throughout his life, he served faithfully in LDS Church callings, including bishoprics, high councilor, High Priest group leader, and many others. He was called with his wife on missions to Temple Square and the Church Office Building, where he coordinated efforts for the Church to join the national interdenominational VISION cable TV network, as well as other major projects.
Three days before his 60th wedding anniversary, Williams passed away on September 20, 2009 in Orem, Utah.
- William, Tad. Personal Interview. 1 August 2006.