Steve Robinson is stepping down after 16 years as executive vice president and general manager of classical WFMT FM 98.7, the Window to the World Communications station announced Monday.
No successor was named for Robinson, 69, whose last day at the station will be September 30. He said he plans to “stretch [his] entrepreneurial wings in the for-profit world.”
“It is with great regret that we bid farewell to an indispensable member of our WFMT family,” Dan Schmidt, president and CEO of WTTW, said in a statement. “It is difficult to imagine the station without his unflagging energy, endless creativity, and deep knowledge of classical music and radio operations. He will be greatly missed, and I know I speak for all of us when I wish him success in his future endeavors.”
Robinson, a Boston native who has a degree in music from Boston University and once worked as a classical music host, succeeded Schmidt as vice president of radio and general manager of WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network in 2000 after a decade as head of Nebraska Public Radio Network and general manager of KUCV in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“Working at WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network has been the greatest privilege and challenge of my career,” Robinson said in a statement. “When people ask, ‘Oh, you run WFMT?’ I always say, ‘No, I run after it.’ And that’s because everyone at WFMT is immensely creative, knowledgeable, and passionate about their work, and all I’ve really done is try to harness this incredible talent to move the station forward. If it has progressed at all in the 16 years I’ve been there, it’s because of them, and I will always be grateful.”
Robinson was credited with diversifying WFMT’s programming and increasing its member base, while transforming the WFMT Radio Network into a leading producer and syndicator of music and spoken word programs. Among other initiatives, he created “Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin” and helped launch the Studs Terkel Radio Archive in partnership with Chicago History Museum.
On Monday, Robinson told Tribune classical music critic John Von Rhein: “The decision was definitely mine and mine alone. I felt it was time to hand the baton off, that’s one reason. And I also feel it’s time for me to stretch my entrepreneurial wings in the for-profit world. I’m an entrepreneur at heart but my creativity and entrepreneurship has always taken place within the non-profit world and that’s been great. But, as I say, I’m bursting with ideas that I need to try out in different ways than before.”
In the latest Nielsen Audio survey, WFMT tied for 25th place with a 1.5 percent share and cumulative weekly audience of 327,100.