Longtime listener bequeaths $3 million to NEPM
Walter J. Wolnik leaves transformational gift to western Massachusetts’ public media organization
Oct. 17, 2023, SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Walter J. Wolnik of Amherst, Massachusetts, has bequeathed New England Public Media $3 million, the largest gift in NEPM’s history. The transformational gift will support NEPM’s ongoing commitment to presenting classical music on the radio in western Massachusetts, with a specific focus on access to classical music overnight.
“We are honored by the trust that Walter Wolnik has placed in us with this wonderful gift,” said Matt Abramovitz, president of NEPM. “A gift of this magnitude not only has a significant impact on our organization for many years to come, but truly benefits the entire classical community.”
Wolnik passed away on Sept. 20, 2022 at the age of 76. He was born and raised in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, where he attended the local high school before graduating from Harvard University in 1969. Wolnik then studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a systems programming consultant for labs at several hospitals in the Boston area, and spent a significant portion of time researching and managing his investments. He lived in Newton, Massachusetts, before moving to Amherst in 2000 where he was active in local politics and enjoyed gardening.
He was a longtime listener to NEPM, and was especially fond of classical music in the overnight hours. Wolnik never married, but had a strong bond with his nieces, Susan Jongeneel and Cindy Peters throughout his life.
“He was very smart, he was shy, and he moved carefully around people, but this did not prevent him from being involved in his community,” said Jongeneel. “He was a very good and decent person.”
"To know Mr. Wolnik believed deeply enough in NEPM, our mission, and our people, to invest in the organization in the way he did is truly inspiring,” said Patrick Carpenter, senior director of development for NEPM. “We are honored to be a part of his legacy, and we look forward to stewarding the funds and intentions he entrusted to us at the very highest level possible."
Earlier this fall, NEPM moved to strengthen its classical radio offering by launching Classical NEPM, a 24-hour service to better serve its classical music audience.
With this launch, NEPM now offers three times more music to classical fans via the four former NEPM News Network stations. Hosts John Nowacki, Steve Petke, and Jon Solins are hallmarks of the new offering, bringing locally-produced programming to the classical audience.
Classical NEPM also broadcasts local favorites such as live broadcasts from Tanglewood and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, while broadening the repertoire with new programs including “Performance Today,” “Symphony Cast” and “The New York Philharmonic This Week.”
Classical NEPM airs full time on four local stations: 91.9 FM in Hampden County; 91.7 FM in Franklin County; 89.5 FM in Southern Berkshire County; and 98.9 FM in Northern Berkshire County. Classical NEPM is also on 89.3 FM in Hampshire County when Amherst College student programming is not on the air. Classical NEPM is streaming via smart speaker, at classicalnepm.org, in the new Classical NEPM app, as well as 88.5 FM HD-2.
ABOUT NEW ENGLAND PUBLIC MEDIA
NEPM (New England Public Media) is a community-supported, independent nonprofit organization based in Springfield, Massachusetts. Through a deep commitment to independent local journalism, trusted educational content, inspired cultural offerings, and civic engagement, NEPM endeavors to share new voices and inspire new conversations. It provides audiences with a broad array of local and national programs across all media —TV, radio, online, and mobile, including PBS and NPR programs as well as locally produced series, podcasts and specials. Its four digital TV channels and two radio networks present news, jazz and classical music, documentaries, talk, drama, plus cultural and educational programming.