QUINCY (WGEM) -- Thomas A. Oakley, former President and CEO of Quincy Media Inc. (QMI), was honored Thursday with the Gold Circle Award from the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).
"As President of NATAS Mid-America, it's my pleasure to welcome Thomas A. Oakley to the Gold Circle," Steve Grant from KYTV in Springfield, Missouri, said. "Tom, congratulations on this very high and rarified honor. We salute you and sincerely thank you for your service to our industry."
Gold Circle Award
The Gold Circle Award is presented by the NATAS Mid-America Board of Governors, the same group that presents the annual regional EMMY Awards.
The Gold Circle honors those who have reached the highest level of service to the industry with 50 years or more of credit to their names.
Gold Circle nominees can often trace their careers back to the early days of television and are true pioneers in the television arts and sciences.
Kris Ketz, NATAS Mid-America's Executive Vice President and Chair of the Gold and Silver Circle Induction Committee, said when the committee looked at Oakley's impact on the television industry, it was an easy decision to honor him with the award.
The award was presented to Oakley at Quincy Media's corporate headquarters in downtown Quincy by NATAS Mid-America's Executive Secretary, Chad Mahoney, who is also WGEM's News Director.
"The original plan was to present this award as part of an EMMY banquet, but we couldn't do that due to the pandemic. It was an honor to be able to present this award to Mr. Oakley," Mahoney said. "I can't think of a more deserving individual. His contributions to the industry and the region are tremendous."
The award came as a surprise to Oakley, who gave credit to all the "good people" he has worked with for his success at QMI.
"If I could get all 1,300 of our employees in one room, I'd like to thank them personally. We've been fortunate to have staff, after staff, after staff of great people committed to our business and to our communities," Oakley said.
"I've had many industry honors, and I've had lots of community and regional honors, but this really is a big day," Oakley reflected. "I've had a lot of nice honors, but this one is particularly nice. "Thank you all so very very much."
Thomas Oakley's contributions and impact
Oakley joined Quincy Newspapers, Inc. (now Quincy Media, Inc.) full-time in 1954.
He became President and Chief Executive Officer in 1969. At that time, the company consisted of the Quincy Herald-Whig, WGEM-TV, AM and FM and a portion of ownership of a New Jersey newspaper.
Under Oakley’s leadership, QMI began its major expansion into television. By the time he stepped down as President and CEO in 2008, QMI operated television stations in ten markets, in addition to two radio stations and two newspapers.
Today, the family-owned company remains vibrant, operating television stations in 16 markets, with nearly 100 program streams, as well as two radio stations and two newspapers.
Oakley was actively involved in industry affairs, including membership on the National Association of Broadcasters Board and Chairman of the Television Bureau of Advertising. He also held leadership positions in the newspaper industry.
Despite his very impressive work in the media industry, Oakley’s greatest legacy may be in economic development. Specifically, in the advancement of highway transportation.
He played a leading role in bringing three national corridors through the region that connects Quincy and the Tri-State area to the rest of the United States, and are critical infrastructure for economic development.
His leadership was acknowledged in 2009, with the naming of a portion of the Chicago to Kansas City Expressway from Quincy to Macomb, Illinois, as the Thomas A. Oakley Highway.
History of Central Illinois Expressway
2014 WGEM report on Macomb Bypass Funding