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Penny J. Williams, 79, award-winning TV reporter who encouraged hundreds of journalism students

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Jan. 7, 1943 – Nov. 10, 2022

Penny J. Williams, an award-winning Buffalo television reporter in the 1980s who went on to teach and mentor hundreds of broadcast journalism students at area colleges, died Nov. 10 in her home in Franklinville after a period of declining health. She was 79.    

She came to Buffalo in 1982 as medical reporter and part-time anchor at WGRZ-TV. Fifteen of her stories were featured on NBC affiliate stations, including a report on Dr. Herbert Hauptman winning the Nobel Prize for medical research in 1985.

In 1987, she became a weekend anchor at WBEN-AM, and in 1991 she began hosting a half-hour public affairs program at WUTV.

She was a tenured professor in the Russell J. Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University, where she taught print and broadcast news gathering from 1995 to 2002.

Born in Los Angeles, Ms. Williams graduated from North Hollywood High School in 1960 and earned a bachelor's degree from California State University at Northridge, spending her junior year at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

She completed a master's degree in social sciences in 1991 and a doctorate in communication in 1998 at the University at Buffalo, where her dissertation was on “The Impact of the Internet on Broadcast Journalism.”

After starting out in radio with KCSN-FM in Northridge, Ms. Williams became an anchor and producer at KNAZ-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate in Flagstaff, Ariz. Among her stories that were picked up on NPR's “All Things Considered” was an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in Los Angeles in 1978.

Moving to television at WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, Va., she covered the accident aboard the USS Nimitz in 1981, and her story was broadcast by “NBC Nightly News.”

After teaching a course at UB, she stepped away from TV news to teach broadcast journalism at Buffalo State College in 1988. She was advisor to the students' weekly newscast, “Buffalo State Update,” and a weekly TV public affairs program, “Buffalo Forum.” She also advised the student chapter of the Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA).

At St. Bonaventure, she advised the campus RTNDA chapter, driving or flying with students to conferences around the country. She was faculty advisor to the campus radio station WSBU-FM, and was internship coordinator for 250 journalism majors. She also was project coordinator for the launch of the Bob Koop Broadcast Lab, named for the late WIVB-TV reporter and funded by his family.

Ms. Williams was the commencement marshal at St. Bonaventure for six years and was coordinator and presenter of awards to broadcasting notables Bernard Shaw, Charles Osgood, Forrest Sawyer, Judy Woodruff and Cokie Roberts during the university's Mark Hellinger Awards ceremonies in New York City and Washington, D.C.

She was a member of RTNDA, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Women in Communications and Kappa Tau Alpha honor society. She also was a board member of the Erie County Citizens' Committee on Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Abuse.

Survivors include her former husband, Anthony Cardinale, and her daughter, Linda M. Cardinale.

Services will be held at a time to be announced.

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Dale Anderson has been a Buffalo News staff reporter since 1968. He was the chief rock and pop writer for 20 years and helped establish the weekend entertainment magazine Gusto.

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