Tom Williams

Program Director | Access Utah Host

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996.  He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.)  He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah” and “Opera Saturday.”  He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.

Ways To Connect

As part of Utah State University's Year of Water, Access Utah arranged a conversation about all-things water.


"USU is a global pioneer in developing better ways to manage and deliver the water we depend on. Researchers here are learning more about water management from the atmosphere, to mountain top, to seashore, to the faucet and the field. We are collecting new information at every level to help us use water more wisely."


Mark Hill Photography

Rita Moreno is one of few people to hold the awards "Grand Slam" -- Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and Tony. In her twenties, after her Oscar win for "West Side Story," she didn't work in Hollywood again for seven years, because she refused stereotyped roles. She's see as a trailblazer. And she's having, at 83, a well-deserved very good year. 

Award-winning filmmaker Helen Whitney says “forgiveness is elusive, mysterious, idea and an ache that is rooted in existential concerns.” PBS describes her film Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate this way: It “provides an intimate look into the spontaneous outpouring of forgiveness: from the Amish families for the 2006 shooting of their children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.

Once a uniquely religious word, forgiveness now is changing and there is no consensus about what it is and what it is becoming. However you define forgiveness, its power is real — and never more so when it struggles with the unforgivable. Inevitably, as Whitney reveals, its new role in the world raises serious and complex questions: why is forgiveness in the air today; what does that say about us and the times we live in; what are its power, its limitations and in some instances its dangers; has it been cheapened or deepened... or both?

Writer David Quammen's working life bounces back and forth between topics such as grizzly bear conservation in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, close to home, and the study of lethal viruses that emerge from bats and chimpanzees and rodents in places like the Congo. Quammen will present on Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world, at this year's Shift Festival in Jackson Wyoming. He joins us on Access Utah today. 

In the spring of 2005, acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment for National Geographic: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.

Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

“Is suicide wrong, profoundly morally wrong? Almost always wrong, but excusable in a few cases? Sometimes morally permissible? Imprudent, but not wrong? Is it sick, a matter of mental illness? Is it a private matter or a largely social one? Could it sometimes be right, or a "noble duty," or even a fundamental human right? Whether it is called "suicide" or not, what role may a person play in the end of his or her own life?” These are questions posed and addressed in a new book published by Oxford University Press with the full digital version hosted online by the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. The book’s editor is Margaret Pabst Battin, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Medical Ethics at the University of Utah. Her comprehensive historical sourcebook, “The Ethics of Suicide: HIstorical Sources,” will be presented at an event on Monday, October 5th - 12:00 - 2:00 pm at the J. Willard Marriot Library, Gould Auditorium, level 1.


The 21st Annual Leonard J. Arrington Mormon History Lecture will take place in the Logan Tabernacle, 50 N. Main Street, on Thursday, September 24, at 7 p.m. The title is "Narrating Jane: Telling the Story of an Early African American Mormon Woman." Jane Elizabeth Manning James was among the early African American converts to Mormonism. After joining the church in the early 1840s, James remained a faithful member until her death in Salt Lake City in 1908. Although she was well-known among church members during her lifetime, James was largely forgotten after her death. The lecture will be presented by Quincy D. Newell, a specialist in the religious history of the American West. After more than a decade on the Religious Studies faculty at the University of Wyoming, she now teaches in the Religious Studies department at Hamilton College. Newell is currently writing a biography of Jane Elizabeth Manning James, which will be published by Oxford University Press.

This is an encore presentation of "Access Utah."


Luma Mufleh was raised in a wealthy family in Jordan, but left that life behind to come to school in America. After graduating from Smith College, she moved to Georgia to begin a life for herself. She did not have family support and was struggling on her own. One day she made a wrong turn and came across a group of refugee boys playing soccer. She says they were barefoot, playing with an old ball, and having the time of their lives. Mufleh continued to watch the boys play, and on her third visit, joined them. That was the beginning of her Fugees organization, which grew from a focus on soccer to include education and more. Luma Mufleh continues to help hundreds of refugee boys and girls through Fugees Family.

Born in 1861 in New Mexico’s Acoma Pueblo, Edward Proctor Hunt lived a tribal life almost unchanged for centuries. But after attending government schools he broke with his people’s ancient codes to become a shopkeeper and controversial broker between Indian and white worlds. As a Wild West Show Indian he travelled in Europe with his family, and saw his sons become silversmiths, painters, and consultants on Indian Lore. In 1928, in a life-culminating experience, he recited his version of the origin myth of Acoma Pueblo to Smithsonian Institution scholars.

In his book "How the World Moves: The Odyssey of an American Indian Family" Peter Nabokov narrates the fascinating story of Hunt’s life within a multicultural and historical context. Chronicling Pueblo Indian life and Anglo/Indian relations over the last century and a half, he explores how this entrepreneurial family capitalized on the nation’s passion for Indian culture. In this rich book, Nabokov dramatizes how the Hunts, like migrants throughout history, faced anguishing decisions over staying put or striking out for economic independence, and experienced the pivotal passage from tradition to modernity.

Island Press

“In New Mexico's Gila Wilderness, 106 Mexican gray wolves may be some of the most monitored wildlife on the planet. Collared, microchipped, and transported by helicopter ... once a symbol of the wild, these wolves have come to illustrate the demise of wilderness in this Human Age. ... And yet, the howl of an unregistered wolf—half of a rogue pair—splits the night. If you know where to look, you'll find that much remains untamed, and even today, wildness can remain a touchstone for our relationship with the rest of nature.” That’s journalist and adventurer Jason Mark writing in his new book “Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man.” He says that wildness is wily as a coyote: you have to be willing to track it to understand the least thing about it. Today on the program Jason Mark joins us for the hour.

Hachette Books

Today's broadcast of "Access Utah" originally aired in 2011.

Liz Murray was born to loving, but drug-addicted parents in the New York City borough, the Bronx. In school she was taunted for her dirty clothing and having lice-infested hair. Eventually Murray had skipped so many classes, she was put into a girl's home. At age 15, she found herself on the streets, when her family finally unraveled. She survived by foraging for food, and riding subways all night to have a warm place to sleep. 


Dixie State University and the DOCUTAH International Documentary Film Festival offers three screenings of "Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot," the true story of the forgotten heroes in the fight for voting rights — the courageous students and teachers of Selma, Alabama, who stood up against injustice despite facing intimidation, arrests and violence. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act which was a direct product of this movement. By organizing and marching bravely, these "ordinary heroes" achieved one of the most significant victories of the civil rights era. The film is narrated by Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer and includes music from Mavis Staples, Ry Cooder, The Roots and Blind Boys of Alabama. It has been submitted for consideration for an Academy Award. Today on the program we speak with the director and producer of the film, Bill Brummel.

It’s been several months since we got together as a community and compiled a UPR book list.  Public radio listeners are famous as avid readers. We want to know what you’re reading. What’s on your nightstand or on your device right now? Fellow listeners may not know about it and may love it.

We have avid reader and UPR friend Elaine Thatcher with us in studio and we’ll talk with several booksellers who will tell us what’s coming out this Fall that they’re excited about.

We’ll speak with booksellers Anne Holman from The King’s English Book Shop in Salt Lake City, Andy Nettell from Back of Beyond Books in Moab and Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City.

Today's Broadcast of "Access Utah" is an encore presentation from 2012.

Today's broadcast of "Access Utah" is an encore presentation from April 2015.

USU Philosophy Professor Charlie Huenemann, writing for says that "we all seek to capture the world with a net of language. Yet it is in the nature of nets to capture some things and let others slip away, and that goes for languages too...What is left unsaid speaks volumes. We might resign ourselves to this fact - the inescapable limits of what's sayable - but in fact a great many minds have sought to construct the perfect language." 

“My whole childhood, I never had a bed.” That’s how Elva Trevino Hart opens her memoir “Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child.”

“Barefoot Heart” is a vividly told autobiographical account of the life of a child growing up in a family of migrant farm workers. It brings to life the day-to-day existence of people facing the obstacles of working in the fields and raising a family in an environment that is frequently hostile to those who have little education and speak another language. Assimilation brings its own problems, as the original culture is attenuated and the quality of family relationships is compromised, consequences that are not inevitable, but are rather a series of choices made along the way. Barefoot Heart is also the story of how the author overcame the disadvantages of this background and discovered her true talents and, in the process, found herself. “Barefoot Heart” was chosen as the book for the 2009 Common Literature Experience at Utah State University.


In his new book “Ways to the West” (Utah State University Press) Tim Sullivan embarks on a car-less road trip through the Intermountain West, exploring how the region is taking on what may be its greatest challenge: sustainable transportation. Combining personal travel narrative, historical research, and his professional expertise in urban planning, Sullivan takes a critical yet optimistic and often humorous look at how contemporary Western cities are making themselves more hospitable to a life less centered on the personal vehicle.

Sullivan, a city planner and urban designer, says that the modern West was built by the automobile, but so much driving has jeopardized the West’s mystic hold on the American future. At first, auto-mobility heightened the things that made the West great, but love became dependence, and dependence became addiction. Through his travels by bicycle, bus, and train through Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Sullivan captures the modern transportation evolution taking place across the region and the resulting ways in which contemporary Western communities are reinterpreting classic American values like mobility, opportunity, adventure, and freedom.

Join Tim Sullivan at The King's English Thursday, September 10th at 7:00 pm.

John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management

“In our region fire is to dry forests as rain is to rainforests; both are important in the life of a forest to provide clean water, climate stabilization, hunting and fishing, outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. A fire does not destroy a forest; rather, it simply resets nature’s clock as it has been doing for millennia,” said Chad Hanson, Director and Ecologist with the John Muir Project, Earth Island Institute, and co-editor of “The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix”

On Monday's Access Utah we discuss the recruitment of western peoples by ISIS, the extremist militant group terrorizing Iraq and Syria. The group, utilizing social media, has managed to lure thousands of young adults from the United States, Canada and Europe to join their efforts in the Middle East. On the program today we speak with Christianne Bourdreau, a Canadian mother whose works to prevent the ISIS' recruitment follows the death of her son, Damian Clairmont, who died in Syria after relocating and fighting for the Islamic State. Christian Bourdreau now works with the Mothers For Life network, which aims to build support for mothers who have experienced Jihadist radicalization. Joining us for the hour is also Dr. Anne Speckhard, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine and of Security Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Dr. Speckhard talks about the discourse and ideology of terrorism recruitment, which she details in her new book "Bride of ISIS." 

Joe Hill was a Swedish immigrant, a songwriter, a worker and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies. He was a prolific songwriter for his union, which contributed to the IWW’s growth in the early 20th century AS a singing union. While working in Utah, he was accused of a double homicide, which he likely did not commit. Despite an international campaign to save him, which included the Swedish ambassador, Helen Keller and President Wilson, he was executed for those murders. The State of Utah easily condemned Joe Hill and his union as troublemakers.

Author Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master’s degree in food studies at New York University. Facing the reality that 46 million Americans have to survive on only $4/day, her focus soon became food insecurity, and more specifically the question: how well can someone really eat on $4 a day? That’s the amount provided through the U.S. government’s food stamp program. To determine the answer, she took to her kitchen, developing resourceful recipes made of whole, unprocessed foods that promote the joy of cooking and that show just how delicious and inspiring a “cheap” meal can be when cooked at home.

During its sometimes awkward years of adolescence and maturation, Utah was gradually incorporated into the American political, social, and economic mainstream. Urban and industrial influences supplanted agrarian traditions, displacing people socially, draining the countryside of population, and galvanizing a critical crisis in values and self-identification. National corporations and mass labor movements took root in the state as commerce expanded. Involvement in world events such as the Spanish-American War, two world wars, and the Great Depression further set the stage for entry into the modern, globalized world as Utahns immersed themselves in national politics and became part of the democratic, corporate culture of twentieth-century America.

On Tuesday's Access Utah, we visit with co-author Brian Cannon.

As Holly Isaac sees it, Planned Parenthood saved her life.

Isaac began going to the Salt Lake City clinic for birth-control pills as a 19-year-old University of Utah student, and, three years later, her regular obstetrical-gynecological exam revealed she had the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.


"I feel like it saved my life," said Isaac, who went home to Minnesota for cancer treatment, but returned to the U. and now lives in Sugar House with her husband and two children.


Planned Parenthood, the now-42-year-old said, does not deserve the rap it's getting — a position shared by hundreds of others who responded to a query from the Utah Public Insight Network via The Salt Lake Tribune. On Monday's Access Utah we explore both sides of this issue, and include in the conversation CEO at Planned Parenthood Association of Utah Karrie Galloway, Senator Margaret Dayton, and Utah State University sociologisy Dr. Eddy Berry.

Research on human beings saves countless lives, but has at times harmed the participants. To what degree then should government regulate science, and how? The horrors of Nazi concentration camp experiments and the egregious Tuskegee syphilis study led the US government, in 1974, to establish Research Ethics Committees, known as Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to oversee research on humans. The US now has over 4,000 IRBs, which examine yearly tens of billions of dollars of research -- all studies on people involving diseases, from cancer to autism, and behavior. Yet ethical violations persist. 

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a pastime more emblematic of the western spirit than fly-fishing. Liberating, poetic, wild, soothing and inspiring, it pushes the boundaries of the mind. In essays ranging from introspective to ironic, angler authors Chadd VanZanten and Russ Beck distill the purest truths of fly-fishing into essential, often humorous rules of thumb. With kernels like "always tell the truth sometimes" and "all the fish are underwater," wade into the blue ribbon waters of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah to reflect metaphysically on these lines of practical wisdom. 

Join local authors, Chadd Vanzanten and Russ Beck, for a reading and signing of their new book at King's English, Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 7:00 pm.