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.

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Kay Press

“At All Costs” details the life of Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, a Pennsylvania native who was among 12 U.S. airmen killed March 11, 1968, when a North Vietnamese Army special forces team scaled a 3,000-foot cliff and attacked their secret radar camp.


Etchberger helped rescue three of his comrades, two of whom were severely wounded, and made it safely aboard an evacuation helicopter himself before being shot through the floor as it lifted off from the mountain, where he helped lead a team that aided the U.S. bombing campaign of North Vietnam. He and two fellow airmen were killed outright. Their bodies and those of nine others were not recovered following the clash. The remains of two have since been identified through DNA testing and returned to their families. Author Matt Proietti, along with Sgt. Erchberger's sons Rich and Cory Etchberger, join us to discuss their father's legacy and receiving the Medal of Honor on his behalf.

National Geographic

"Cars, for Americans, more than anything else represent freedom." So says Matt Hardigree, executive director of, who is featured in National Geographic Channel's new documentary film, "Driving America," which premieres on Memorial Day. The film examines how car culture has changed the way we live, work, travel and socialize; and looks into the future, including potential game changers like Tesla's electric cars. 

Access Utah is presenting a periodic series of conversations on the hotly-debated topic of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs.) Our last such program, a few months ago, presented the case for GMOs. Wednesday on AU, public interest attorney Steven Druker will present a vigorous case against GMOs. Mr. Druker initiated a lawsuit that, according to him, forced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to divulge its files on genetically engineered foods.

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

How do you sum up a life? What do you include and what do you leave out? Heather Lende, author of the new book "Find the Good," is the obituary writer for the Chilkat Valley News in a beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska. She says "we are all writing our own obituary every day by how we live." Shanan Ballam, who teaches Creative Writing at Utah State University, wrote her brother Dylan's obituary. She felt that the obituary was not enough--it left too much unsaid.  So she's been writing "addendum" poems, to "more fully characterize, celebrate, and mourn [her] brother." 

Heather Lende has contributed essays and commentary to NPR, the New York Times, and National Geographic Traveler, among other newspapers and magazines, and is a former contributing editor at Woman's Day. In addition to writing obituaries for the Chilkat Valley News, she is  columnist for the Alaska Dispatch News. Her previous books include  If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name, and Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs.

Graywolf Press

In the 1960s, humans took their first steps away from Earth, and for a time our possibilities in space seemed endless. But in a time of austerity and in the wake of high-profile disasters like Challenger, that dream seems to have ended. In early 2011, Margaret Lazarus Dean traveled to Cape Canaveral for NASA's last three space shuttle launches in order to bear witness to the end of an era.

In her new book "Leaving Orbit: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight" Dean serves as our guide to Florida's Space Coast and to the history of NASA., taking the measure of what American spaceflight has achieved while reckoning with its earlier witnesses, such as Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Oriana Fallaci. Along the way, Dean meets NASA workers, astronauts, and space fans, gathering answers to the question: What does it mean that a spacefaring nation won't be going to space anymore? 

In 1891, Lucien L. Nunn, working with Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Jr., pioneered the world’s first commercial production of high-tension alternating current (AC) for long-distance transmission—something Thomas Edison deemed dangerous and irresponsible. After creating the Telluride Power Company, Nunn constructed the state-of-the-art Olmsted Power Plant in Provo Canyon and the Ontario Power Works at Niagara Falls. To support this new technology, he developed an imaginative model of industrial training that became so compelling that he ultimately abandoned his entrepreneurial career to devote his wealth and talents to experimenting with a new model of liberal education. In 1917, Nunn founded Deep Springs College in eastern California. The school remains one of the most daring, progressive, and selective institutions of higher learning in America.

Joe Hill, labor icon and songwriter for the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, was executed by a Utah firing squad in November, 1915, after being convicted of two murders in a controversial trial. To commemorate the centenary of Hill's death, Folk musician and labor activist John McCutcheon is releasing a new album "Joe Hill's Last Will" which grew out of a one-man play of the same name written by activist and musician Si Kahn.

In a time of excess for many, some are living with less.  A lot less! Tiny living has become increasingly popular in the past few years and today on Access Utah we'll talk about this thirst for simplicity, how it's changing the lives of those who live this way, how it's affecting the environment around them, and if Tiny Houses could be in the future for more of us.  Our guests include Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller, Co-Directors of TINY, a documentary on Tiny living; Jeffrey White of the Sarah House Project and MicroHouse Utah; and Macy Miller, who lives in a tiny space of her own in Boise, Idaho.

The producers of the new documentary film "The True Cost" note that there has been a 500% increase in clothing consumption in the past two decades, and that the U.S. has gone from producing more than 90% of its clothing in the 1960s to just three percent today. They say that the price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically.

National Association of Music Merchants

We'll dive into some great Mariachi music and learn its history on Thursday's AU. We'll talk about how Mariachi music conveys Mexican culture, in Mexico and around the world, and we'll hear music performed by Lila Downs, Selena, and Vicente and Alejandro Fernandez, among others. 


Our guide to the music and culture is Maria Spicer-Escalante, USU Associate Professor of Linguistics and Spanish, who grew up in Mexico and continues to love this music. She says the art form is alive and well and being picked up by young people and by all-women groups such as the Mariachi Divas.

Oxford University Press

Homesickness today is dismissed as a sign of immaturity: It's what children feel at summer camp. But in the nineteenth century it was recognized as a powerful emotion. When gold miners in California heard the tune "Home, Sweet Home," they sobbed. When Civil War soldiers became homesick, army doctors sent them home, lest they die. Such images don't fit with our national mythology, which celebrates the restless individualism of immigrants who supposedly left home and never looked back. 

Susan Matt, author of "Homesickness: An American History" says that iconic symbols of the undaunted, forward-looking American spirit were often homesick, hesitant, and reluctant voyagers. Even today, in a global society that prizes movement and that condemns homesickness as a childish emotion, colleges counsel young adults and their families on how to manage the transition away from home, suburbanites pine for their old neighborhoods, and companies take seriously the emotional toll borne by relocated executives and road warriors. By highlighting how Americans have reacted to moving farther and farther from their roots, Matt revises long-held assumptions about home, mobility, and our national identity.

American Folklife Center

 A joint initiative of Utah State University and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will conduct a field-school project, beginning next week, for a field project called Voices: Refugees in Cache Valley. Designed to collect the stories and life experiences of refugees, the project will seek voices from Karen, Burmese, Eritrean, and other refugee communities in Cache Valley, Utah. We'll talk about the project and hear stories of refugees who've settled in Utah on Tuesday's Access Utah.

During the program, Chit Moe, a USU student and Karen Refugee, describes a traditional dance of the Karen people. You can watch a performance of this dance here. 

What does it mean to feel? The study of emotions has emerged as a central topic in the new discipline of affective neuroscience. In their new book, "The Feeling Brain," Elizabeth Johnston and Leah Olson trace how work in this rapidly expanding field speaks to fundamental questions: What is the function of emotions? What is the role of the body in emotions? What are "feelings," and how do they relate to emotions? Why are emotions so difficult to control? Is there an emotional brain?


G. P. Putnam's Sons

Before launching her popular blog, "One Good Thing by Jillee," Heber City resident Jill Nystul was a newscaster battling a long list of demons. Suffering from postpartum anxiety and struggling to care for her four children, including a young son with celiac disease and diabetes, Nystul turned to food and alcohol for comfort. Her alcohol consumption eventually spiraled into an addiction that nearly cost her her family. Finally, after a yearlong marital separation and a hard look at herself in rehab, she realized that she needed to turn her life around. She began simply: blogging about one good thing each day. 

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

In the eighteenth century, Catherine the Great enticed German farmers to settle in Russia. The German communities remained distinct from the Russians linguistically and culturally. Julie Mangano is descended from such German settlers in Russia, as is the modern-day protagonist, Linden St. Clair, of her new novel “Braha.” The contemporary side of the novel revolves around Linden trying to uncover the truth behind the death of her beloved grandfather, Franklin, a wealthy rancher in rural Somerville, California. The second story comes from the memoirs of Linden’s great-great grandmother, Leena Lagerlöf, née Weiss, an ethnic German born in Russia, who fled in the last days of the czars. Both tales speak of lost loves and of truths dangerous and hidden. 

New Yorker

Recently, tens of thousands of workers protested across the U.S. demanding a $15.00 per hour national minimum wage. Many say that even working full time or more they can't provide for their families. We'll examine income inequality on Tuesday's AU. 

UPR listeners are curious about everything. We're always wanting to learn something fascinating. That's why we're avid readers. Periodically we come together on Access Utah to build a UPR Book List, and we're going to do it again on Monday. So we're asking: What are you reading? We're looking for everything from fiction, non-fiction, and classic literature to young adult and children's books. It might even be a textbook or manual that you can recommend. You can email your list to us right now at

After nine years of keeping his prostate cancer at bay, the drugs were no longer working. The doctors told him his time was nearly up. So Jeff Metcalf dove deep into writing, tasking himself with writing one essay each week for a year. His book "Requiem for the Living" features the best of the resulting fifty-two essays by an author who continues to defy his medical prognosis. The essays form a memoir of sorts, recounting good times and critical moments from Metcalf's life. He doesn't describe a life defined by cancer but writes to discover what his life has been, who he has become, and what he has learned along the way. 

It's an Earth Day tradition on Access Utah: we invite Utah writers to reflect on the environment. This year, Stephen Trimble, whose books include "Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America," says he's been thinking about climate change and the moral responsibility of the writer to speak up for our relationship with each other and with the earth.

Speaking to Neural magazine, artist Paul Vanouse said "I think in the next couple years there will be lots more scientific research that undermines DNA determinism. For instance, theorist Hanna Landecker...describe[s] varied large-scale "Relational Biology" research projects that examine things such as epigenetics, stem-cell differentiation, bidirectional signaling, etc. - things that I think may dethrone the reductive idea that DNA is the dictator of all things and may loosen the metaphor of life as code." Paul Vanouse is visiting USU as a part of the ARTsySTEM project. Tuesday on Access Utah we'll discuss Race and DNA, the CSI Effect, the Human Genome Project, and related topics.

W. W. Norton & Co.

Archetypal wild man Edward Abbey and proper, dedicated Wallace Stegner left their footprints all over the western landscape. Now, in his book “All The Wild That Remains,” nature writer David Gessner follows the ghosts of these remarkable men from Stegner's birthplace in Saskatchewan to the site of Abbey's pilgrimages to Arches National Park in Utah, interweaving their stories and asking how they speak to the issues that confront the West today.

In a region affected by droughts and fires, by fracking and drilling, and by an ever-growing population that may be loving the West to death, Gessner asks: how might these two far-seeing environmental thinkers have responded?

Should Spanking Children Be Forbidden in the U.S.? Renowned criminologist Christian Pfeiffer from University of Hannover, Germany will present the European experience on Thursday, as a part of the USU Provost's Series on Instructional Excellence, and will join us for Thursday's AU.

Dr. Pfeiffer's research interests include the role of religion and child rearing practices in the production of violence; the role of media in the lives of children and in the perception of crime and criminal policy; media consumption and violence; the implications of corporal punishment in politics; and extrajudicial dispute resolution. 

In her song "Flawless," the singer Beyonce samples Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: "We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are." On Wednesday's AU we'll ask: Can the message of female empowerment co-exist with a sexualized image? Do advertising messages of companies like Carl's Jr. and Sports Illustrated promote the objectification of women? If so, how should those messages be corrected? How should we frame the topic of sex in the media, in the classroom, in the family, in society? 

Carvel Books

Ben Jones, is a single, 38-year-old truck driver on the verge of losing his small trucking company. Ben's route takes him back and forth across one of the most desolate and beautiful regions of the Utah desert where he meets a mysterious cellist and the embittered owner of a small diner. That's the plot, in brief, of James Anderson's debut novel, "The Never-Open Desert Diner." 

In 2014 the citizens of Idaho and Montana celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act – the law that secured protection for eight million acres of wild forests and mountains in these two states. In his new book (from University of Utah Press) “Where Roads Will Never Reach” environmental historian Frederick Swanson tells the story of how, decades before the Wilderness Act, ordinary citizens halted the federal government’s resource development juggernaut of the 1950s and 1960s, safeguarding some of the last strongholds of grizzly bear, mountain goat, elk, trout, salmon and steelhead. Swanson says that from Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return to Montana's Scapegoat and Great Bear, the wilderness areas of the Northern Rockies serve as a record of lasting public concern and as a model for citizens working to protect today's threatened landscapes.

Frederick Swanson says: “More than fifty years ago my family moved from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest, where I became enthralled with its tall firs, glacier-carved mountains, and transparent rivers. Before long I was exploring the region's wilderness areas like so many of us did in the 1960s and 1970s. After twenty-five years working as an editor and publications designer, eleven of which were spent in the wonderful state of Montana, I decided to write full-time. I've been fortunate to be able to tell the story of some of the greatest wild lands in the western states and the men and women who knew and loved them.