Alumnus Willie Lane (B.S. Communication Arts and Sciences ’75) enjoys his job as a certified executive chauffeur in the greater Los Angeles area, but his true passion is the novel he’s just completed with a Kalamazoo focus which recalls his time at Western as well as the AIDS epidemic in the early ’70s and its effects on loved ones. “A Greater Good” recalls Lane’s time at WMU and as a DJ on the campus radio station, WIDR, and expounds on how the experience has affected his life since.
“In my new novel I mention WMU, and the fact that Tim Allen and Luther Vandross attended school there in Kalamazoo. One of my characters was from K’zoo and so was one of them I knew at Western who died of AIDS.”
When asked what inspired the novel he says, “In my freshman year, I met two men, one from Kalamazoo and one from Battle Creek. I became good friends with- Michael McKinley who was a senior when I was a Freshman and helped me secure jobs at WIDR and WKZO.”
While attending WMU, Lane became very involved in Project ’73, a program designed to help 1,500-2,000 African-American students graduate from Western Michigan University. Lane said, “I am very proud to have been one of those students. The Project ’73 program recruited 2,000 high school students, and 15 hundred of us graduated.”
Upon learning of the deaths of two Project ’73 friends (Lafayette Davis from Kalamazoo and Robert Cummings from Battle Creek) from AIDS, Lane began researching the spread of AIDS in the black community. He learned that African-Americans comprise less than 13 percent of the US population, but comprise 50 percent of all new AIDS cases in America.
Kalamazoo-area residents may remember Lane from his time as a director at WKZO TV3 (now WWMT) in 1970-72. He directed newscasters, children’s morning shows, live band performances, and more.
Lane tells us a last-minute character addition to the novel identifies a WMU campus DJ heard on Kalamazoo’s west side. As a freshman the DJ character gets the dreaded 4-7 a.m. Sunday morning spot at WIDR, the campus radio station, but becomes so popular with listeners that, in his second semester at WIDR, the station manager moves him to the 7-9 p.m. slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Find out who this mysterious DJ (and WMU alum) is by reading the book!