Wisconsin lost a prominent lieutenant colonel in the National Guard on Jan. 19. But what many don’t know is that Stevens Point lost a legacy that day as well.
Stevens Point lost Tim Donovan, 65, founder of the community’s longstanding tradition, the 90FM Trivia Contest.
Betty Donovan, who worked with Tim at 90FM, said, “Tim was the instrumental guy for the trivia contest. He was smart. He had a sort of photographic memory. In that first year Tim wrote every single question himself.”
Tim Donovan started the trivia contest as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1968 after getting the idea from Lawrence University in Appleton.
Nick Ryan, 90FM program director at the time, said, “Tim came to me one day and said ‘Hey, I have an idea. Let’s have a trivia contest.’”
From there, the annual 90FM Trivia Contest was born. Betty Donovan said it was purely for fun at first. They wanted to give the students at UWSP a break from their school work.
“We wanted questions that would take students into the community for answers,” Betty Donovan said.
Some of the questions required teams to physically run around the community looking for the answer to a question, then run again to find a phone and call in their answers.
With no modern technology, the 90FM staff rented phone lines for teams to call in.
“We jammed the phone lines that first year,” Ryan said. The staff got a call from the police department after the phone lines got too busy from too many callers.
Betty Donovan said the contest only grew from that first year. Six phone lines turned to 12, then 24.
“It became not just a student contest. It became a community,” Betty Donovan said.
Betty said Tim deserves the credit for 90FM Trivia.
“Tim brought the idea. He managed it. He grew it. It became what it did through him and through everyone involved,” Betty Donovan said.
But she fears that since his graduation, not many people know he started the tradition.
“It’s about time the record was set straight,” Betty Donovan said. “He was the founder.”
“That should be a question this year,” Nick said. “‘Who came up with the trivia contest?’”
Today, 90FM Trivia is written and organized by UWSP alumnus Jim Oliva. The contest is no longer student-led, though Oliva said lately he has been putting more responsibility on the executive staff to organize the weekend-long quiz-a-thon.
Oliva said he never got to meet Tim Donovan, but would have loved the opportunity.
“He started a magical thing,” Oliva said.