A science project, musical medley, outlet for student creativity and classroom: Manchester College’s WBKE 89.5 FM is all that and more.
WBKE hit the air waves more than 60 years ago as a science project for physics students and as broadcast experience for speech students.
Back then, only the campus community could hear melodies from the then-named WMIB because the station was hardwired to MC buildings.
In 1968, student station manager Mike Emrick ’68 and faculty advisor Dr. Ronald Aungst worked obtain a Federal Communications Commission license, and the station became more than just a way for students to play their music and have fun.
And thus the campus radio station turned into a professional learning tool and an asset for the North Manchester community.
Then also began new station letters: WBKE for the last names of three previous station managers: Brent Barkman ’66, David Kistler ’67 and Emrick. “We graduated from AM to WBKE,” said Emrick. “It was more serious programming and there was more real broadcasting.”
Today, WBKE is a fully functional FM station that simulcasts with a northeast Indiana affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR), licensed by the FCC for non-commercial, educational programming.
In addition to student-led music and talk shows, the Investing in futures Manchester College schedule includes sports play-by-play, with announcers even traveling to NCAA championships to send Spartan action back home.
Professor Scott Strode and other visionaries led the MC way in 1990 to the connection with Northeast Indiana Public Radio in Fort Wayne. In June 2004, WBKE began offering the more popular NPR news, talk and jazz programming as Northeast Indiana Public Radio switched its classical music formatting to a sister frequency. The station broadcasts seven days a week, mixing NPR with campus programming.
Until recently, the campus station nested on the third floor of the 41-year-old Communications Center in the core of campus. Today, students broadcast from a new, professional-looking station in a former lounge on the first floor of Winger Hall.
“I love this,” said station manager Alicia Smith ’09 as she looked out onto the mall, where students were flipping Frisbees and chatting on the library steps. “I see so many students go by and say ‘we have a radio station?’” Deejays now look out and comment on the weather, activities and which professors have decided to conduct class on the library steps.
Emrick played a big part in the transformation, with an equipment donation valued at nearly $30,000. Last summer, he made another donation in memory of Aungst, who died last March.
Faculty members also are putting the more-visible WBKE in their lesson plans. “You need to be able to produce content that can cross media,” said Judd Case, instructor of communication studies. “It’s important to practical aspects of our media program to get students on-air experience.”
By Tiffany Berkebile '10
WBKE alumni keep the connection
Mike “Doc” Emrick '68 one of the world’s best-known and most-respected television broadcasters for his NHL and Olympic ice hockey play-by-play. He also calls Olympics water polo competition.
While Emrick is certainly the most famous, a number of radio personalities honed their broadcast skills at the Manchester College radio station.
“I wanted in the worst way to be a sportscaster and the more broadcasting I did, the more I was hooked. The experience I got from doing sports events for WBKE helped immeasurably,” said Emrick. (Read more about him in the spring 2009 issue of Manchester magazine.)
Current WBKE advisor Dan Daggett '88 hosts a morning show and does sales for WRSW 107.3 FM in Warsaw, Ind. “I was hired by my first job before I graduated because I had 3½ years of experience (at WBKE),” said Daggett. “When I had a January term internship, I was able to step in and be immediately helpful, so they hired me.”
Those kinds of internship and career connections continue today, nurtured by other alumni graduates and by stations familiar with the quality and conviction of Manchester College communication studies students.
WBKE and Sam Davis, associate professor of speech communication, were career catalysts for Jeanette Hendrix ’88 Rinard, news director for WAJI 95.1 FM out of Fort Wayne.
“I definitely would not be where I am today without it,” she declared, recalling Davis “discovered” her in an elective broadcasting class. “(There’s) so much I would not have done without Sam’s encouragement – I wouldn’t even have been working in this industry if not for him.”
Like Emrick, she attacked the serious side of broadcasting at WBKE. As news director, she gained valuable news wire skills and developed a plan for the campus news broadcasts. She was passionate, and intense, about her role.
She landed her first job as a news reporter for WBAT 1400 AM in Marion, Ind., working for another MC graduate, Bill Jones ’81. She was on her way, her reputation gaining her jobs on higher-rated stations.
Rinard continues to connect with her alma mater, offering internship opportunities, lecturing and advice. In fall 2006, her Majic in the Morning team broadcast from the College Union, sending Manchester College voices, opinions and music over the airwaves.
By Tiffany Berkebile '10