Radio Kansas is owned and operated by Hutchinson Community College (HutchCC). KHCC-FM was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission on July 14th, 1972 and began broadcasting at 90.1 FM as a 100-watt student station from the basement of the college library. As the nationwide public radio system grew, the college decided to upgrade the station to a 100,000 watts and hire a full-time professional staff. On July 1, 1979 this station became the Wichita area’s first full-power public radio service with a staff of five in Lockman Hall on HutchCC’s main campus. The signal strength in Wichita meets the FCC standard for a “city-grade” signal, the highest level of reception quality.
From the beginning, quality was the single most important goal of Radio Kansas. That vision resulted in rapid growth for the station in programming quality and public financial support. It also resulted in a very good public image for HutchCC, one of very few community colleges nationwide with a university-class station. The network is recognized as essential to help the institution meet its stated vision, “delivering accessible opportunities for learning, growth and improved quality of life.”
The real history of the station is more of a biography. It’s about David M. Horning, the standards he set and the people he drew around him in his 30 years as GM. Horning came back to the area from WBAA at Purdue University, after having spent time previously at (10,000 watt at the time) KMUW in Wichita. He was responsible in 1979 for assembling the staff, funding and other resources necessary to build KHCC into a viable public broadcast service.
Horning hired Ric Jung as Chief Engineer in 1980. He oversaw a broadcast plant that started as a single (all analog) transmitter and modest studio facilities grew into a network of three transmitters, and digitally broadcasting a remarkable 4 stations, with studios and other infrastructure support. Jung was with the station through June of 2021! Ric’s successor Doug Kaufman learned under Ric as his part-time Station Engineer, just like Doug’s son Zach before!
The history of Radio Kansas is also about the up-and-coming professionals who took a chance on a small-ish midwestern station and turned their experience under Horning into successful careers across the public broadcasting system. These professionals are far too numerous to mention, but the list notably includes several who went on to manage stations of their own. Brief biographies don’t do justice to any of these individuals, but Craig Curtis, for instance, went on to be active in management at American Public Media and later ran KPCC, Southern California Public Radio before becoming a project manager at NPR. Chuck Miller later ran stations in Louisiana and Kentucky. John Huertz managed KSOF at Friends University, Wichita. Dan Skinner managed stations in Indiana, Texas, and now Kansas University’s station in Lawrence. Stewart Vanderwilt ran KUT, Austin, and now runs Colorado Public Radio. Sharon Dudgeon was GM of the station at her alma mater in Michigan. Anthony Hunt has run stations in Maryland and now Indiana. Eric Strobel managed (commercial) KMMM, Pratt. Nancy Finken is Network Manager at Nebraska Educational Telecommunications. Former Music Director Melissa Ousley moved to Minnesota Public Radio and the nationally syndicated service Classical 24. Under Horning, former Lousiana GM Mark Simmons became our Music Director, and since 2009 Ken Baker has been Manager of the Radio Kansas network. We’re bound to have lost track of other managers, directors and producers who got their start or furthered their careers at Radio Kansas. If you’re out there, drop us a line!
In 1984 the KHCC studios were moved to the third floor of Davis Hall, less than a mile from the main HutchCC campus in Hutchinson. Ric Jung designed the acoustics of the studios and production rooms using early acoustic modelling software. In addition to these purpose-built studios, the facility offered adequate office space as the full-time staff grew to 17.
As KHCC grew, citizens from other parts of Kansas began to inquire about how they could get public radio in their areas. By working with groups of supporters in these communities, KHCD-FM, 89.5 MHz, Salina-Manhattan was built and began broadcasting on January 28, 1988. This station serves the north-central part of the state extending to the Nebraska border. On August 3, 1992 KHCT-FM, serving the Great Bend-Hays area was added to the network.
It was cumbersome to say KHCC/KHCD/KHCT every time we formally or informally referred to the network, so we knew we needed something simpler. The term Kansas Public Radio (KPR) was agreed by all of the stations in the state to be reserved for the statehouse news bureau operated by KANU in Lawrence. With the name KPR unavailable at the time, we chose Radio Kansas in as our network name. (Under a later manager, KANU took KPR as the name of their station, and the confusion has been as expected. Please see our Contact Us page for information to direct donations our way!) Twenty years after we adopted Radio Kansas, the Wichita PBS station adopted the name PBS Kansas, leading to further confusion. We’re flattered when folks think we’re related, but the truth is, no matter how generous you may be with public TV, not a penny comes to us! Pledge directly, and often, to make sure you’re helping us bring important audio programming to central Kansas! We’re now accessible worldwide at RadioKansas.com. The official colors of our “brushstroke” logo are dragonfire red and dragon scale blue, in recognition of our parent institution’s mascot!
In 2006 Radio Kansas was among the first adopters of HD Radio, a new technology that adds digital radio signals to the FM we already broadcast. In 2012 this new HD signal was augmented with a power increase and eventually three more stations, available over the air to most listeners in our area with an HD Radio. Again Radio Kansas was at the forefront of HD technologies providing listeners with the maximum-possible four separate program channels of enjoyment. There’s a full-time bluegrass & folk station, a jazz station, and a station with contemporary instrumental music, like having Nightcrossings all day long.
All four stations are available for internet streaming from the Radio Kansas web site. These streams can be heard on a wide variety of Internet radios, computers and mobile devices, with a special mobile page at www.radiokansas.app
We’re proud to say that the best thing about Radio Kansas is Hutchinson Community College. The support offered by staff, management and the Board of Trustees allows the network to serve the needs of area citizens rather than serve as a megaphone for the institution. Radio Kansas continues to strive for the highest in quality in everything it does, and is rightly recognized as one of the premier public radio operations in the country.