It all began on a crisp autumn night in October 1968. WMSR-AM, Millersville University’s student radio station, which was renamed WIXQ-FM in 1977, went on the air at 5 p.m. Susan Kratzke’s ’69 voice broke over the airwaves as the station’s first announcer. Her show, the “Supper Series,” played an hour of quiet instrumentals through the dorms and dining halls on campus, before giving a rundown on the latest world, national, state and local news.
“We were ‘on the air’ and that meant the culmination of a lot of hard work by a student staff with little or no radio experience and by two incredibly dedicated faculty advisors,” says Dr. C. Frederick Ralston ’70, who was elected as the first station manager.
“I had no thought of forming a campus radio station until I enrolled in a required speech course in 1966 taught by Professor Bill Wright of the English department and formerly a newscaster from WGAL-TV in Lancaster,” he wrote in a memoir about his time at the station. “He would often bring the idea to our attention. As a result, a small group of us in turn expressed our desire to start a station, and we began our exploratory and organizing meetings.”
Dr. George Francis of the industrial arts department was the co-advisor to the fledgling station.
During Ralston’s time as station manager, WMSR covered many important events, including the on going Vietnam War and the presidential election of 1968 between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey; for which Ralston reported the results from the Franklin & Marshall College gymnasium.
“The plan was that I would call from a phone booth every half hour or so with the updated results,” he remembers. “Jim Kressly, our news director, would pipe me into the system and I would do my update. The station armed me with a handful or so of dimes for the pay phone, and I set up shop in the gym.
“As I made my calls, there was one inebriated student who tried to interrupt my updates throughout the night,” he continues in his memoir. “He would talk loudly and bang on the booth as I reported…It was a challenge but I made it through the evening… Nixon narrowly won the race, and yes, I returned the unused dimes to the station.”
Over the years, WIXQ transformed with the times and technological advances. The station changed from a carrier current that was only broadcast in the residence halls to a stereo station, then a 100 watt station and finally added a streaming signal to the station. The focus of the broadcasts also shifted from primarily educational programming to music programming.
Today, under the advisement of Dr. Lowery Woodall, WIXQ works with between 75 and 85 regular DJs who broadcast 24 hours a day in two hour blocks. Day-to-day operations of the station are managed by a council of 15 elected students.
“One of our major goals is to create a very inclusive space. No matter what student you are, what major you’re in or where you come from, we will provide a platform for you to express your opinions on the air in a professional space,” says Woodall, who teaches in the communications and theatre department. “You can feel a level of connectedness, a level of buying into Millersville as a place that belongs to them, a sense of ownership. I think that’s what all good organizations on campus do. They should, if they’re doing their job, take a student from feeling like they are going to a university and make them feel like they belong to a university.”
WIXQ partners with many other student organizations on campus, offering them free advertising on the airwaves and playing music at major events, including Superfest. The organization also hosts fundraising events throughout the school year, many of which support the local charity, Music for Everyone.
During his 37 years as WIXQ faculty advisor, Ralph “Doc Roc” Anttonen says his main role was to encourage the students and protect them from themselves.
“You don’t have a vote,” says Anttonen on his role as advisor. “I was a liaison between the administration and the students, but I always stood with the students.”
Anttonen, who is lovingly known as Doc Roc by all, became a disc jockey for WMSR in 1975. He began hosting a weekly radio show and quickly brought his wife Judy Anttonen on board as an engineer. To this day, the “Doc and Mama Roc” radio show broadcasts every Saturday.
“I think the value of the station really relies on the fact that we have a diverse set of ideas and thoughts that come through the station, based on the freeform format of the station meaning anyone who is a student who enjoys radio can join,” explains Kristina Diefenderfer, a senior international relations major who has been involved with WIXQ since freshman year. “WIXQ is a place where you can meet people from all over the place that all have their own sets of beliefs, aesthetic tastes and overall personalities that allow for growth in the station, as well as growth in the University setting as a whole.”
The radio station can serve as a platform for students who hope to step into the radio and broadcasting industries after graduation, but Diefenderfer says many of the students, including herself, had no experience when they joined the group. She grew up listening to the radio and decided to join as a way to expand her musical tastes and express herself.
“A big misconception of the station is that we are all just a bunch of broadcasting majors who are technical radio wizards in the bottom of the Student Memorial Center,” she says. “Although we do have a large number of communications majors, there is plenty of room for every major here in the station.”
In the radio station’s 50 years, hundreds of students have found their place by participating in the organization. All are invited back to campus for a reunion celebration during Homecoming weekend. On Saturday, Oct. 13, the radio station will be open from 2-4 p.m. for former members to take a walk down memory lane. A reception will take place in the Student Memorial Center from 7-9 p.m.
“Although we are a small college radio station, we do have a lot of heart,” says Diefenderfer. “Tune in and keep it locked to your #1 music source, 91.7 WIXQ!”
A history of WIXQ written by Ralph “Doc Roc” Anttonen contributed to this article.