A student organization with a rich, 50-year history at Hope College is celebrating the start of a new chapter.
WTHS, the student-run FM radio station at Hope, will mark the opening of its new studio in the college's Martha Miller Center with a dedication ceremony, ribbon cutting and open house on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at noon.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
Remarks will be made by Hope College President Dr. James E. Bultman and senior Jason Cash of Brighton, who is the station's general manager, with Dean of Students Dr. Richard Frost acting as master of ceremonies. Participants in the ribbon-cutting will include Bultman, Cash and the students serving on the station's executive board. The open house, during which visitors may tour the station's two studios and office space, will follow until 2:30 p.m.
WTHS, which began in the 1950s as a "carrier current" station and spent more than 25 years on AM, has broadcast at 89.9 FM since 1985. The station was previously located in a studio on the main floor of the DeWitt Center.
Cash noted that he is excited by the possibilities offered by the new location, both because of the connections he can envision with the other programs in the building and the new equipment with which the station is equipped.
"It's a very unique space," he said. "It is a sign of the exciting opportunities to come for WTHS."
The Martha Miller Center for Global Communication, which opened in the fall of 2005, was designed to foster connections between the departments and programs that it houses.
"The main word I've been using lately is 'partnerships,'" Cash said. "This space holds so much potential for that because we are so close to the communication department, the 'Anchor," modern and classical languages, and international education and multicultural life."
The station, he said, is also well served by its equipment, which is all new and includes state-of-the-art DAD (digital audio delivery) software by ENCO of Southfield, described by Cash as a leader in television and radio software with clients including ESPN. He said that the software provides tremendous flexibility by allowing the station to schedule its programming via computer.
An important added benefit of the system, he said, is that students who use it will be well served if they subsequently seek positions in radio. "Because we have such high-quality, state-of-the-art equipment, the students who work on our station are gaining experience that can make them very comfortable in a radio environment professionally," he said.
Cash noted that the station will continue to emphasize the alternative-rock format that has been its niche for the past several years, although it is also expanding programming that highlights the life of the college, including coverage of campus events such as Christmas Vespers and the recent Veritas Forum as well as Hope sports and news.
In addition to its 10-member executive board, the station's staff currently includes 15 disc jockeys, for whom Cash noted the station runs an extensive training program. He's hoping to fill the ranks with another five or so.
WTHS originated as WTAS during the 1956-57 school year as a project of two students, Richard Brockmeier - who later taught computer science and physics at Hope, serving on the faculty from 1966 until his death from cancer in 1993--and Jack Hellriegel. They initially operated the station from their rooms, transmitting a signal through the wiring of the then-new Kollen Hall residence hall. As reported in the April 26, 1957, issue of the student newspaper, the "Anchor," they had "realized the need of a new radio station to solve a problem which had arisen at the dorm. Due to modern construction methods of using reinforced concrete, almost all outside signals are cut off from the radios."
Other students quickly became involved in the operation, and by the end of the 1957-58 school year, having received support from the college as well, WTAS was broadcasting on 610 AM as a carrier-current station based in a new studio in the hall's basement level and available more widely across campus than in Kollen alone.
By the fall of 1957 the station's call letters stood for "The Anchor Station," but Hellriegel recalls that they actually had a different origin.
"It is unpublished that initially the 'A' in WTAS stood for Arcadian (The Arcadian Station)," he recalled. "Both Dick and I were members of that fraternity. However, within weeks/months we realized that to represent and obtain support from the college WTAS needed to reflect the college and, thus, we decided on WTAS being The Anchor Station."
The station began pursuing making the switch to FM in the early 1980s, renaming itself WTHS (We're The Hope Station) in the process. It moved to the DeWitt Center in the fall of 1983, following a renovation of the building that included the creation of new studio space, and made its first official 1,000-watt FM broadcast on Sept. 27, 1985. Its 150-foot tower remains atop the DeWitt Center, connected by cables underneath Columbia Avenue to the Martha Miller Center studio.
Cash noted that it required about a year after the Martha Miller Center opened to get the station wired - all done as custom work specific to WTHS. Some final touches have followed since the station moved into its new quarters in the fall semester.
The Martha Miller Center is located on Columbia Avenue at 10th Street. The radio station is near the southern end of the building's first floor.
More information about WTHS may be found on the station's Web site, http://wths.hope.edu