Alumnus ‘Kank’ Encourages Millions Over Airwaves

By Julie Gumm '95
Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mike KanklefritzEach week over 12 million people hear the voice of JBU alumnus Mike Kanklefritz ’94 over the airwaves of Christian radio station K-LOVE. He’s the “Kank” of the morning show team “Craig, Amy & Kank” that encourages listeners six days a week.

When Kanklefritz arrived at JBU in 1990 with high school radio experience, KLRC’s then program director Rick Sparks put him right on the air.

Kanklefritz remembers the student disc jockeys holding a 24-hour radio-a-thon to raise money to attend a conference in Nashville. “After that many hours with no sleep we were on the air when we really shouldn’t have been,” Kanklefritz said. “I pity anyone who had to listen.” Unknown to them, they were being recorded and their off-air shenanigans landed them in some hot water.

“Mike was clearly gifted and called to a career as a radio personality. Although (as he admits) Mike did sometimes push the envelope on the air,” said Sparks, who was also a JBU broadcasting professor at the time. “I’m proud of him for hanging in during the tough early days of his career and developing into the outstanding radio professional he is today. Mike does what every radio personality should do, and that is to make radio fun for the audience while helping them get through their day.”

Kanklefritz’s personable, easy-going nature has helped make him a successful radio DJ with a career spanning 25 years, a variety of genre’s, and a half-dozen cities.

While at country station Kick 99 in Tulsa, Kanklefritz lived out his faith in the workplace, leading Bible studies with his on-air partner and sharing his faith on air as best he could.

When the station was bought by new owners, Kanklefritz and several others were fired.

“That’s when I had a real spiritual moment,” Kanklefritz said. “I began questioning a lot of things in my faith.” Those questions led him to Rhema Bible Training College in Tulsa where he got a two-year degree in pastoring.

“When I got out I had no real direction — ‘do this, don’t do that, go there’ — from God,” Kanklefritz explained. Then it dawned on him that God still wanted him in radio — just Christian radio.
He quickly landed at WJQ in Grand Rapids, Mich. Though he knew Christian radio was where God wanted him, the culture still took some adjustment.

Kanklefritz’s career brought him back to Tulsa from 2003-2005 at KXOJ. There he met Craig West who, six years later, joined him on the newly-formed K-LOVE morning show with Amy Baumann.
More than just DJ’s, K-LOVE on-air personalities often wear many hats — pastor, counselor, encourager.

“It’s a massive responsibility. People who are listening are going through a myriad of situations,” Kanklefritz said. The team has received suicide calls and calls from listeners in a variety of heart-wrenching situations.

“They’re hanging on to anything they can find. The cool thing about radio is that it doesn’t discriminate and anyone can listen.”

That’s especially evident in stories like the Muslim convenience store owner who listens to K-LOVE because he likes the encouragement of Christian music.  “K-LOVE is sewing seeds. They haven’t made a commitment but they need something positive, and K-LOVE is encouraging,” Kanklefritz said.

Kanklefritz says he wants to “pinch himself” for being part of such an amazing ministry. “I’m obviously part of something way bigger than myself. I really don’t understand how I got here, it’s just God. You have to point it back to him,” Kanklefritz said. “Sure, you have to be good at your craft, but promotion comes from Him.”

Julie Gumm '95 is staff editor and writer for university communications.