The Rapidian

WYCE honors late Dirk Koning at Jammies XVIII

Dirk Koning’s vision for providing media access to everyone has empowered multitudes of people in West Michigan. The intriguing leader of Grand Rapids Community Media Center who passed away 12 years ago was recognized for his vision and integrity at a recent awards event.
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WYCE is Community Media Center's volunteer-powered radio station at 88.1 on the FM dial

"WYCE has been, and will always be, a voice for this community. It stands alone on the dial, so filled with Corporate Stations of top-40 hits and talk-shows. This station was created by the people in this community, for this community. This is our voice and our platform. The Community Media Center is a way for anyone who wishes to exercise their rights in their beliefs and their speech to be heard, and this is what our country has always been about."

--Kelly Koning-Ramic

Kelly Koning-Ramic at Jammies XVIII

Kelly Koning-Ramic at Jammies XVIII /John Rothwell

Dirk Koning, during his time at CMC

Dirk Koning, during his time at CMC

Kelly Koning-Ramic, Shaun Koning and Quinn Mathews at The Jammies

Kelly Koning-Ramic, Shaun Koning and Quinn Mathews at The Jammies /John Rothwell

It’s fitting that the reverb from a local band was still fading into the crowded venue when Kelly Koning-Ramic and Shaun Koning took the stage of the WYCE Jammies on a recent Friday evening to honor their late father. Kelly and Shaun weren’t even born yet when Dirk Koning was hired to lead the organization now known as Grand Rapids Community Media Center in 1981. But Dirk’s vision to maximize the use of media to empower others and to build community in West Michigan still reverberates today.

Dirk’s children honored his memory on February 10, on the twelfth anniversary of his death, and just a few days after he would have turned 60. Dirk joined CMC as its first Executive Director, at the age of 23. He left it unexpectedly at the age of 47, to the shock of all who knew him, due to a routine medical procedure that went horribly wrong. This video assembled soon after his death, has stood the test of time, and helps demonstrate a small part of the great impact that Dirk Koning had on this community. 

Dirk served as the Executive Director of Community Media Center and was instrumental in bringing community radio station WYCE 88.1 FM and Wealthy Theatre into the CMC fold. This community’s public access television station, GRTV was the initial catalyst for the concept of a “community media center,” which was first conceived of and established here in Grand Rapids. This publication, The Rapidian, is the newest member of the CMC family. CMC also provides educational and IT services to individuals and nonprofit organizations.

Kelly and Shaun’s memorial, delivered to a respectful crowd at The Intersection Lounge, amid the full swing of WYCE’s 2017 version of The Jammies reminded those who knew their father of his humanity, shared with those who never knew him what Dirk accomplished, and how his work has made a lasting difference in our community and others around the world.

“As our father, Dirk, said many times, ‘the airwaves belong to the people,' and that could not be any more true today. His vision was media, radio and television, being a voice for the people, for all people. Bringing people together and letting their voices be heard, is the keystone of democracy,” Kelly said.

Tim Goodwin was president of the foundational board of directors of CMC. He attended Jammies XVIII to join in honoring Dirk, whom he first met in 1979 at WGVU Channel 35. They shared a common interest in and a reverence for The First Amendment. Tim shared some memories in a phone call last week. “Dirk was a wonderful story teller. He had a way of bridging gaps with people.” He was also a visionary who embraced emerging technology. According to Tim, “Early on, in the 80’s, Dirk saw the convergence of voice, data and video. He knew those things had to be used together to be able to use media to build community. He saw early on that media’s power wasn’t just community TV; it wasn’t just radio or platforms alone. It was all of those things working together.”

Dirk’s vision lives on, his reverence for our First Amendment Rights is still honored, and the work he recognized as crucial to our democracy is still being done by Grand Rapids Community Media Center. Learn more by visiting https://grcmc.org.

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