Ad Astra Radio Family Brands

Making his Mark on the Mic


By Brenna Eller


He greets you in the morning on your early commute or wishes you well as you’re coming home from your overnight shift. 

Those who have driven, worked or lived in the McPherson area likely know the voice of Mark Ekeland.

Last Friday was the anniversary date of Ekeland’s 20th year being at the McPherson radio station. He was hired at the station on Aug. 4, 2003. When he started, he was the News Director. Today, you know him as the On-Air Personality of 98.9/1540 KMcP. 

McPherson Station 2003
Mark Ekeland as News Director at the McPherson station in 2003

What you may not know is that Ekeland’s interest in radio began when he was a junior in high school, during speech class. His class had to choose something for a speech contest. 

“The easiest thing to do was radio news, so I picked that,” Ekeland said. 

As a senior, his class got to be interviewed by one of the local radio stations, which made him even more inclined to pursue radio.

“I grew up near Fort Dodge, Iowa,” Ekeland said. “One of the stations in Fort Dodge did a senior day. We got to do a program for an hour where we talked about the school.”

After Ekeland graduated high school in 1976 he went to Grace University in Omaha, Neb., where he got his Bachelor of Science Degree in Radio Communications and graduated in 1980.

Mark Ekeland College Pic
In the studio: Mark Ekeland’s graduation picture from Grace University, Omaha Nebraska around 1980

Grace University is where Ekeland met his wife Bonnie and they got married in June of 1980.

“During the summers while I was going to college, I worked for a construction company doing flat/commercial roofs,” Ekeland said. “After I got out of college, they offered me such a good job, that I actually just went and started working full time in roofing.”

Ekeland said he ended up hurting his back and decided to go back to school. Even though he had his degree, he had missed out on a summer internship at a radio station.


He went to a trade school, Brown Institute of Broadcasting in Minneapolis, Minn., in the fall of 1981.

“They had a really good placement program,” Ekeland said. “About 95 percent of kids got placed in radio stations.”

In 1982, Ekeland landed his first radio job working part-time while he was going to school at Brown. He jokingly bragged because he was at the number one FM station in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, KSTP FM. 

He went in on Sunday mornings from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. doing what he called, “part-part-time work punching buttons and doing public service.”

Ekeland was later hired over the phone in 1982 to a small AM-only station in Hettinger, N.D., a town in the southwestern part of North Dakota.

He was originally given two job offers at the time. One was in Hettinger and the other was in Boyne City, Mich. Since his wife was from North Dakota, that pretty much settled it for him.

“It was a no brainer,” Ekeland said. “But we were quite a ways from where she grew up.”

Ekeland said as he started doing the afternoon drive in 1982, and he also began doing out of town sales for them as well. He was at that station for nine years and moved up to the Sales Manager position.

“The guy who was the previous Sales Manager went and bought a radio station,” Ekeland said.

Ekeland and his wife ended up leaving Hettinger in 1991.

“One of the reasons we left there is the owner wanted to sell the radio station. He offered it to me and I couldn’t afford it,” Ekeland said.

The other reason they left was because Ekeland’s dad had been sick and they wanted to move closer to his parents. 

“Even though I grew up in Iowa, my mom grew up in Oklahoma,” Ekeland said. 

Convention, working for KCFN
Mark Ekeland at a convention for Wichita station, American Family Radio (KCFN)

Ekeland said his parents had ties to Kansas and met in Wichita.

“My mom was in nursing school at Wesley and my dad was stationed after Korea at the McConnell Air Force base and they met and got married in Wichita,” Ekeland said. 

Even though he never grew up in Kansas, he found out that, he had relatives here.

From his mom’s side, Ekeland found out he is related to both Unruhs and Koehns. One of his grandparents was born in Moundridge and the other was born in Halstead.

Because Ekeland’s dad got really sick, to the point of needing to go into the nursing home, Ekeland’s mom moved back to Enid to be closer to family to help.

Ekeland and his wife moved to Kansas in 1991 and the first radio job he got was for KOEZ/KJRG in Newton, Kan., and he was there for four years.

KCFN Wichita
Mark Ekeland working at KCFN in Wichita. He worked at KCFN for nine years

“I worked mainly on the FM side, just doing announcing,” Ekeland said.

Then a job opportunity opened in Wichita at KCFN American Family Radio. He worked there for nine years managing the station.

“They decided they wanted a change and let me go,” Ekeland said. “I was unemployed for about nine months.” 

Ekeland lived in the Newton area at the time and one of his kids was in a basketball tournament, so he drove by the McPherson station to apply on a whim. They didn’t have an opening at the time, but a few months later he got a call from the manager.

“He said, ‘Can you do news? We’re losing our News Director, so if you’re interested in doing news, we’ve got a job for you.’” Ekeland said. 

Claude Hughes was the Manager of the McPherson station then and hired Ekeland for the News Director job.

“He passed away fairly recently after I was hired,” Ekeland said.

Ekeland was News Director for four years until 2007, when the longtime morning show host Bob Hapgood passed away.

Bob Hapgood, KU Basketball Player, Mark
Bob Hapgood, KU Basketball player Nick Collison, and Mark Ekeland Sept. 16, 2004

“I did mornings for a number of years,” Ekeland said.

Before Ad Astra bought the McPherson station in 2022, Ekeland was manager of the station, did sales for the station, and he also did the morning show. He was doing three different jobs the for the last three years before the new ownership.

Now Ekeland works part-time doing “Mark in the Morning” from 6 to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday on 98.9/1540.

“I’m 65, so I’m glad that I did what I did,” Ekeland said. “I’ve been doing this since basically 1982.”

The biggest reason Ekeland has stayed passionate about his job and still loves what he does after the many years doing it is because of the listeners on his show. 

“I enjoy being on the air and I enjoy the interaction with the listeners,” Ekeland said. “That’s the best part because even though you don’t know them personally, it just feels like they’re family.”

A lot has changed since Ekeland first started his journey in the radio business in 1982.

Not only did he point out that you needed a 3rd Class License to be on the radio, which he said wasn’t too difficult to pass the test for, but he also said that back then, the station groups were not there.

“The FCC only allowed owners to own 7 AMs, 7 FMs and 7 TV stations,” Ekeland said.

According to Ekeland, owners could not own two FM stations in the same market or two AM stations in the same markets, but now they have deregulated all of that. Now groups have individual ownerships.

Ekeland also shared his experience being an announcer through the years and the differences since his start in the early 80s.

“My goodness the board was like a spaceship,” Ekeland said. “We played records. 45’s. You were sitting there, had to cue up the records and when one stopped, you had to start another one.” 

Ekeland remembered the first automation in Hettinger.

“We were still live in the mornings, but then you went to a satellite music network,” Ekeland said. “Satellite and automation was just coming in and the whole station was run by a Commodore 64 computer. All of the commercials were on cassettes. We had a big bank of cassette decks.” 

Now it’s all done digitally, but before, Ekeland said you would pick out the records to play.

Before Ad Astra bought the McPherson station, Ekeland used to be on 96.7 on the Oldies format. He’s now on 98.9.

Mark Ekeland Interview May 11, May Day
Mark Ekeland interviewing on May Day, May 11, 2007

“You get me into some modern music and I’m totally up a crick because I don’t listen to it,” Ekeland said. “I’m a product of the 60s and the 70s.”

His favorite genre is the Early 60s, (pre-Beatles) before the “British invasion.” 

Since he was born in 1957, he didn’t really listen to a lot of 50s music growing up, but before the new ownership, Ekeland had a Super Oldie Saturday morning program and really got into the late 50s (Elvis Presley) and early 60s music (The Beach Boys).

 “Some great music, which we don’t play because that is really old,” Ekeland said.

There’s some 70s music that Ekeland likes, but he said he can leave the 80s alone. 

The Hettinger station, that he worked at played Classic Country, so he also likes some of that too, but the modern country music he said he gets lost with like the other modern music.

“I enjoy the smaller market stations,” Ekeland said. “That’s where I’ve pretty much always been outside of my time in Wichita.”

When the Hettinger station went on the air back around the 1950s, Ekeland said it was the smallest town in the United States to have a radio station when they started.

4H County Fair Interview
Mark Ekeland interviewing for the McPherson County 4H Fair around 2021

“We had to drive to Dickinson, which was 60 to 70 miles out of town to get to the Pizza Hut”, Ekeland said. “It was remote out there, but we liked it.” 

Mark and Bonnie Ekeland have been married 43 years and have three sons: the oldest, who is in the military lives in Topeka and still has a couple years before he retires, the middle boy lives in McPherson, and the youngest lives in Hesston. The oldest has two boys, the middle has a boy and girl, and the youngest has four kids. 

“Eight grandkids altogether,” Ekeland said. “The oldest just graduated from high school this spring and the youngest is going to be in second grade this year. That’s one of the reasons we stayed in the area too. My kids are here and most of my grandkids are here.”

Ekeland commutes every day from the Newton/Sedgwick area. He and his wife live on a five acre property and have goats, chickens and also do market gardening, which you might hear him talk about on the air every once in a while.