Renowned radio host honored with GVSU diploma 50 years after transferring

GVL / Sheila Babbitt
GVSU welcomes Radio Hall of Famer John Records Landecker for an interview with Professor Len OKelly on Thursday Februrary 8th, 2018.

GVL / Sheila Babbitt GVSU welcomes Radio Hall of Famer John Records Landecker for an interview with Professor Len O’Kelly on Thursday Februrary 8th, 2018.

Rachel Matuszewski

Grand Valley State University recently invited John Records Landecker to campus to bestow him with a surprise diploma.

Len O’Kelly, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at GVSU, invited Landecker to speak about his new book, “Records Truly Is My Middle Name,” to an audience of students, guests and faculty on Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Kirkhof Center Pere Marquette Room. 

Though most radio hosts coin different names on the air, once Landecker made his way to his own show, he used his real name, with his middle name being his mother’s maiden name. 

Landecker’s book is a collection of stories following his life from his time at GVSU to his communication studies at Michigan State University to the many jobs he has held since.

Landecker could always be found with a tape recorder in hand. His first fascination with radio came from his father, who was from Germany and worked as a college professor. Although he did not share the same interests in pop culture and sports that Landecker did, the two held the basis of Landecker’s career in common.

“I tape recorded everything,” Landecker said. “(My dad) had a Dictaphone, which was a very early form of recorder. (He) brought it home and he let me play with it. (When) I spoke into it and I heard my voice come out of it, that was one of those, ‘Oh how’d that happen?’ (moments). I think being attracted to a radio had some connection of trying to bridge a connection with him.”

Landecker’s book also has some stories from his high school days as a graduate of the University of Michigan High School, one of which involved him not wanting to write a term paper and deciding to make a tape instead.

“I went to a local radio station in Ann Arbor,” Landecker said. “The man on the air in the afternoon was also the program director. He said, ‘Go in that room and when that light comes on, read it.’ And I never left.”

Landecker has worked in numerous radio stations, including The Big 89-WLS/Chicago and WERX in Wyoming, Michigan. He has also worked in Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Toronto.

At the event, Landecker told the class of 2018 to pursue what motivates and resonates with them.

“No matter what, whether it’s a daytime AM station back then or (if) it’s coming out of a satellite or on the internet or however it’s distributed, there’s something a certain people like me, and probably like you, have this weird fascination with the idea of being able to sit down, talk into (a microphone) and it comes out over there,” Landecker said. “I think that the big deal about it is that if you really, really want to do it, then you will do it. Nothing I will tell you will make or break it. Only to tell you if it’s (something) you really want, you’ll get it. Be willing to do anything.” 

Landecker’s advice resonated with attendees.

“It’s definitely inspiring, the advice that he gave us to just keep going for it,” said Marin Smith, GVSU student and multimedia journalism major. 

Little did he know, O’Kelly had arranged for Landecker to graduate with the class he spoke to all along. Frederick Antczac, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was brought up to present Landecker with a diploma from GVSU. The recognition brought tears to his eyes. 

“The history of me dropping out of college and my dad being a college professor, (the fact that I) had never gotten a degree, I was totally blown away,” Landecker said. “I came in a dropout. I’m walking out a graduate.”