Iowa Broadcasting Legend Dies

Eliot Keller
If you grew up anywhere in the 319 area code, you know what 94.1 and 102.9 mean on your radio dials.

They were original radio stations with visionaries at the helm that knew what local radio was about.

Eliot Keller helped build KRNA (94.1) and KZIA (102.9), he died of complications from ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease on Monday.

Keller served as president of KZIA, INC., in Cedar Rapids which includes several CR stations.

He was also one of the founders of KRNA in Iowa City. This is what a rock station sounded like. They had a tremendous reach and influence on that music scene.

Keller’s career started in news in several stations across the state.

Brian Allen of KSFY-TV in Sioux Falls has a strong interest in Iowa broadcasting history and had Keller write a guest blog. Here’s the most recent one.

The Iowa Broadcast News Association has a link about Mr. Keller.

Last year, a scholarship was awarded in Mr. Keller’s name. It was funded by friends. If you would like to make a contribution to make sure the next generation of broadcasters knows about an Iowa legend, contact the IBNA here:

Here’s the write up from the Iowa City Press Citizen.
Here’s the Cedar Rapids Gazette story on Keller.
Here’s his obituary. If you didn’t know Eliot Keller, you knew his influence.

Eliot Aaron Keller
(IOWA CITY, IOWA) Eliot Aaron Keller, 62, formerly of rural Iowa City, died today of complications from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”) Keller formerly was President, Treasurer and General Manager of KZIA, INC., which owns and operates KZIA Z102.9, 102.9 HD-2, KGYM 1600 ESPN and 102.9 HD-3 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, serving the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area.

He was one of the founders of KRNA (93.5, 93.9 and 94.1), Iowa City, and served as General Manager from 1974 to 1998. In 1970 he worked in news at WOC AM-TV (now KWQC-TV) in Davenport, Iowa. In 1969 he was in news at WHBF AM-FM-TV (now WKBF-TV) in Rock Island, Illinois. While at the University of Iowa, he worked at WSUI, Iowa City, and at the “Daily Iowan.” He began his professional radio career in 1967 at KCII-AM, Washington, Iowa.

Keller is survived by his wife of 39 years, Sandra, his daughter Nicole M. Keller (T. James Bush) of Indianapolis, Indiana, and his grandson, Cole M. Bush. Other survivors include his sisters-in-law Sharon (McGrew) Caruso (Joseph) of Phoenix, Arizona, and Sue (McGrew) Murphy (Robin) of Ely, Iowa.

Keller received his BA in Radio-TV Journalism and Certificate in Journalism from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, in 1970. He received his MS in Mass Communications from San Diego State University, San Diego, California, in 1976.

He was a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications of the University of Iowa and a member of the National Advisory Board of the Communications Arts Department at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, for a number of years.

In 2009, he was named to the Iowa Broadcaster Hall of Fame by the Iowa Broadcasters Association and the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce awarded Keller the Russell Slade Award for a lifetime of service. In 2008, he was named Corridorian by Access Iowa, now Impact CR, an affiliate of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce awarded him its “Volunteer of the Year” award. In 2004, he was also named to the Hall of Fame of the Cedar Rapids Advertising Federation. In 2001, the Iowa Broadcasters Association awarded him its “Broadcaster of the Year” award.

Keller was active in a number of volunteer organizations. He chaired the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Council and earlier the Council’s Transportation Subcommittee. He was a member of the Government Affairs Forum of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. He was the moderator for those organizations of a number of legislative forums.

He was Excursion Chair of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers for more than two decades. He was active in various transportation infrastructure advocacy activities.

In 2007, he was one of the organizers of the National Rail Passenger Leadership Summit (later renamed the National Passenger Train Leadership Summit) in Chicago which brought together transportation advocates from across the country to promote passenger trains (

From 2000-2003 he was a member of the board of directors of the Mid-Continent Railway Historical Society, North Freedom, Wisconsin, where he has volunteered for nearly three decades. He received the “Exceptional Volunteer” Award in 2002.

From 1980-1983 he was a member of the board of the state chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

He had a number of opinion pieces, guest columns and letters published and aired in various media.

One of his hopes was that his activities would make for at least a slightly better world.

Because he spent much of his life helping persons around him focus on the future, in accordance with his wishes there will be no funeral service nor memorial celebration of life.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Iowa Impact Endowment Fund of the University of Iowa Foundation, Iowa City, Iowa; the endowment of Community Foundation of Johnson County, Iowa City, Iowa; or the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Chicago, Illinois.


2 thoughts on “Iowa Broadcasting Legend Dies

  1. Thank you for posting this, Paul. Eliot was a leader in his profession and a leader by example for all who care about others and who care about Iowa’s future.

  2. There are many things to admire about Eliot Keller. I think the primary attribute to remember is that he wasn’t afraid to try. Would you ever attempt to put one radio station on the air? Let alone two? I would love to but have no idea where to begin, how to find financing, how to pick a format, et cetera. Eliot did this. Twice. He knew full well he could have lost all the chips he put on the table. But he was willing to gamble that he knew his industry and his home area well enough to succeed.
    He was an amazing man; not afraid to take a risk and that makes him admirable.

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