Monday, August 9, 2010

Our View - Keller deserves recognition for service to area

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Nov. 5, 2009

Our View - Keller deserves recognition for service to area

It's hard for us to imagine anyone more deserving of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce's 2009 Russell Slade Award -- which is awarded for a lifetime of service to our community -- than Eliot Keller.

To list all of Keller's accomplishments as an entrepreneur and a community-minded business owner would fill this column -- if not this page. So we'll limit ourselves only to the highlights.

Back in 1974, Keller, Rob Norton and a small group of investors created the first FM radio station in the Iowa City market, KRNA. Many in the industry doubted that the station could succeed -- in fact, some thought Keller was crazy -- but the station's success demonstrated to the industry that a stand-alone FM station could be profitable. And KRNA not only offered the newest music, but it also became revolutionary in its marketing strategy and a leader in radio news. It, in fact, soon became one of the most listened to and recognizable stations in the state.

The station was sold to Central Star Broadcasting in 1998, but four years earlier, Keller and Norton had purchased another station where they began working their magic all over again. That station eventually evolved into what is now KZIA, where Keller is president as general manager.

Over the decades, Keller's collaborative partnerships have transformed (and been transformed by) the local media marketplace. And at every stage along the way, Eliot has helped mentor young people at the start their broadcast and communication careers. By both principle and example, he taught them the value of being a business owner who gives back to his community much more than he ever receives.

Keller's accomplishments have not gone unsung. He already has received many honors for his hard work. The more recent ones include being named broadcaster of the year by the Iowa Broadcasters Association in 2001, volunteer of the year by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce in 2004 and Corridorian of the Year by Access Iowa in 2008.

But we're glad those recognitions of yearly accomplishments finally are adding up to lifetime achievement awards. Earlier this year, Keller was inducted into the Iowa Broadcasters Hall of Fame. And now our local chamber is celebrating his continued work to bring more honor, recognition and dollars to the community.

As Linda Schreiber wrote in her nomination letter for Keller, "Eliot is and has been a dedicated advocate for the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Area Chambers. His gifts of volunteer service to both organizations have lasting impact in the region and have created a ripple effect, causing results and leading others to witness and emulate the gift of self."

Keller officially will receive the Russell Slade Award at 5:30 p.m. today at the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. But he has earned our thanks and praise many, many times over many, many years.

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