Author, Inventor, Teacher, Radio Personality

Van grew up in Adel, Iowa, just outside Des Moines. He grew up as an only child, and his parents reported he was extremely creative and inventive. Van discovered his passion for radio early on, spending a lot of time tuning and listening as a youngster. As an adult, he attended Drake University in Des Moines where he received a B.A. in Radio TV journalism in 1973.

In 1971 Van got his first radio job at KDLS FM in Perry, Iowa, and after graduating from Drake, was named Program Director at the station.

In 1974 he became the morning air personality at KWEN in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he stayed for a year before returning to Iowa.

In 1975 Van became an air personality at KRNT Radio in Des Moines, where he spent a total of 10 years, with a two year break in between when he worked for the American Lung Association of Iowa as the Development and Public Relations Director.

In 1986 Van moved across town to host the morning show on 50 thousand watt WHO Radio, which quickly became the most listened to radio program in the state of Iowa after he joined the station. He was also named Program Director in 1987. 

In 1991 Van began hosting a daily television program on WHO TV, a local variety show that aired for four years.

While continuing to work at WHO, in late 1991, Van and a business partner bought KLSN FM Radio in Jefferson, Iowa, which they owned for two years, then sold.

In 2004, Van invented the DayTeller® timepiece, and the Van Harden Cheese Crust Pizza.

In 2013, Van published his first book, Life in the Purple Wedge.

Under Van's leadership WHO Radio has won thirteen national Marconi awards from the National Association of Broadcasters, five of which were awarded to him personally as medium market personality. Van has recently retired from his position as Program Director, but still enjoys being on the radio's morning show and having a job that let him enjoy his passion every day. Here's a few words to the WHO Radio staff that Van sent upon his retirement:

After the honor of nearly 30 years of being here at WHO, I have decided to retire from the administrative side of my duties as Program Director, while continuing to do the morning show. Joel and I have talked about this for a long time, and I’m honored the company wants me to continue doing mornings.

The company has asked me to be a part of picking a new program director, and you may soon see, or hear about, ads in trade magazines. There is no time line other than, when we find the best person, that person will be hired, but the search has begun.

In watching other retirements, I always thought it was a little hokey when the person talked about family and grandchildren. But with eight grandkids now, and another one the way, I now get it.

I’d be happy to speak to any of you about any of this. As always, my door is open.


Van is married to Becky and has three grown children and eight grandchildren. He lives in the house where he was raised after his parents brought him home as a newborn from Iowa Methodist Hospital. He has the odd distinction of living in the same house three different times.

As you know by listening to him on the radio, hearing him speak or reading his books, he is a true people lover, and is driven by serving God and people.