Van Harden Announces His Retirement

September 14, 2020

van harden on air

Hall of Fame Broadcaster Van Harden Retiring

In January of 1971, Van Harden turned on his first microphone and spoke to Iowans for the first time. Today, Harden announced his upcoming retirement on January 8, 2021, fifty years after that first broadcast.

Harden led WHO Radio in Des Moines to 13 national Marconi Awards, the radio equivalent of the Emmy and Oscar, five of which were personally awarded to him for his morning radio show. He has interviewed U.S. Presidents, dignitaries, TV and Movie stars and nationally prominent figures, but his favorite conversations have always been with people that have listened to him every day.

Harden's on air hallmark has always been fun, laughs and unusual shows from unusual places. He created the International Leisure Suit Convention, which was a national sensation for eight years, garnering coverage by the largest networks, newspapers and publications. He hid things around Iowa and gave clues for listeners to find and win them. He gave away prizes, big and small including cars and even a house.

He once broadcast from the Winter Olympics in Park City Utah, riding a bobsled down the Olympic run. He broadcast from the USS Iowa when it was in mothballs and in danger of being destroyed, and ultimately helped save the ship. Other shows were done from NASA at a launch, from an overnight stay at the Villisca ax murder house, from the United States Senate Ice Cream social, where his Van and Bon Bon ice cream was the hit of the event. Harden is the only person with the unusual distinction of sitting in every seat in both Veteran's Memorial Auditorium and Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. He was inducted into the Iowa Broadcasting Hall of Fame in June of 2019.


“I know people will ask why I am retiring. My answer is, after 50 years, why not? For years people have asked me if I ever think about retirement and I have told them, 'Yes, at 2:45 weekday mornings.'” Getting up has been the biggest challenge of the job and it has gotten more difficult as time has gone on, but I wouldn't trade any of those past mornings for anything,” says Harden.

“I want to deeply thank my past co-hosts and good friends, Patti Christensen, Connie Murad and Bonnie Lucas, especially Bonnie, after putting in 25 years of her own, for being such fabulous on-air partners. I could make a huge list of incredible co-workers from the past 50 years that have made this an amazing ride. Besides the on air shows it was a great honor to be the Program Director of WHO for 30 years and of KXnO from the day we put it on the air as a sports station. It has been a privilege to have hired and worked with so many talented people on both stations.”

“I would especially like to thank WHO Radio General Manage, Joel McCrea. I have worked under seven different General Managers during my time here. All were very good, but I would classify Joel as great, and I know why. He, like I, grew up listening to WHO Radio and understood what it was, what it wasn't and what it should be. And he leads that way to this day.”

“And special thanks to KDLS Radio in Perry who launched me 50 years ago, and to KWEN/KRMG Radio in Tulsa and to the beloved “Brand X” to whom I have referred many time on the air, that being KRNT in Des Moines. All of them gave me invaluable trust and experience. And thanks to Palmer Communications who gave me the OK to purchase and operate KLSN Radio in Jefferson for several years, while still working at WHO.”

What will Harden do in his retirement? “Much like now I will continue writing, speaking and inventing a few things here and there. Some advertisers have asked if I would still do recorded commercials for them and I am open to that. My wife Becky and I will travel now that we have time to do so. In fact we might even ask WHO Radio listeners to come along on some of those trips.”

“The one thing I won't be doing is getting up at 2:45 am,” he says with a chuckle.

“This whole thing has been like flying a plane that lifted off the runway in January of 1971. It's something I always wanted to do, but I had no idea how high, how long and how fast it would fly. It's a sweet feeling to look down, see the run way and bring it in for a landing!”

young van harden