Rick Alloway got an early birthday present this year. The associate professor and general manager for KRNU at the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications got a call from the Nebraska Broadcasters Association (NBA) on Feb. 3, one day before he celebrated his 67th birthday.
Each year, Alloway attends the NBA Hall of Fame dinner to represent the university’s radio station, 90.3 KRNU. But this time, he’ll be among the hall of fame’s inductees.
At the beginning of each year, the NBA board of directors holds a Hall of Fame election meeting where the 13 voting members choose two to three new Hall of Famers with notable impacts on Nebraska’s broadcasting landscape.
Advocates can contact the president and executive director of the NBA, Jim Timm, to speak on a certain nominee at this meeting. Timm said Shari Veil, dean of the UNL College of Journalism and Mass Communications spoke on behalf of Alloway’s nomination this year.
Veil worked with Ford Clark, a CoJMC alum and now faculty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, to coordinate Alloway’s three nomination letters from current members of the NBA. During her advocacy statement, Veil elaborated on Alloway’s career and contributions to broadcasting education.
Veil became the dean of the CoJMC in the summer of 2021. She spoke with alumni around the country (via zoom in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic) and said she heard stories of Alloway’s influence, call after call.
“Rick has been a constant in the education of broadcasters in this state for 40 years,” Veil said in her advocacy statement. “That equates to about 200 individual classes and over 8,500 unique students, who have been guided under Rick’s tutelage.”
Alloway said he has always been fascinated with audio and audio storytelling. In junior high, his parents got him a recorder where he created radio dramas and experimented with character voices.
He officially started his broadcast journalism career in high school, voicing the daily announcements at Lincoln Southeast and spending time as an intern at KFOR radio. Throughout Alloway’s undergraduate education at UNL, he worked part time for KFOR. Upon graduating, he gained a full-time position and worked at the station for 12 years.
“I had moved from being a writer to being promotions director; the last three years I was the operations manager,” Alloway said. “I ended up filling the job of the guy who had hired me.”
The operations manager position was the highest rank in the radio department, so when a new opportunity became available, Alloway left KFOR. In 1984, he was hired at Bailey Lewis & Associates (now Bailey Lauerman) where he gained advertising experience while staying involved in broadcasting.
Alloway said he enjoyed his job at the ad agency, but two years after he started, UNL created a station manager position for KRNU. Alloway was recruited to apply in 1986 and has stayed at the university ever since.
“I never got radio out of my blood,” he said. “And the probably bigger consideration is that I grew up in a family of educators.”
His mother was an elementary school educator for nearly 20 years, and Alloway was inspired by her impact on her students. Over the last 36 years, he, too, has contributed to a vast number of students’ lives, leaving an indelible legacy not only on students but also on the campus radio station.
Olivia Klein, a senior broadcasting major, has been the music director at KRNU for almost two years. She learned about the position in Alloway’s audio content creation course.
“He just made it so exciting,” Klein said. “It’s just so expansive. And he just introduces you to the world of audio that you otherwise don’t think about.”
Alloway’s passion for radio led him to suggest a change in KRNU’s format in late 1988.
“We were top 40 when I started, which I enjoyed because I grew up listening to top 40 radio. But it didn’t seem like it was the right fit for a college radio station to be doing,” Alloway said. “And so I recommended to my boss at that time, the general manager, that we switch to the alternative music format.”
Although he expected pushback on his idea, his boss, Larry Walklin, quickly agreed to the change. Walklin was a broadcasting professor and KRNU’s founding general manager before he retired. He earned a spot in the NBA hall of fame in 1985.
Since then, Alloway has taken over Walklin’s position as KRNU’s general manager. During his time at UNL, Alloway has taught classes across many realms of broadcasting, including sports media, media ethics and audio creation, all while encouraging student engagement with the radio station.
“I love the creative outlet and the research and the production and all that, but following a student’s career and finding someone who has success in their career down the road, that’s the coolest thing,” Alloway said.
Randy Hawthorne graduated from the College of Journalism in 1992. He spent time at KRNU and in one of Alloway’s broadcasting courses. As a product manager for Nelnet, Hawthorne has strayed from his broadcasting degree but still keeps in contact with Alloway nearly 20 years later.
“He just has a passion for the craft, but he also has a passion for the students and making sure that they can land things that they care about,” Hawthorne said. “And then he just stays in touch with I don’t know how many students he stays in touch with, but he just follows the careers of so many former students at UNL.”
Teaching at UNL has allowed Alloway to pursue and connect his passions of education and radio broadcasting. One of his favorite shows to host on KRNU is Vocal Chords, which focuses on acapella singing. He has hosted the show for 27 years, because, as Alloway puts it, “I’ve had a love affair with the human voice.”
After 36 years at the university, Alloway said he has no plans to retire quite yet, though he hopes he will be able to tell when it comes time to step away. For now, he said he loves what he does.
Klein said after decades in the field, Alloway still shows a fresh perspective on audio and allows students to bring innovative ideas.
“He encourages and fosters creativity; he is not rigid at all,” Klein said. “If you have an idea that you want to pursue or like, a different way of thinking, he really encourages that, which I think is crucial, especially to education and media.”
The 2022 NBA Hall of Fame inductees also include accomplished broadcast professionals Gary Kerr and Neil Nelkin, but Alloway is the only educator of the three.
“Rick’s story is unique in that regard this year, because yes, he was on the air and you know, worked on the commercial side of the business early in his career,” Timm said. “But then he flipped around and he started instructing others on how to be successful.”
Timm called Alloway a “tremendous teacher,” noting Alloway’s accolades from students, parents and colleagues alike.
Hawthorne agreed that Alloway’s passage of knowledge to future generations makes him deserving of this induction.
“That is another big reason why he should be in the Hall of Fame, just being able to say that, you know, Rick Alloway has helped the careers of hundreds and hundreds of students to become good professional broadcasters. And in some cases, not broadcasters, like myself,” Hawthorne said.
Though Timm does not get a vote in the election process, he has the responsibility of calling each of the chosen inductees. He said it is both fun and humbling to make those calls to unsuspecting nominees.
Surprise is a key element for people inducted into the Hall of Fame. Timm said the NBA does not inform anyone that they are in nomination and strongly encourages nominators not to tell the nominee. The element of surprise worked for Alloway, who was speechless when he heard the news.
“I was sort of dumbstruck,” Alloway said. “I think to the point that I was afraid he was gonna ask ‘hello, are you still there?’”
During his time at UNL, Alloway has taught thousands of students, leaving an impact on decades of broadcasters and storytellers as well as the school of journalism, earning his new title in the Hall of Fame.
“Your personal connections with people and your personal network with people are, at the end of the day, what really matters, and the lives you’ve been able to impact with what you do,” Alloway said.