David Elliott, a guiding spirit at Harvard radio station WHRB for generations, died on Thursday, Nov. 12, at age 78 from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Shortly after he stepped away from the station because of illness, the Gazette last year wrote about his life and times, below. (In the weeks ahead, WHRB plans memorial programming and services in his honor.)
Like so many others who work at Harvard’s student radio station, WHRB (95.3 FM), Xilin Zhou ’20 knew that whenever she took on a new challenge she could turn to David Elliott ’64 for advice on how to do it well.
“He just knew a lot about programming,” Zhou said. “He knew a lot about how to have good air. I think a lot of people looked up to him for that.”
For almost 60 years, Elliott has been a force and a fixture at the station. He mentored students, counseled leadership, chaired its board of trustees, curated music programs, enriched signature programs, anchored live broadcasts, and sold advertising. His accomplishments at WHRB, which was founded in 1940, are open ended, and he has often been center stage for the station’s most significant moments, including its expansion online and through mobile streaming.
But since Elliott stepped back in November to undergo treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), what many say he will most be remembered for is helping the station establish a standard of excellence and for mentoring students to carry on that legacy.
“Because David was there and because he was so invested in the culture and identity of the station, a lot of people were able to understand what it meant to respect music and what it meant to respect the cultural institution we were becoming a part of,” said Aaron Fogelson ’19, a former station president. “In a lot of ways, he was almost a spiritual leader of how the station should be.”
Because of his long tenure there, Elliott knew the station better than anyone else. He knew its history and had a strong sense of how the station should fulfill its purpose not only of offering music, culture, and educational information for the public, but also of benefiting the student staff who put it together.