The Ball State and Muncie communities have lost one of their greatest icons.

J. Allan "Al" Rent — a former university official and longtime Muncie icon — died Jan. 17 at the age of 73.

Rent had served as the executive director and general manager for Indiana Public Radio and WIPB public broadcasting operations at Ball State since 2015. He was also in other leadership positions at the university after graduating from Ball State in 1967, including serving more than 20 years as assistant to the vice president for advancement and director of marketing .

Rent's funeral services are being handled by Meeks Mortuary. 

The celebration of life will begin at 11 a.m. Jan. 21 at High Street Methodist Church in Muncie. Calling hours will be 3 - 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at the same location.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to The Al Rent Honorary IPR/WIPB Public Media Student Fund, C/O, The Muncie and Delaware County Community Foundation, 201 East Jackson Street #100, Muncie, Indiana 47305 or Meridian Health Services, 240 North Tillotson Ave., Muncie, Indiana 47304 or Minnetrista, 1200 North Minnetrista Parkway, Muncie, Indiana 47303.

"Everybody wanted to be like Al, and if they couldn't, they wanted to be around Al," said Angie Rapp, the marketing manager for WIPB-TV and Indiana Public Radio. "He just wanted to make everything better. It's a huge loss."

He was instrumental for getting WIPB created, said Michelle Kinsey, the community engagement coordinator at WIPB-TV and Indiana Public Radio. Rent had worked at the station since he was a student and was on-air the first day WIPB went live.

"You would be hard-pressed to find someone in this town that wasn't impacted in some way by Al Rent," Kinsey said. "He was the biggest cheerleader in every way possible, and it was just infectious."

When Roger Lavery, dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media, started working at Ball State 11 years ago, Rent was one of the first people he met. The first impression, he said, was unlike any other.

"I was just so fortunate to meet him," Lavery said. "He was always positive, always smiling. It was always just a joyful time to be with him."

A Ball State "encyclopedia," Rent knew nearly everyone — and nearly everyone knew him, Lavery said.

In fact, Rent was quite familiar with one of Ball State's most nationally acclaimed alums — David Letterman. In a 2015 interview with Indiana Public Radio, Rent reminisced of his days spent at Ball State with the would-be Late Night talk show host, revealing that he may have been the first to "hire and fire" Letterman from a job.

"I first met [Letterman] when he was a freshman, and I was a junior or senior. Dave was brought to the radio station where I was the student program director, and I was asked to give him something to do," Rent said. "David would make up copy ... and news ... and he would slip it in to be read on-air, and no one would know until it was already being read."

Rent would end up "firing" Letterman before giving him other jobs at the radio station, but he said the two ended up becoming good friends. They would go on double dates together, and decades later, Rent would even appear on the Late Show.

Decades later, however, Rent was always working, especially at the university. He never complained and could never say "no" to anybody, and Lavery said that was part of what made Rent so special.

"Through his sickness, he was always smiling. He didn't talk about having cancer. That wasn't like him, he never complained," Lavery said. "And that was always Al — he was always focused on listening, it was always about you. It was such a selfless personality."

Lavery said he was "in awe" of what Rent accomplished in his lifetime, adding that Rent's "unique personality" will always be remembered.

"There will never be another Al Rent," Lavery said. "He's already missed by so many people."

An active member in the Muncie community, Rent was known for supporting multiple community organizations, earning him the title of 2010 Star Press Person of the Year. In 2016, Rent was also awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash and the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Legacy Award.

For 2014 alum A.J. Brammer, knowing Rent wasn't just a part of going to Ball State, but also a part of living in the Muncie community.

"When I was growing up, I lived a few doors down from Mr. Rent," Brammer said. "He was always one of the kindest guys in the neighborhood — and nearly all of the kids in the community knew that and knew he always wanted to support us."

Brammer said Rent was known for helping with numerous fundraisers for local students and knew that Rent would always be willing to offer a smile and words of encouragement.

"You can tell just from all these tributes over the last couple days that he had a wide range, a wide reaching impact on this community," Brammer said. "Not only for Ball State, not only for the other organizations he was a part of, but just little things, too, like saying 'hi' to a kid riding his bike in the neighborhood. We're definitely gonna miss him."

Michelle Kaufman contributed to this story.