Remembering Karl Eller
A visionary entrepreneur and philanthropist who left his mark on Barrow Neurological Institute, Karl Eller died on March 10, 2019, at the age of 90.
At Barrow, Mr. Eller’s name lives on through the Eller Telepresence, a revolutionary center for interactive collaboration, where doctors from around the world can communicate directly with Barrow physicians and a generation of residents have learned their crafts from the best.
“Through his visionary contributions and unwavering support, Karl Eller set us on the path to transforming Barrow from an institute of icons to an iconic institution. The medical advancements that the Eller Telepresence made possible cannot be understated,” said Barrow President and CEO, Dr. Michael Lawton.
A self-made man, Mr. Eller saw opportunities where others did not. The former paperboy was offered a chance to buy the southwest operations for the billboard company where he had worked after college. He scraped the funds together, and in 1962, Eller Outdoor Advertising opened. He ultimately merged the company with Gannett, then took the helm at Columbia Pictures and later, at the Circle K Corporation, before reinventing his outdoor advertising platform at the turn of the century.
Throughout his career, Mr. Eller recognized the importance of communication and education and shared these values through his philanthropy. His gift to his alma mater, the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, nurtures the spark of entrepreneurship in business students. At Barrow, he recognized the importance of sharing our physicians’ innovations, so the Eller Telepresence brings doctors, residents and scientists from all over the world together to learn from one another.
“Karl Eller made important contributions to Barrow Neurological Institute that allowed us to communicate, collaborate and push boundaries beyond our four walls,” said Dr. Robert Spetzler, Barrow Neurosurgery Chair Emeritus.
Mr. Eller was a major supporter of the Barrow vision, both as a member of the Barrow Neurological Foundation Board of Trustees and also as a patient. In 2012, he suffered a serious bicycle accident at the age of 84 that nearly took his life. He underwent rehabilitation at Barrow.
“He recovered from an injury that he really shouldn’t have. That is a testament to his strength,” Dr. Spetzler said. “I credit his wife, Stevie, for his recovery. She was like a tiger mom, pushing him. Her attention to his needs allowed him to recover.”
Mr. Eller is survived by Stevie, his wife of 66 years, whom he met at the University of Arizona. She has been a longtime member of the Barrow Women’s Board. They have two children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Mr. Eller’s vision, leadership and legacy continue to live on at Barrow. He was the embodiment of the ideal, “I can contribute because Barrow will find a cure.”