Keith Fenton Obituary

Keith  Fenton
Keith Fenton
Keith Fenton

March 14, 1931 - March 5, 2019
Born in Des Moines, Iowa
Resided in Scottsdale, AZ formerly of Des Moines
  • Contat Us
  • Guestbook
  • Photos
  • Services
  • Send Flowers


Keith D. Fenton passed away suddenly on March 5, 2019, at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 87.

Keith was born March 14, 1931, to Everett and Elsie Fenton. He was raised in Des Moines, attending public schools and graduating from Roosevelt High School. He attended William Jewell College, the University of Maine and American Institute of Business before graduating from Drake University. Keith served on active duty in the United States Air Force during the Korean Conflict. He then served 20 years in the Iowa Air National Guard, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

In 1960, Keith was united in marriage to Marjorie Lettington. To that union, three children were born, Nancy, Karl and Connie. The couple divorced in 1990.

American Institute of Business (AIB) was founded by Keith’s father, and Keith took over as president in 1957. Under his leadership, the small business school with 250 students located in downtown Des Moines grew into a regionally accredited, two-year college with 1,000 students. Keith built the 20-acre campus located on Fleur Drive and moved the school in the early 1970s, allowing for modern classrooms and apartment-style dorms.

“Mr. Fenton,” as he was known to students, faculty and staff, was a mentor to many people. One of the longest-serving college presidents in Iowa, he was president of AIB for 42 years until his retirement in 1998. He was actively involved with campus student life and with Alpha Iota Sorority and Phi Theta Pi Fraternity. He was a constant presence on campus, dressed in proper business attire - a suit and tie - and greeting students, faculty and staff. But occasionally, you might find him in the dunk tank during school carnival days, or in a Hawaiian shirt at the annual Luau parties at Birdland Park.

AIB was Keith’s life. He led by example, believing that in addition to providing an excellent education, it was as important to teach students how to dress, have good manners and know how to act as professionals in the business world. The graduates of AIB were always in demand from local employers as a result of their specialized education.

Keith was very active in the community and in many professional organizations. He received the Member of the Year Award in 1972 from the United Business School Association and served as accrediting commissioner, treasurer and board member of the Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, a national accrediting agency. He had been on the board and served a term as president of BERA (Business Education Research of America). He had been president of Central Commercial Teachers Association, the Midwestern Business College Association and the Iowa Association of Private Business Schools. He served on the executive committee of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Among his many other achievements, Keith held the position of chair and served for 18 years as a member of the Iowa Coordinating Council for Post-High School Education. He also was past president of the South Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and was the 1990 recipient of its Citizen of the Year Award. He served on the Board of the National Shorthand Reporters Association and was the Education Chairman of the Des Moines Chapter of the Administrative Management Society.

Keith also loved sailing. He had his first sailboat at Big Creek before Saylorville Lake was built. He later sailed at Saylorville and Lake Rathbun and was a member of the Midwest Cruising Sailors Association. He took his family on sailing adventures to the Gulf of Mexico for spring breaks during the 1970s, where he loved eating fresh oysters from the Gulf. Keith enjoyed his acreage with horses, cats and dogs near Carlisle, especially when the grandkids would come for weekend visits.

When he retired from AIB, the Board of Trustees renamed the Administration Building the Keith Fenton Administration Building in his honor and to recognize his service. After retirement, Keith moved to a Palm Cove condo in Scottsdale, Ariz. He became involved with the Home Owners Association, where he made good friends with his neighbors. He was happiest when he had a purpose and when he felt that he’d made a difference. Keith had many friends because he “never met a stranger.” He could, and would, strike up a conversation with anyone at any time. For a while, he was involved in a Scottsdale social club called “Who’s Who.” He also enjoyed attending the Iowa Luncheons in Arizona. He was a member of Valley Presbyterian Church.

It was in Scottsdale that Keith met his partner of nearly 20 years, Sigi, whom he called “My Angel!” His children are grateful to Sigi for her love and support of their father, as the last few years brought on health challenges.

Keith was a kind soul and a humble man. He touched the lives of so many people, and he will be dearly missed.

Keith is survived by his daughter Nancy Williams (Joe Romeo), son, Karl Fenton (Barbie Gray), and daughter Connie Trujillo (Rudy); grandchildren, Anne Poblocki (Andrew), John Williams, Ryan Williams, Morena Trujillo and Jaina Trujillo. Also surviving are his partner, Sigrid Lyons, and her children, David Lyons (Jody), Christine Wright (David), and Tom Lyons; his sister, Marilyn Fenton Walz of Lawrence, Kan.; brother-in-law, Boyd Harris (Mary) of Rio Verde, Ariz.; sister-in-law, Virginia Fenton of Indianapolis, Ind.; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother, Ronald, and his sister, Janice.

A Celebration of Life will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 12, at Wakonda Club, with remarks at 6:45 p.m. Graveside services and burial of his ashes will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Masonic Cemetery in Des Moines. The family suggests gifts in Keith’s memory to the Mayo Clinic in support of Cardiac Research. Online condolences are welcome at

Arrangements by Iles Dunn's Chapel




Celebration of Life
Wakonda Club
3915 Fleur Drive
Des Moines, IA US 50321
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM
Graveside Service
Masonic Cemetery
1550 48th Street
Des Moines, IA 50311
Thursday, June 13, 2019
10:00 AM


Mayo Clinic
200 First Street, S.W.
Rochester, MN US 55905