Local entrepreneur Gene Burnett was honored as Lawrence Business Person of the Year this morning at Baker University's Partners-in-Progress breakfast.
More than 100 Baker University alumni, friends and Burnett family members attended the breakfast at the Eldridge Hotel.
Burnett, founder of the former Burnett Instruments, was selected for the honor by Baker officials.
Burnett was born in Wellsville and grew up in Lawrence, where he founded his company in 1947. The firm specialized in manufacturing disposable surgical items and orthopedic equipment, including an electrical skin-grafting machine, the main instrument used in plastic surgery for burn patients. In 1970, he sold the company, which now is owned by Davol Inc. He retired in 1973.
AT THIS morning's award ceremony, Baker President Dan Lambert spoke about some of the university's recent accomplishments and pointed out that community members and alumni are key forces in reaching those goals.
"It's our custom at this event to recognize people who neither want nor need our recognition," he said.
Arden Booth, president of Lawrence Broadcasters Inc., introduced Burnett by comparing him to the heroes of favorite books from his youth. Booth said the books always told of a poor, young boy who conquers the villain, rescues the fair maiden and is honored for his heroism.
Although Burnett might never have saved a damsel in distress, he does reflect some of the traits of the kind and caring character, Booth said.
"Whenever a surgeon would need something, he would tell Gene, who would design it, develop it, build it and market it," he said.
BURNETT received a standing ovation when he accepted the plaque.
"I do appreciate this award and I want to share it with Barbara," he said, smiling at his wife. "We've been sharing for 50 years."
He stressed his support for entrepreneurs who start businesses and create jobs in Lawrence. "I have a fondness for those who started here," he said.
Burnett's long-time involvement in the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce includes having served for two years as vice president. He also served for 20 years on the board of directors for Lawrence National Bank and for six years on the board of the former Lawrence Savings Assn.
Burnett was a member of the board of trustees for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 10 years, during which the current hospital was built. He also has served on the advisory board of the Kansas University Medical Center for the last 16 years.
AFTER undergoing hand surgery at the KU Medical Center, he helped establish the Hand Therapy and Rehabilitation Center there and also donated funds for the Gene and Barbara Burnett Burn Center at the medical center.
His contributions also have made possible the Burnett Center for Religion and Performing Arts at Bethany University in Lindsborg.
He received the KU Alumni Association's Fred Ellsworth Medallion in 1987, the Lawrence Kiwanis Club's Substantial Citizen Award in 1979 and the Lawrence Sertoma Club's Service to Mankind Award in 1973.