Leaders choosing the first inductees for the new Lawrence Business Hall of Fame sat down to cull three names from a pile of 88 nominees.
Two hours later, they simply couldn’t get the job done.
“The talent pool was so deep that our committee said, ‘Why do we need to have just three?’ ” said Dale Willey, committee chair.
And with that, leaders in Junior Achievement of Lawrence settled on four laureates to formally be inducted later this year into the hall, which will be on the lower level of the Lawrence Public Library.
The inductees, announced during a ceremony Thursday morning at Lawrence Country Club:
• Marilyn Dobski, co-owner of Dobski & Associates, the Lawrence-based owner/operator of more than a dozen McDonald’s restaurants in Lawrence and northeast Kansas.
• Joe Flannery, president of Weaver’s Inc., a department store at 901 Mass.
• Val Stella, a distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at Kansas University.
• The late Dolph C. Simons Sr., who was publisher of the Lawrence Journal-World from 1944 to 1962 and the newspaper’s editor from 1950 to 1979.
“We’ve set the bar high,” said Willey, president of Dale Willey Automotive in Lawrence, and a board member for Junior Achievement in Lawrence. “And that’s the way it should be.”
Dobski, Flannery and Stella attended Thursday’s event, thanking Junior Achievement for their work to educate youngsters about the world of business and free enterprise. They also recalled mentors who helped guide their own business careers.
For Dobski, a former teacher, it was a long line of supporters that included teaching colleagues, former principals and even McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc who helped her and her husband, Tom, build a business in Lawrence and beyond.
“We benchmarked many other owner/operators across the country to be able to learn from them, and the things that they were good at, and to learn how to improve our restaurants and our organization,” Dobski said.
Flannery, who leads an iconic department store that’s been open a month longer than the venerable — and much larger — Macy’s, recalled the helpful support of former owner Art Weaver, current supporter Ross Beach, and his own father, Larry, with whom he worked alongside for 15 years.
“He really taught me what’s important, especially relationships with customers and with your staff,” Flannery said.
And for Stella, whose scientific research and expertise would lead to ventures that included meeting a $2 million payroll, the path to bridging success in both academia and business was shown to him by Tak Higuchi, a professor who had become known as “the father of physical pharmacy” while at KU.
“He sort of set the tone that, at a university setting, you can be both a good teacher — you can do good service to the university — but you can also do great research, and that research can often result in products,” Stella said.
The four laureates will be honored during a celebration Oct. 4 at the Kansas Union. For details about the event and more about the hall project, visit LawrenceBusinessHallofFame.org.