Archive for Sunday, October 3, 2010

Former World Company chairman spent decades serving Lawrence, KU

October 3, 2010


Dolph C. Simons Sr.

Dolph C. Simons Sr.

Dolph Simons Sr. built a powerful media company, helped foster a successful Kansas University and consistently worked to ensure a strong community for the Lawrence area and beyond by turning to others.

Always by offering help, not searching for it.

“The prevailing characteristic I remember in Dolph Sr. was that he was a selfless person,” said Archie Dykes, a former KU chancellor who counted on Simons for advice. “He wanted others to succeed. And if they were successful, then he’d be successful.”

After decades living by such unselfish standards — and after decades of results to show for their time-tested production — Simons is among four inaugural laureates for the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame, sponsored by Lawrence Junior Achievement.

Simons, who died in 1989 at age 84, is being inducted posthumously, but his approach — and the accomplishments it helped generate — promise to live on for generations, helping guide future entrepreneurs and others looking for signs of leadership by example.

“They have someone who is gone but shouldn’t be forgotten,” said George Catt, a Lawrence attorney and former municipal court judge.

Today Lawrence, KU, the state of Kansas and elsewhere offer indications of Simons’ influence and participation. He spent seven years as a board member for Lawrence National Bank, and went on to serve 11 years — including four as chairman — as a member of the 10th District Federal Reserve Board in Kansas City, Mo., which serves seven states.

“Those were the people who made all the fiscal policy,” Catt said. “Other people recognized what a driving force he was. He was at the forefront of getting Lawrence moving.”

In Lawrence, Simons helped draw major employers such as FMC (now ICL Performance Products) and Hallmark Cards Inc. to establish major operations in and around Lawrence. He had been among the original board members for Lawrence Industrial Development Co., then the economic-development arm of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

Simons had been active for more than 50 years in chamber activities, and served as the organization’s president in 1937. The chamber would recognize him with its Citizen of the Years award in 1985.

“He was a driving force in the community,” Catt said.

KU connections

Simons worked on behalf of KU, and is among only a handful of people to have both served as president of the KU Alumni Association and of the KU Endowment Association.

Simons became a trustee for the endowment association in 1939, when the organization’s total assets stood at $67,000. He would go on to serve on the association’s executive committee, provide key leadership in fundraising campaigns and effectively generate donations for projects that continue to serve the community today. When he died, the association’s assets had exceeded $220 million.

He led efforts to establish the Spencer Museum of Art on Mount Oread, and helped recruit a prominent professor, Takeru Higuchi, to KU, a move that helped establish the university as a world leader in pharmaceutical chemistry. Today, on West Campus, the Simons Biosciences Research Laboratories building signals an enduring tribute to Simons’ unwavering commitment.

“The university will never have a more perfect friend than he was,” said John T. Stewart III, another former president of the alumni association and chairman of the endowment association, who considered Simons a father figure. “Everything that was done — and was good — had his name etched on the project, as far as trying to make it better and done in the right way.”

Dykes, who served as KU chancellor from 1973 to 1980, described Simons as a man of “enormous integrity,” whose advice had proven “exceedingly invaluable” in navigating both the halls of academia and the chambers of the Kansas Legislature.

“He was selfless in his service, and wise in his business acumen and what he recommended for the community,” Dykes said.

And Simons’ business success was driven by a genuine desire for a better community, he said.

“He was obviously very successful as a businessman, and that success came indirectly, because it seemed to me that he was interested in helping other people achieve their goals,” said Dykes, who serves on the board of directors for Midas International, and recently led the transaction committee for PepsiAmericas Inc., a bottler whose outstanding shares were acquired by PepsiCo as part of a larger $10 billion deal. “And if he helped them achieve their goals, then he was rewarded accordingly.

“His focus in the business world was not on Dolph Sr. and what he would achieve in it, but in what others would achieve. He wanted Lawrence to be a better community, and that if it were, he and his own business enterprise would be a better organization.”

Media world

Simons started his journalism career early: in 1912, at age 7, as a newspaper carrier.

In 1924, Simons — then 19 — worked for The Associated Press in Chicago, covering major news events including the Leopold-Loeb murder trial, one of the early cases to be described as “Trial of the Century.” Later, Simons would become a first vice president for The Associated Press, and would serve on the AP Board of Directors for a maximum nine years.

Simons returned to Lawrence and joined the Journal-World, the newspaper his father, W.C. Simons, had founded in 1891. Simons Sr. would serve as office manager, business manager, editor and publisher of the Journal-World and as chairman of The World Company, and would work with his son, Dolph C. Simons Jr., to establish Sunflower Cablevision in Lawrence and Columbine CableVision in Fort Collins, Colo.

Simons Sr. was “a newspaperman of dedication and distinction,” said Louis D. Boccardi, then president of The Associated Press, upon learning of Simons Sr.’s death in 1989.

“He epitomized the values of a local newspaper owner dedicated to serving his community and he leaves a newspaper family that carries on those traditions,” Boccardi said.

Today, The World Company endures with a foundation in newspapers and an expanded and evolving reach into electronic media. The Journal-World continues, and its printing presses handle USA Today and a collection of other newspapers and commercial printing jobs; the company also has a magazine division, Sunflower Publishing. Mediaphormedia is the company’s interactive and software division, handling projects ranging from site design to complex content and data management systems.

In August, The World Company announced that Sunflower Broadband, which is the successor to Sunflower Cablevision, would be sold to Knology, a publicly traded company based in West Point, Ga.

Today, The World Company is chaired by Simons Jr., and its two divisions are led by his sons: Dolph C. Simons III, newspapers; and Dan Simons, electronics.

The World Company remains a family-owned business, one that had been led for years by a man now regarded as a Lawrence Business Hall of Famer.

“He was a far-seeing person,” said Catt, who worked for Simons Sr. for two years before entering law school, and stayed in close contact during the coming decades. “He was a remarkable man, and I consider myself fortunate to have known him.”


Tim Quest 7 years, 6 months ago

This reads like a North Korean media report on Kim Il-Sung.

sad_lawrencian 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't know where to start. A few weeks ago, an article appeared on this website, announcing that one of the World Co. employees won an award. Now they publish this article about the long-deceased chairman of the company? I can't help but wonder if this article would have appeared in a newspaper that wasn't owned by the family of the person being profiled?

I've lived in a lot of towns with local newspapers; some papers were owned by large conglomerates, others by small publishing companies. The LJW is the only paper whose website liberally mixes blogs, opinion pieces, shopper savers, profiles of local business that border on free advertising, self-congratulatory hogwash like this, and the occasional legitimate news item, all on one large homepage with no delineation between the content.

It's impossible to know what you're clicking on in that main left-hand column... every so often I click a link, expecting it to be a news item, and it turns out to be a profile of a World Co. employee, a blog or something about cyclists? or a couple of housewives talking about where to find the cheapest canned peas.

If would be really nice if the newspaper in this town did not publish long writeups about the former publisher of the paper, or an HR employee who won an award... or they could make some distinction between fact, opinion, personal essays and small-business news that really isn't quite so unwieldy.

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the feedback about the organization. I don't necessarily agree with your entire assessment — some I do — it is worth hearing. There are some changes in the works that will make it easier for you to know what you're clicking on.

As to why we wrote this article, we profiled all four members of junior achievement's first local hall of fame class. They selected the members; we did not.

onceinawhile 7 years, 6 months ago

I've long felt the same way about that main column on the homepage. For example, right now "Start Saving Money with NO Coupons??" is a headline alongside "Missing news" and "Suppressing truth," which are both letters to the editor though you wouldn't know it until you click on them. The worst is when there are headlines in the column that are blatantly opinion-driven because they're opinion stories, but they are right next to news stories/headlines.

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 6 months ago

If you're seeing those things in the main column, it sounds like you're on the "Most discussed" tab instead of "The latest". I've included a link to a screenshot to show you how you can change between those two ( for The Latest) ( for Most discussed), as well as so you can see what "The latest" looks like right now.

Also, our website remembers your most recent choice. So if you switch to seeing Most discussed stories, you'll remain seeing Most discussed headlines when you load our homepage until you choose to go back to The latest.

onceinawhile 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks. I'm aware of the difference between the two, but am I wrong for being under the impression that "Most discussed" is also supposed to list news stories? I guess I am under the impression when checking either tab that anything I'm looking at is a news story — until I click on it and (sometimes) learn otherwise.

Jonathan Kealing 7 years, 6 months ago

Most discussed is literally anything and everything on our sites that are getting lots of stories. Photos, videos, blog entries, letters to the editor, everything. It's designed to point users to the conversations that are going on, no matter when the news article was posted or what the photo is of.

Bob Forer 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't think you can blame Simons for the chasm. The leadership of Archie Dykes and Hemmenway was atrocious. Budig was talented, perhaps the reason he left Kansas for bigger and better pastures.

BigPrune 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't know what sad_lawrencian's gripe is. I think the JW does a fine job separating the stories from the blogs. I recall a few years ago, a blog would appear as a headline with no differentiation. Now it lists "blog" next to it. It was when I called attention to all the "educated" liberals in this town by headlining a blog, "Republicans Vote On Tuesday, Democrats Vote on Wednesday." What a ruckus that one caused with my republican dirty trick, - of course, all you had to do was click the link and it said, "ha, ha, just kidding!" I assumed all of the smart and educated democrats would've known better, but as the old saying goes, "never assume anything."

Bob Forer 7 years, 6 months ago

Take it easy on the newspaper. its gotten a lot better over the years. When we moved here forty years ago it was routinely referred to as the "Urinal World." I recall one Bill Mayer missive where he wasted several column inches offering his brilliance as to KU's football woes--"get better players" was the meat of it.

Scott Morgan 7 years, 6 months ago

Remember, some Lawrence (area) residents have moved here from other places, but still wish to know local history.

RoeDapple 7 years, 6 months ago

I find the online version of LJW to be the best laid out and easiest to navigate of any internet news source. No need to wait for the yearly awards, LJW gets the "RoeDapple Excellence in Online Journalism Award" every day. Keep up the great work Jonathan and Whitney.

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