Junior Achievement of Lawrence has announced its next class of laureates to enter the organization’s Lawrence Business Hall of Fame.
The laureates, chosen from among 161 nominations:
• Bob Billings, co-founder of Alvamar Inc., who died in 2003.
• Shirley Martin-Smith, a former Lawrence mayor who owns the local Adecco franchise and Martin-Smith Personnel Services in Lawrence.
• Gene Meyer, president and CEO of Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
• Jim Owens, a former Lawrence mayor and former owner of Owens Flower Shop.
“It was kind of overwhelming,” said Dale Willey, chairman of the selection committee and president of Dale Willey Automotive. “We had a lot of talent to choose from.”
Willey joined other Junior Achievement leaders and supporters in announcing the laureates during an event Thursday morning at Lawrence Country Club. They will be inducted into the hall Oct. 6 during a tribute dinner in the ballroom at the Kansas Union.
Martin-Smith, for one, considers herself fortunate for having chosen Lawrence as the place to open her temporary-staffing business in 1977, and to encounter so many helpful people along the way.
“I’m one of the luckiest people in the world,” she said.
Gene Meyer also considers himself fortunate: not only to have what he considers the “best hospital CEO job in the country” but also to have outlasted the industry-average job tenure of 3.8 years.
He’s been leading LMH for 14 years.
“I think I’m on my third lifetime,” he said.
Jim Owens, now 95, notes that he was born in Richland, which at the time had been about 15 miles outside of Lawrence and now rests “under Lake Clinton.” After spending the Great Depression in Salina, he eventually returned to Lawrence and, in 1946, bought and operated a floral shop at Ninth and Massachusetts streets and a greenhouse at 15th and New York streets.
He sold Owens Flower Shop in 1974, after having served as a Lawrence mayor, president of the Lawrence school board and president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
“It was all worthwhile, very worthwhile,” he said.
Bev Billings attended Thursday’s event on behalf of her late husband and noted that he’d been a founding member of Junior Achievement in Lawrence and had served on its board of directors — among many organizations and efforts, projects and people that he had supported over the years.
“His was a lifetime of service to a community he loved so very dearly,” Bev Billings said.
The four laureates will join four others, who had been inducted as the inaugural class last year:
• Marilyn Dobski, co-owner of Dobski & Associates.
• Joe Flannery, president of Weaver’s Inc.
• Val Stella, a distinguished professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at Kansas University.
• The late Dolph Simons Sr., former editor and publisher of the Lawrence Journal-World.
The hall is in the lower level of the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.