Topeka business and community leaders were celebrated Thursday night as they were inducted into the Topeka Business Hall of Fame.
The 2018 laureates are Brent Boles, Schendel Lawn & Landscape and SPIN Pizza; Debra and Randy Clayton, Clayton Financial Services; Susan Garlinghouse, community leader; and, posthumously, Philip Charles Morse, founder of KS Commercial Real Estate.
Ashley Charest, president of Junior Achievement of Kansas, said it’s important for her organization to support the Topeka Business Hall of Fame because of the pillars they teach at JA.
“Junior Achievement, one of our three main pillars is entrepreneurship,” she said. “As you can imagine, these business individuals represent entrepreneurs in some form or fashion. We find it important to be able to honor them because we know the kids that we’re teaching now, we’re going to be honoring 30-plus years down the line.”
Topeka young people who have been in JA classes introduced the honorees, sharing their support and thoughts.
“Mr. Boles taught in my class,” shared Brynne Liedtke, a 7th grader at Shawnee Heights Middle School. “We learned he’s an entrepreneur in both the landscaping and the pizza business. He’s a funny guy and knows a lot about running a business and making it succeed.”
Videos about each laureate gave insight into their lives, passions, hobbies and the people who surround them. Attendees learned that the Claytons love to garden and travel the world; Boles is an avid cyclist who loves wine; Garlinghouse, who founded Topeka Collegiate and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center, pushes the community forward on children’s’ issues with her passion for caring for the youngest in Topeka; and Morse’s strong work ethic, push to excel and learn and honesty made him successful.
The videos also shined a light on the qualities of each person that have changed and impacted the Topeka community.
“Susan (Garlinghouse) wasn’t just content to be a participant in the available structures of activism,” a mentee said. “She was somebody who was always thinking about new forms of association that could be lasting mechanisms of change.”
The Claytons took the stage, and Randy Clayton brought an honesty to the challenge of entrepreneurship. Neither he nor Debra Clayton were good at cold calling when they launched their financial services firm decades ago. But they pushed forward and surrounded themselves with good people.
“I originally wrote this to say as entrepreneurs and business owners, there’s always a little bit of fear. There’s always this sense of fear. But Debra made me rewrite that,” he said, drawing laughter. “Never be complacent.”
Mike Morse and Kim Morse were two of the family members who accepted the award in their father’s honor. They shared the way he affected their lives, encouraging them to be entrepreneurs and to think.
“Mike and I developed very different relationships with Dad based on the different parts of who Dad was,” Kim Morse previously said of her father when he died in December 2016. “He was, at core, an intellectual. It was an intellectual that made him a better businessman, an intellectual that made his commitment so much more profound. But also intellectual for intellectual’s sake, too.”
The young people who participated Thursday were Jacob Gernon, 10th grader at Topeka High School; Cesar Ledesma, sixth-grader at Landon Middle School; Jacob Ledesma, sixth grader at Landon Middle School; Brynne Liedtke, seventh grader at Shawnee Heights Middle School; and Ava Ritter, third grader at Randolph Elementary School.