DOWNTOWN RAMADA -- Six deserving recipients, two of them longtime brothers and partners, were honored in the 2012 Class of Topeka's Business Hall of Fame at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center Thursday night.
The induction banquet, supporting the efforts of Junior Achievement, was attended by hundreds of people who make up a Who's Who of Topeka. The event honors prominent business leaders who've made extraordinary contributions to Topeka, earned the respect of the local community and called attention to the free enterprise system.
They are: Senator Arthur Capper, publisher and founding father of WIBW Radio and Television. He was the first native born Kansan to become Governor, before serving an astounding 30 years in the U.S. Senate. His publishing success led him to encourage other businessmen to come with him to visit children and provide them with Christmas gifts. Seeing many children with disabilities, he began the Capper Foundation to help them. Now teamed with Easter Seals, the Capper Foundation has marked its first 90 years of serving children and adults with disabilities. Jim Leiker of the Capper Foundation accepted the Hall of Fame honors on behalf of Capper's family.
Doctors Robert Cotton and Robert O'Neil were honored. (Dr. Cotton's widow accepted the plaque.) With a loyalty to Topeka, Dr. O'Neil recruited other physicians to join him in practicing medicine locally. With the vision to recruit sub-specialists to Topeka, he became a legend in medicine and business. Dr. Cotton, a graduate of Kansas State University, met Dr. O'Neil in medical school. Completing his internship at KU Medical Center, he served his residency at the VA Hospital. He joined O'Neil in a Topeka internal medicine practice in 1956. He retired in 1987, and died in March of 2010.
Mike and Bruce McPherson are Topeka West High and KU grads who took their Business Administration degrees and started their own construction business. Celebrating 40 years in Topeka this year, their company has racked up more than $100 million in revenue, with 175 employees.. 180 retail projects, 120 commercial office projects, also building or renovating 110 schools, 50 hospitals and hundreds more buildings for nursing care, sporting events or multi-family homes.
Another esteemed honoree last night is Mark V. Heitz, recently retired President of Aviva. The Washburn law grad and clerk for the Insurance Commissioner began a 35 year career in the insurance industry, and turned American Investors Life into a $100 million company. The company and its followers saw explosive growth to $50 billion in value. AmVestors merged with AmerUs with Heitz as President. The conglomerate was purchased by Aviva plc, the 5th largest insurance company in the world. Mr. Heitz retired in December.
WIBW-TV joins in congratulating the six newest members of Topeka's Business Hall of Fame. The Hall is located in the Henderson Learning Center on the campus of Washburn University.