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Barton Foundation Honor Loren and Gayle Unruh with Distinguished Service Award
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(From left) Barton Foundation Board of Directors Chair Sylvan Bleeker presents the Distinguished Service Award to Loren and Gayle Unruh during the commencement ceremony Friday at Barton Community College. - photo by Photo courtesy of Barton Community College

The Barton Community College Foundation honored Loren and Gayle Unruh with the 2016 Distinguished Service Award during Barton’s 46th commencement on Friday.   

The Distinguished Service Award was created in 1981 by the Barton Community College Foundation to recognize individuals who have shown genuine regard for, and have performed outstanding service to Barton Community College. The Barton Foundation Board of Directors selects the recipient from nominations received.

Loren Unruh was born and raised in Great Bend on his grandfather’s homestead and graduated from Great Bend High School in 1961. In 1977, he opened the 48-room Best Western Angus Inn in Great Bend that has grown to 90 units including an indoor pool and large courtyard area.  Loren is an active community advocate and is always willing to help on committees and initiatives. He continues to serve faithfully on his church board and has served 36 years on the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

 Loren’s relationship with Barton Community College began with the purchase of basketball season tickets from the first season they were available to the present. He was a founding member of the Cougar Booster Club, serving as Vice President from 1982-1983 and as President from 1983-1984. He donates time and space for meetings, sponsors tournaments and most recently donated funds towards the new scoreboard in the Barton gymnasium.

Loren’s first wife, Connie, passed away in 1987. His current wife, Gayle, is a native of North Dakota and moved to Great Bend from Phoenix.  They have three children, Rick, Shawnda and Krista. They also have eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

 In 2001, a tragic accident claimed the life of their grandson Landon. To honor Landon’s passion and talent for baseball, Loren established the Landon Unruh Memorial Scholarship.  This scholarship is awarded to a baseball player in pursuit of his dreams, just as they had dreamed of seeing Landon pursue his.

 Loren and Gayle later created the Loren and Gayle Unruh Endowment in 2007 to benefit another student athlete and have continued to increase the endowment fund each year.

Coordinator of Fundraising and Special Events for the Foundation Coleen Cape said the generosity of the Unruhs has been very beneficial to the college and the Distinguished Service Award was a great way to officially, and publicly thank them.

“Loren Unruh is as community minded as it gets!” Cape said. “He was born in Great Bend and is very proud of it and he does all he can to support and promote this community at every turn.  His involvement goes far beyond just his personal business concerns. Both he and Gayle believe in giving back to the community that has so generously supported them. They have always paid it forward and Barton Community College and the Foundation alike, are proud and grateful to be benefactors of their generosity. It is always our intent to show our appreciation to all of our donors, but that is not always an easy task. We hope that by honoring Loren and Gayle with our Distinguished Service Award they will realize we value their friendship and applaud each and every contribution.”