Great Bend celebrated the achievements of one of its own on a calm and peaceful Saturday evening when the new Jack Kilby sculptures were commemorated.
A man who changed the world with invention of the integrated circuit, Kilby’s roots run deep in the plains of Kansas.
“I’ve always thought of Great Bend as my hometown and I’ve been proud of that. I’ve also been proud I went to Great Bend High School,” Kilby is credited with saying. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2000.
Governor Sam Brownback was present. “What a beautiful Kansas day. We honored Jack Kilby during sesquicentennial as one of the top 25 Kansans.”
“He knew where he came from,” Gov. Brownback said. “Thank you to Great Bend to build the character and intellect of someone who changed the world.”
Gov. Brownback announced that Kilby would be honored with a plaque in the “Walk of Honor” in Topeka. Senator Bob Dole was the first person to be honored on the walk, located on the sidewalks of the state capitol.
Every speaker was chosen because of a connection to Kilby and included John Holt, T.R. Reid, Ed Millis and local dignitaries, such as Glenn Opie, chairman of the Jack Kilby Memorial Committee. The GBHS choir and band opened the ceremony. Kilby was a participant in both during his years here.
Mayor Mike Allison proclaimed April 28, 2012 as Jack Kilby Day, mentioning some history. Kilby began school in third grade at Washington School and graduated in 1941 from GBHS. He served in the military in the signal corps in Burma during World War II.
Members of Kilby’s family were also present. “If Dad were here, he’d say two or three words and sit down,” said Kilby’s daughter Janet, laughing. “Great Bend provided my dad a good education. Great Bend provided a sense of values.”
He taught his children to make a contribution. “He said find something you’re really interested in and follow it as far as you can,” Janet said. “It’s important to use your passions and knowledge to make a contribution.”
“It is very touching to hear these stories about him from people that knew him,” said Janet. “We’re so impressed with the efforts of the community.”
John Holt, who graduated from GBHS in 1977 and works as an anchor for Fox 4 news in Kansas City, was emcee.
“What a thrill it is to be home,” said Holt.
Another speaker, Tricia Cunningham, Texas Instruments, said that when Kilby was asked why he invented the integrated circuit “he said, ‘I thought it would be useful.’” She also said that when reporters asked Kilby what he did on the day he won he found out that he had won the Nobel prize, “he said, ‘I made coffee.’”