Previous "Citizen of the Year" recipients
2010 Wally Straub (posthumously)
2009 Bob Dema
2008 Sheryl Cheely
2007 Bob Parish
2006 Bill Berryman
2005 Terry & MelEasa Stueder
2004 Ron Koelsch
2003 Danny Biggs
2002 Jean Cavanaugh
2001 Orville Huss
2000 Mark Calcara
1999 LeRoy Dringmann
1998 Don Whelan
A young law school graduate returned to his hometown in 1954. Since then, he’s wrapped his mind and hands around community projects that have helped to advance and shape Great Bend and central Kansas.
For his continual community involvement, local attorney Glenn Opie was named "Citizen of the Year" during the 90th Annual Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Banquet, held Saturday night at the Great Bend Convention Center.
Opie’s latest community project will be completed April 28 when the Jack Kilby Memorial Plaza bronze sculpture is unveiled. The bronze pieces, sculpted by local artist Chet Cale, are titled "The Gift."
Opie chaired the committee, which raised funds and planned the recognition of Kilby, who left Great Bend in 1941 after high school graduation. Kilby went on to change the world with the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958.
In October 2001, Opie initiated organizing "Jack Kilby Weekend" as an effort to re-introduce the 2000 Nobel Prize winner in Physics to his boyhood community. Back then, Opie ambitiously talked about bringing "The Gift" and Jack Kilby Memorial Plaza to the courthouse square in downtown Great Bend. It’s taken nearly a dozen years to raise funds and complete the project, but Opie never wavered on his commitment to making the tribute to Kilby a reality.
"When he gets it in his head, he is persistent," said Sandra Opie, Glenn’s wife. "He will not stop; he will not let up until he’s accomplished the mission."
That unwavering commitment motivated the Opies to train the Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps for 24 years. During that span, nearly 1,700 area boys and girls participated in the Argonne Rebels, which won three national titles in the American Legion contests in the early 1970s, 14 state championships, and seven Great Plains Drum and Bugle Corps Association Titles. Glenn was inducted into the Drum Corps International Hall of Fame in 2003 for his achievements with the Argonne Rebels.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Opie served on two steering committees as chairman of student enrollment potential to study the feasibility of starting a community college. Initially, he didn’t believe a college in the county would be successful, yet he committed himself to becoming an expert on the topic of enrollment potential and student demographics. His research led him to reverse his initial view and he became an active proponent of launching Barton Community College.
Four decades later, Opie’s influence on the college was still evident. He was instrumental in bringing forward the Dorothy Moses Morrison Chapel at the college. In 2001, following the wishes of Dorothy Moses Morrison, Opie coordinated the restoration of five historic stained glass windows that were donated to the college. With an additional donation from Morrison, Opie also coordinated a complete renovation of the chapel to showcase the windows. Since 2004, the beautiful and intimate Dorothy Moses Morrison Chapel has readily served the community with recitals, chamber groups, and other public performances.
Throughout the years, Opie has helped his community in other ways. He served on the city council for two years and on the USD 428 Board of Education for 12 years, including four years as president. He is a member and past president of the Barton County Bar Association. In the Kansas Bar Association, he served for 19 years on KBA’s Public Information Committee, including 11 years as chairman. He earned the KBA President’s "Outstanding Service Award" in 1973-74.
His awards through the years are numerous. Most recently, he was inducted into the 2010 Great Bend High School Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was admitted to practice before the Bar of the United States Supreme Court, an honor reserved for a handful of practicing attorneys.
Opie has been involved with Rotary Club for more than 50 years. He is a lifetime member of the First United Methodist Church, where he served on the Board of Trustees and Staff-Parish Community, and he’s performed for more than 50 years as a member of the Chancel Choir.
Opie was active in Boy Scouts of America for six years, serving as Scout Master of Troop 110. As a father of two boys, he served as track coach for the Kansas Junior Olympics program for 14 years.
Opie is a graduate of Great Bend High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Kansas. He served overseas in the United States Navy as a radio operator during World War II, following high school graduation. He served as a drum major for Northwestern and KU, while a college student. At Northwestern, he ran the mile and 2-mile on the varsity track team.
Through the years, Opie has continued to be an avid runner, a seasoned road racer and, through the past two decades, a noted Senior Olympian.
Annually, the Chamber recognizes outstanding service by an individual who contributes to the quality of life in Great Bend. The award winner is also someone who gives of his time, talent and energy to help the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce excel. Additionally, the award recognizes people who provide outstanding service to the community, or it recognizes people who have excelled in their chosen professions and serve as role models in the community.