Ron Christy never chose between a career in business and a career in teaching, and Wichita is richer for it.
He was an active businessman, founding a number of companies and touching many more as a partner or consultant. But he was also a faculty member at Wichita State University’s Barton School of Business for more than 30 years. He was director of WSU’s Kansas Family Business Forum, which sought to help family-owned businesses cope with moving from one generation to the next.
Mr. Christy died Monday as he awaited a liver transplant. He was 63.
Don Hackett, former director of WSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship, said Mr. Christy loved both doing and teaching, seeing them as intertwined and reinforcing.
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“He loved the classroom, loved business and never got over the hump of picking one or the other,” Hackett said.
His business experience gave him a credibility and depth of knowledge that are hard to get from a purely academic career, he said.
“He used stories very effectively because they were his stories,” Hackett said. “He had businesses fail, and he talked about that. And he had businesses succeed, and he would talk about those. He was humble because he had been humbled in the marketplace.”
His real forte, Hackett said, was that he really understood a business’ financial statements. When he talked to businessmen after a seminar or in his consulting practice, he would pore over the cash flow statements, and he could spot potential problems.
Joy Darrah is a radiologist who met Christy in 1990 after she had just divorced; she needed help because she didn’t know the business end of her practice. He was kind enough to study her practice’s finances and keep it running smoothly.
From there, he became a close and admired friend, she said.
Not only was he extraordinarily competent, she said, but he loved to share that competence with others – and was good at it.
“I never heard him not be interested in or helpful or kind to anybody,” she said. “He went way beyond the norm in terms of helping the students.”
James Mock caught the entrepreneurship bug from Mr. Christy as a high school student in 1989 at entrepreneurship camp at WSU. He later attended Wichita State, and would come to Mr. Christy, the master of the business plan writing, bubbling with ideas. Eventually, Mock suggested the company that would become 360Wichita.
“He told me: ‘This one has legs, this has sizzle,’ ” Mock said.
Christy remained a consultant and minority partner as the company grew and evolved.