A drive around Wichita is all it takes to confirm the positive and permanent mark on the community of oilman, developer, employer, civic leader and philanthropist Donald Slawson.
The founder of Slawson Cos. and lifelong Wichitan, who died Monday at age 80, was integral to the developments of Tallgrass and NewMarket Square on the city’s northeast and northwest edges, respectively, but also was a potent early force for redevelopment and an arena at the heart of the city.
“Downtown development has to happen. It will happen,” he once said.
He helped found and chaired the Wichita/Sedgwick County Partnership for Growth. His eight years on the Kansas Board of Regents included six as chairman, and a Slawson Hall is planned in his honor at the University of Kansas.
Visitors to the Sedgwick County Zoo marvel at the Slawson Family Tiger Trek, which opened in 2009. And he served on many a company and civic board, sharing his business expertise but also his passion for education and other good causes.
Calling him a “tough act” to follow on the Board of Regents two decades ago, The Eagle editorial board praised his “extraordinary political skills” and “uncanny ability to sense where the common ground for making deals is.”
Like his investments and developments, such skills will be part of his legacy, inspiring others to get out there and lead in an effort to make Wichita better and stronger.