The Story Behind the Building: Devlin – The Sunflower

Devlin Hall is distinguished by its sharp angles and overall clean and elegant appearance. Its namesake, Tom Devlin, however, is known for his philanthropic nature and business success. Devlin Hall is cited as “the world’s first building dedicated to entrepreneurship”. Devlin Hall opened in 1989, decades after Devlin graduated from Wichita State University.

Ernie Talley started a business called Mr. T’s Rental in Wichita in the 1960s. Originally just a rental business, Talley set the stage for Rent-A-Center when he told two customers they had rented a washer and dryer long enough to have paid for it in full. Devlin, then employed, saw potential in the rental of home products.

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Devlin, along with W. Frank Barton, pitched his idea and co-founded Rent-A-Center in 1973. In 1987 Devlin and Barton sold Rent-A-Center to Thorn EMI for $587 million. He wrote an autobiography in 2005, recounting his personal experiences with the business world and more, titled “Playing Through”.

Devlin has remained active in the business community ever since, with an abiding interest in golf. Devlin currently owns Flint Hills National Golf Club, a golf club in Andover.

Recognized as a Kansas Golf Foundation contributor to the game, Devlin helped bring the National Golf Championships to Kansas. Devlin has affiliations with several golf clubs, a partner of Pebble Beach Golf Links in California. Devlin also helped found the Rock Creek Cattle Company of Montana, which was voted America’s Best Residential Private Golf Club in 2012.

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Devlin is now President and CEO of Devlin Enterprises, a private investment firm. Devlin Enterprises owns interests in several real estate properties, including Flint Hills National Residencies.

A lifelong outdoorsman, Devlin is a longtime member of Flint Oak, a hunting club in Elk County, Kansas. Ray Walton, late owner, recognizes him as one of the founding members of the club.

Besides hunting and golf, Devlin is interested in fishing and, of course, philanthropy.

“Mr. Devlin is very philanthropic,” Rhonda Hertel, Devlin’s administrative assistant, told the Wichita Business Journal. “He contributes to many organizations that benefit people in this area. Mr. Devlin and his family have a passion for Wichita and want to support the people and community that supported them.

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True to his roots in entrepreneurship, Devlin is involved with Youth Entrepreneurs, a non-profit organization based in Wichita. Devlin’s interests remained relatively close to home.

“Wichita is my home,” Devlin Enterprises President Tom Mack told the Wichita Business Journal. “The Wichita metro area provides the educational systems, lifestyle and business environment that has allowed Devlin Enterprises to thrive.”

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