Date: January 9, 2010
About: Bob Mays - Class of 1938
Quincy Business Hall of Fame grows by three
The Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame will grow by three members this year.
Banker Don Gnuse, Realtor Bob Mays and the late Leaton Irwin, former owner of the Irwin Paper Company, will be inducted during the chamber's 122nd annual meeting Jan. 20 at The Ambiance.
"One of the reasons for the Business Hall of Fame is to inspire the next generation of leaders in our community, and that's exactly what each of these men have been -- an inspiration," said Amy Looten, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Gnuse is chairman of the board of First Bankers Trustshares, Inc., First Bankers Trust Company, N.A., and First Bankers Trust Services. He graduated from Culver-Stockton College and received a graduate degree in banking from the University of Wisconsin.
He began his career with First Bankers Trust Company, then known as Broadway National Bank, in 1956 as a customer service representative. He was later named marketing director and became president in 1970, a position he held until 2002.
Three new branches were built during Gnuse's tenure, and he also was the driving force behind the founding of the holding company, First Bankers Trustshares, Inc., in 1988, and the affiliate Trust Company in 2003.
The bank has grown from eight employees to more than 200 and current bank assets have grown to more than $600 million. First Bankers Trust Services manages more than $2 billion in assets.
"Don always kept the local flavor in the bank, and that was always special," Looten said.
Gnuse also was director of the Junior Achievement program in the 1960s and was lieutenant governor of Division 19 of Kiwanis International. He is chairman emeritus of the board of directors at Culver-Stockton College and continues to serve on the boards of Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing, the Lindsay Church Home, Community Investment Group Limited and several banks.
Gnuse was the 1979 United Way Campaign chairman, a two-term president of the Chamber of Commerce and a former chairman of the board of the Salvation Army. He has also served on the boards of John Wood Community College Foundation, Good Samaritan Home, St. John's Episcopal Church and numerous others.
Born in 1863, Irwin was Quincy's first commercial stenographer. In 1888, he bought 60 percent of the Lyon Paper Company of Quincy and shortly thereafter was elected president and became the active manager of the company. The company changed its name to the Irwin Paper Company in 1890, with Irwin serving as bookkeeper, stenographer, shipping clerk, buyer, salesman, and general manager.
Irwin's company served as a wholesale distributor for fine paper and products such as roofing and flooring. Under his leadership, the Irwin Paper Company grew to include the Decatur Paper House and the Peoria Paper House.
Across the span of his business and civic involvement, Irwin remained passionate about education. Once referred to as "the student in business," Irwin maintained correspondence with leaders around the country, giving him a broad perspective on business and philanthropy.
"It is always a pleasure to honor these business pioneers of the past," Looten said. "There was so much to be done in helping build this community, and (Irwin) was one of those who rose to the occasion."
Looten said Irwin was also a pioneer in fostering workplace morale and dedicated employees, establishing paid vacations, safe working conditions and profit sharing well before their time. He was adamant about prompt, efficient customer service and fair prices for the best quality.
Irwin owned several other businesses. He started the Cabinet Manufacturing Company with O.G. Mull in 1900. He helped organize the Quincy Compressor Company in 1920 and developed it with his son, Mac Irwin. He owned the Quincy Hardware Manufacturing Company, and he owned the Irwin Motor Company with branches in Keokuk, Hannibal, and Macomb.
In 1919, Irwin organized the Quincy Foundation for the administering of gifts for both charitable and educational purposes. He was known for contributions to the YMCA, YWCA, and Cheerful Home. He not only supported the Boy Scouts financially but also was a member of the first executive board for the Saukee Area Council.
Irwin died on July 10, 1945.
Mays has owned, rented, leased or sold nearly 50 properties in the Historic Quincy Business District and was instrumental in securing consultant Bob Teska to develop a plan for revitalization of the area.
In 1973, Mays guided investors who wished to turn 75 acres of farmland into a subdivision south of Spring Lake Country Club. What started as a 70-lot subdivision has expanded several times and now includes 139 homes and 44 condominiums.
He was part of the so-called "Long Board" that served the Quincy Park District from 1947-1976 and developed the unwritten objective of "a park within a mile of every home in Quincy." The newest park at 18th and Koch's Lane is named in his honor.
"Bob has always had the vision for seeing things that others did not," Looten said. "His contributions to the community will always be considered legendary."
Mays has served 40 years on the board of directors for the Quincy Museum, helping that organization buy and move into its permanent home in the Newcomb-Stillwell mansion at 16th and Maine in 1980.
A founding member of the Joint Industrial Development Commission of Adams County (now the Great River Economic Development Foundation), the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area and the Indian Creek Development Corporation, Mays has served on the boards of numerous other non-profit organizations.
Mays has received the Illinois Association of Realtor's Distinguished Member Award for Community Service, the Quincy Association of Realtor's Outstanding Realtor Career Award, The Cathedral of Worship Vision Award, the Historic Quincy Business District's Award for Excellence in Downtown Revitalization and numerous other awards.