Thirteen years ago, Phil Busey was between jobs and fretting about what he would do next and how he would pay his mortgage, to which his wife, Cathy, responded, “Is that all? I want you to go in there and look at what you have in the kitchen,” where his three, now grown, children were sitting.
It was just one of many “grace moments” in his life, Busey told a crowd of 500 Wednesday at the Cox Convention Center, where he was inducted into the Oklahoma Commerce & Industry Hall of Honor of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.
Busey and his wife went on to form Delaware Resource Group, a defense contractor that provides aerospace training at more than 50 international locations, employs nearly 700 and has $80 million in annual revenue.
Busey — who met his wife, played baseball and earned his bachelor's and law degrees at OCU — accepted his alma mater's Chairman's Award.
Others honored at the 27th annual luncheon were Dave McLaughlin, co-founder of AdvancePierre Foods Inc., Entrepreneurial Spirit Award; Pete Delaney of OGE Energy Corp., President's Award; the late Leland Gourley, publisher of the OKC Friday weekly newspaper, Lifetime Achievement Award; and philanthropist Polly Nichols, Outstanding Achievement Award.
Busey said his mission always has been “profit with a purpose,” giving away some 15 percent of his net profits annually. His and Cathy's most recent donation was funding to launch El Sistema Oklahoma, a program of St. Luke's United Methodist Church, OCU and the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools that provides free orchestral instruction to inner city elementary kids.
His most recent grace moment, Busey said, was May 20, when he suddenly lost his ability to walk, due to a rare syndrome that damaged his nerve cells and left him partially paralyzed.
“I'm grateful for the blessing of family and friends, and, versus becoming embittered, have chosen to turn this into positive growth, and be strong and courageous,” he said, quoting Joshua 1:9.
McLaughlin said he for years used to say he and partner Paul Allen, both formerly of Hormel Foods, started the then Enid-based Advance Foods 40 years ago with nothing.
“The more accurate statement is we started with very little money, but had a whole lot going for us,” said McLaughlin, citing lessons learned working as a boy in his father's grocery store in Minnesota, the support of his wife, and his and Allen's children, who now are helping run the company.