The mission of the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship is to encourage and inspire entrepreneurialism among students at East Central University.
Wilburn Smith joined Pre-Paid Legal in 1980. He left his 20-year career in the IGA Grocery Store chain to become an associate for Pre-Paid Legal Services®, Inc. Mr. Smith began assisting in building the sales force with other associates. Climbing up the ladder, he was named Vice President of Marketing at Pre-Paid Legal. Then in 1997, was given the position of President. Mr. Smith served as the National Marketing Director of Pre-Paid Legal and used his experience in the field as an Associate as a major asset for marketing Pre-Paid Legal Services ®, Inc. Wilburn’s wife, Carol, established the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship to honor his entrepreneurial spirit and inspire entrepreneurialism among students.
The entrepreneurship concentration at ECU offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in the field using curriculum from the Kauffman Foundation, a preeminent entrepreneurial organization in the United States. Coursework requires students to complete real-world business plan projects, create pro-forma financial statements, and develop effective pitch presentation for their business ideas. Students in the capstone course, Venture Creation, compete in the Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup each spring where ECU students have earned over $150,000 in prize funds to use to launch their start-ups.
The Leonard Limes Lecture was the vision of Mr. Leonard Limes. He started the lecture series with a donation of $25,000. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education matched those funds. Mr. Limes’ vision was to bring entrepreneurs who would tell their stories to inspire ECU students and the community. This inspiration would lead entrepreneurs to create companies, wealth, and jobs for Oklahoma’s economy. Mr. Limes attended only one semester at East Central University before he transferred to the University of Oklahoma. He has said and written on many occasions that his gifts to ECU were better spent than his gifts to other universities as, “those people at ECU seem to get more from a dollar than anyone else”. Mr. Limes was an entrepreneur in his own right; he began his work life as a petroleum geologist working for a major oil and gas company. He could not figure out why he was working for that company when he could do it himself. Therefore, he started wildcatting in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. He later sold his Oil and Gas Exploration Company and retired to create a second company. This company explored for oil and gas in Central America and discovered a large deposit of sulfur. Mr. Limes then became a sulfur miner. He did finally retire to New Orleans. Mr. Limes spoke of creating a Center for Entrepreneurship whereby every student and faculty member would have the opportunity, if they desired, to create a company of wealth and jobs for Oklahomans. We have done this and have stayed true to the vision of Mr. Leonard Limes.