The late Wilburn L. Smith, a former president and sales manager of Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc., will be recognized posthumously as the Entrepreneur of the Year Tuesday [MAY 8] at East Central University’s annual Leonard Limes Endowed Lecture in Entrepreneurship.
Smith will be remembered at a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Stanley Wagner Ballroom in the Memorial Student Union. The luncheon is open to the public. There is no cost but attendees must RSVP by 10 a.m. Monday [MAY 7] by calling Jordan Morris in the School of Business at 580-559-5274.
Pre-Paid Legal Services is now known as LegalShield, and several of its top sales people will be at the luncheon to comment on the influence Wilburn Smith had on their careers.
In addition, a $250,000 gift to ECU from Smith’s wife, Carol, will be formally accepted to create the Wilburn L. Smith Center for Entrepreneurship inside the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business. The center will be a focal point of the school, permanently affixing Smith’s name with his mentor, Stonecipher.
The business school and ECU conference center are under construction at the corner of Main and Center Streets.
Smith, who died in May 2011, was left with few options when the owner of the grocery store he managed and hoped to buy sold it to someone else instead. He began selling Stonecipher’s Pre-Paid Legal plans in 1980, and in three years he was earning six figures selling a $15-per-month product. By the late 1990s he was president of the company.
He later stepped down on his own accord to become Pre-Paid Legal’s national marketing director and continued to build the sales force. His travels throughout North America frequently drew standing-room-only crowds eager to hear how this small-town Oklahoma entrepreneur had made it big.
Working with Stonecipher, he helped lead to the emergence of the Ada-based company as a jewel on the New York Stock Exchange.
Carol Smith said the gift to ECU will memorialize her husband’s work ethic and “persistent and consistent” message as well as tie his name not only to Stonecipher’s, but to the idea of entrepreneurship. It’s also a chance to honor Stonecipher, she said, who meant so much to Smith both personally and professionally.
Leonard Limes, a geologist, attorney and entrepreneur from Konawa who lived in New Orleans, established the lectureship to emphasize entrepreneurism with a $25,000 gift to the ECU Foundation Inc. in 2000.
Limes attended ECU for a year and a half in 1946-47 then completed a degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma. After he went to night school in New Orleans to earn a law degree, he and two partners formed a law firm for five years. He established an oil and gas exploration company and worked as an attorney specializing in oil- and gas-related legal matters.