April 14, 2008
Contact: Steve Rottinghaus, Baker University public relations director, (785) 594-8330 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Baldwin City, Kan. – Four Lawrence business leaders will receive awards at Baker University’s annual Partners-In-Progress breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, at Marriott SpringHill Suites in Lawrence.

“Baker University appreciates the dedication of the successful leaders,” said Patrick Mikesic, Baker’s director of development. “They have all made a tremendous impact to the community.”

Here is a look at the Partners-In-Progress winners:

Gary and Connie Sollars
Business Persons of the Year

Gary and Connie Sollars, both Baker University graduates, have been active members of the Lawrence community for more than three decades.

A longtime leader in the insurance business, Mr. Sollars is Senior Vice President of Hilb, Rogal and Hobbs, the eighth largest insurance broker in the United States. He previously served as president and CEO of Charlton-Manley.

Mr. Sollars, who obtained a business administration degree from Baker, is past president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Kansas, past director for Kansas to the Independent Insurance Agents of America and past chairman of the Kansas Insurance Education Foundation. He received the President’s Award from the Independent Insurance Agents of America in 1997, the Kansas Insurance Association Agent of Merit in 1985 and the Independent Agents of Kansas Outstanding Agent award in 1986-87.

He has served as a member of the Baker University Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, President of the Board of the Cottonwood Foundation, Chairman of the Plymouth Congregational Church Board of Trustees, Chairman of the Baker Delta Tau Delta House Corporation and Chapter Advisor. He and his wife, Connie, chaired the United Way’s Annual Fund Drive in 2000. He currently serves on the boards of the Cottonwood Foundation, University National Bank and Lawrence Regional Technology Center.   

Connie Sollars graduated from Baker with degrees in merchandising and secondary education. As a member of Plymouth Congregational Church, Ms. Sollars has served on various church boards. She was the church’s on-site coordinator for L.I.N.K., co-chair of a $3 million capital campaign at Plymouth Congregational and was a church moderator. She was a member of the Lawrence Arts Center board for three years and twice co-chaired the Lawrence Art Auction, its annual fund-raising event. In 2004, she co-chaired Cottonwood Inc.’s fund-raising event.

Ms. Sollars is completing her second term on the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Endowment Association, serving as president during an $8 million capital campaign. She is a founding member of The Fairy Godmother Fund, an endowment that distributes funds to assist women with critical short-term needs.

The Sollars have two children and two grandchildren.
Larry McElwain
Outstanding Leadership and Achievement in Business Award

Larry McElwain has co-owned Warren-McElwain Mortuary since 1974 and has served as chairman of 21st Century Funeral Company, LC, since 1991.

A graduate of the University of Kansas and the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, Mr. McElwain has been involved in various Lawrence and state organizations for more than three decades. He has been a member of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce since 1974 and served as the chairman of the board of directors in 2003-2004.  He graduated from the Leadership Lawrence Class of 1984 and later served as chairman of the Leadership Lawrence Board of Directors before receiving the Leadership Lawrence Distinguished Alumni Award in 2000. McElwain was a longtime member of the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors and was the organization’s president for two years. As a member of First Christian Church, McElwain has served in various leadership roles and is currently a member of the church’s Board of Elders.

Statewide, McElwain has been a member of the Kansas Funeral Directors’ Association since 1973 and led the organization in 1986-1987. He served on Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ Business Education Partnership program in 2004-2007.

He and his wife, Susan Stack McElwain, have five children and three grandchildren.
Fred DeVictor
Civic Service Award

Fred DeVictor served 32 years as director of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department before his retirement in March 2007. Through his leadership, the department increased its number of parks from 12 to 52, covering more than 3,500 acres, and developed numerous new neighborhood and community facilities and natural trails. A park was recently named in his honor for his contributions to the city.

DeVictor has been a member of the National Recreation and Park Association since 1965, serving in numerous capacities on the national, regional and state level. He received the Kansas Park and Recreation Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 1987 and was elected into the association’s Hall of Fame in 2008. His other awards include the Silver Wreath Award from the National Eagle Scout Association in 1992 and the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Buford M. Watson Jr., Service Award in 2007.

DeVictor has served on the board of directors for the Lawrence Sports Corporation, Sunflower State Games, Kansas Wildscape Foundation, Lawrence United Way, Lawrence Boys and Girls Club and Douglas County Council on Aging Board of Directors.

A graduate of Pennsylvania State University, DeVictor and his wife, Karen, have lived in Lawrence since 1969.