Author: Ashley Charest
Published: Tuesday, 14 Sep 2021
The 2022 Topeka Business Hall of Fame laureates were announced at a brunch on Tuesday, September 14. Four business leaders will join the Topeka Business Hall of Fame in March 2022.
The 2022 laureates are Grant Cushinberry, posthumous; Vince Frye; Marvin Spees, Capitol City Oil; and Matt Strathman, Strathman Sales.
The 2022 Topeka Business Hall of Fame dinner honoring these individuals will be Thursday, March 10, 2022 at the Hotel Topeka @ City Center (formerly Capitol Plaza Hotel), Maner Conference Center.
Grant Ulysses Cushinberry was born in October of 1921 in Nicodemus, KS and he later moved to Hoisington, KS to finish high school. After high school he started working for the railroad. Looking for a way to see the world and to escape small town life, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving as a Combat Medic in the Philippines from 1943-1947. Upon his honorable discharge from the Army, he settled in Topeka where he worked for the Winter General Hospital now known as the VA Hospital for 30 years on the night shift and retired in 1977. In addition to his work at the VA, Grant was an entrepreneur and started his own waste management company, Cushinberry and Sons, which also served as a lawn service during the summer months, for 30 years. He was probably the City’s most generous landlord as he managed his collection of over 11 rental properties.
As if that wasn’t enough for a day’s work, he also coached youth sports in the evenings and weekends.
Mr. Cushinberry was known for his humanitarian service in the Topeka community. For nearly 30 years, he co-founded and organized the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, distributed clothing, food, furniture and appliances from God’s Little Half Acre in addition to proving hundreds of children with free tickets to the Arab Shrine Circus and Saturday morning movies. Many folks remember him as the Watermelon Man, as he would randomly choose elementary and junior high schools in the area with all you could eat watermelon feeds after school.
He served as president of Kansas First Kiwanis Golden K Club, was named the Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and received many honors, including the 1975 humanitarian Kansas of the Year from the Topeka Capital-Journal, The Governor’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 1989 and the American Legion Award. A Topeka park on the city’s east side is named in his honor. Washburn University named him to the Sagamore honor society and conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters on him in 1994, along with receiving the Topeka Chamber of Commerce Small Business award in that same year. He appeared on several nationally syndicated TV shows, most notably the Art Linkletter Show and the Geraldo Rivera Show, titled, “Community Heroes of 1988.” He was a frequent writer on the local newspaper’s Letters to the Editor page, often commenting on subjects of current interest occurring in the city and country in general.
Grant was married to Kathryn for 27 years and they had 4 children (Terry, Rita, Garry and DeWayne), 3 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. He passed away on July 1, 2008.
Vince Frye was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from Shawnee Mission North High school where he lettered in football, basketball and track. Graduating from the University of Kansas in 1971 with a BS in Journalism, he was a member of the track team and was elected president of his class.
Upon graduation, Vince was recruited to work for KTSB-TV (now KSNT) as an advertising account executive. In 1973 he moved to WIBW-TV where he worked as General Sales Manager until 1997. He worked with hundreds of local businesses and numerous local and national agencies with their marketing needs.
In 1997, Vince joined FryeAllen Advertising as a partner with founders Dana Rulon Frye and Michael Allen who started the advertising and marketing firm in 1989. The company grew significantly with the addition of FryeAllen Films, a video and film production company, and FryeAllen Digital, an animation and computer design company. The combined companies won hundreds of local awards as well as national Telly and Silver Microphone awards for their creative work. The agency helped hundreds of local clients with their marketing needs and created successful campaigns for the Shawnee County economic development sales tax, expansion of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Hummer Sports Park, Great Overland Station, Charles Curtis Building and numerous political campaigns for State and National offices and issues.
In 2012, Vince was selected by the Board of Directors to be President and CEO of Downtown Topeka, Incorporated. The 225-member organization, established in 1964, was founded to promote, recruit and advocate for downtown. During his time as President, Frye helped in the revitalization of downtown helping to raise over $4 million for pocket parks, fountains, arches and statues. He created over 35 downtown events attracting over 100,000 people annually and was honored by the International Downtown Association, Arts Connect and Topeka Civic Theatre for his contributions to the community.
In 2018 he successfully led Downtown Topeka, Incorporated into a merger with GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and the Chamber of Commerce to form the Greater Topeka Partnership. He continued to serve as President of DTI and Senior Vice President of the GTP until his retirement in December of 2020. During this time, he helped in the planning and funding of the Evergy Plaza, oversaw the strategic marketing plan for downtown, helped in the creation of three downtown historic districts and the Dynamic Core Tax Increment Finance District.
He has served as Chairman of numerous community organizations including Junior Achievement, Housing and Credit Counseling, Sales and Marketing Executives, Topeka Advertising Federation, Sunflower State Games, Topeka and Shawnee County Sports Council, Downtown Topeka, Incorporated and the Shawnee County Sports Hall of Fame. He was elected Governor of the 9th District (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska) of the American Advertising Federation and as Chairman of the Central Region (18 states) of the AAF. In addition, he has served on the boards of Topeka Community Foundation, Arts Connect, Topeka Civic Theatre, Meals on Wheels, GO Topeka, Topeka Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Topeka Foundation, Heartland Works, Top of the Tower, Shawnee Country Club, Visit Topeka, Topeka Rotary and the American Advertising Federation. He was selected to the first class of Leadership Greater Topeka in 1984 and was a member of the Topeka Active 20-30 Club.
Frye has been honored by the following organizations:
Sales and Marketing Executives – Topeka Executive of the Year -2014
Topeka Advertising Federation – Silver Medal Award (Highest Award Given)
Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce – Member Volunteer of the Year
Inducted into the Topeka Advertising Federation Hall of Fame in 2007
Frye is married to Dana Rulon Frye and has a daughter, Carley Frye, and granddaughter, Bailey Frye.
Marvin Spees was born and raised in Topeka, KS. He graduated from Topeka High School in 1974. After driving a truck for two years, he attended John Brown University in Siloam Springs, AR, where he met his wife Debbie of now 43 years. After graduating with a General Business degree from John Brown University, he worked for Youth for Christ International as Director of Camps, Conferences and Ski Trips for a ten state region.
In 1983 Marvin returned to help his father in the family business. At the beginning of 1985 he purchased Capital City Oil from his father and his partner. Capital City Oil is a full-line petroleum distribution company that caters to commercial, industrial, and agriculture customers from Kansas City to Salina.
Marvin and Debbie have two children, Hunter, who is married to Lydia, and Chloe, who is married to Toby Martin. Marvin’s first grandchild, Jasper, arrived in December 2020.
Hobbies include golf, snow skiing, bicycling, running and tinkering with old cars. Other civic and community interests include the Silver Lake Bank board, John Brown University Board of Trustees and Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Association of Kansas Board. In addition, he is the auctioneer for several local charity events.
Matt Strathman is a lifelong Topekan. He graduated from Hayden High School in 1979 and achieved a business degree from Emporia State. He worked for his father, Art Strathman, at Strathman Sales in the summers and began his career full time immediately after graduating from college in 1983. He worked to learn all aspects of the business and became the sole owner in 2006.
Matt and Sheryl have three grown sons; Colton, Hunter and Grayson. Colton and Hunter added girls to the family in 2020. Colton married Abby Engler and Hunter married Natalie Oliver.
Colton joined the family business in 2014 and is Successor Manager. Hunter is finishing his PhD at the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. Grayson is putting his engineering degree to work in Olathe Ks at Technical Manufacturing Concepts.
Matt enjoys driving faster than necessary (on a racetrack) and competing with Grayson in SCCA racing. He also enjoys riding bicycles and working on his land. His volunteer activities have included 20-30, Go Topeka, Small Business Council and Plaza Planning committee.