Gib and Brenda Compton Pickin' up the K-State spirit
Gib Compton didn’t plan on majoring in construction science. As a matter of fact, he really didn’t plan to go to college at all.
“Coming out of high school in Wichita, I wanted to be a finish carpenter,” he said. “I liked to work with my hands and thought I was pretty good at making things, so this was the route I’d decided to take”
But his family kept encouraging him to consider higher education. “I knew I didn’t want to go to ‘Hillside High,’ ” Gib said, “as Wichita State was referred to by the local kids. So that summer I traveled to Manhattan a few times, attended some rush parties— and the rest is history.”
And part of that history led to the Compton Construction Corporation, Wichita, Kan., founded by Gib in 1997 upon the core values of “treat people fairly, work hard, and don’t worry about the rest, all the while providing a quality product for the client.”
“We’ve had huge success since 1997 following those principles,” Gib said.
Last year Compton Construction moved to number 11 on a listing of the Wichita area’s top-20 general contractors. Building projects focus on various types of commercial operations including educational, industrial, religious, retail, medical and food service areas.
“I always wanted to be listed on the Top 400 Engineering News Record,” Gib said. “I’m not there yet and doubt I’ll make it, but number 11 on the Wichita list is not bad.”
Gib had started his educational training at K-State in architecture, but soon found it wasn’t his forte. “When I looked into the construction science program, it just seemed a more natural fit. It opened so many doors for learning and working opportunities. My construction science education really got me started on the right foot to a career I’ve been blessed by.
“Graduates of the ARE/CNS program are sometimes called the ‘renegades’ of engineering,” Gib said, “and that’s partly because so many of the faculty bring industry experience and expertise to their teaching. I think that’s also a reason why industry support is so strong for our department.”
“ARE/CNS emphasizes the K-State family aspect that means so much to us,” said Brenda Compton, the self-named ‘silent partner’ of the Comptons.
Brenda, a K-State graduate in health and P.E. and currently a special education teacher at Clearwater High School, said the contrast has been striking between her and Gib’s departments over the years as they’ve come back to campus for various alumni events.
“In CNS, you find many original faculty members are either still around or are staying connected, and it’s really been fun to renew those friendships. Whereas my original department of kinesiology,” she said, “doesn’t even exist in the same form anymore, much less have a longevity record of connected faculty and graduates.”
In keeping with the state-of-the-college theme, Gib said, “And from my perspective, I’m also really excited about what Dean English brings to the table for K-State engineering, as well as Dave Fritchen as head of ARE/CNS—I think they’re both extremely talented individuals at their respective levels of leadership.”
Though both K-State graduates, Gib and Brenda did not meet on campus.
“We wouldn’t have been in the same circles at K-State—no greek life for me,”Brenda said. “I was an independent and lived in the dorms.”
“She probably wouldn’t have had anything to do with me if we had met then,” Gib said.
Brenda’s translation: “I think he ‘minored’ in Aggieville while at K-State.”
Where they did meet was in Liberal, Kan., where Brenda was teaching at a junior high school and Gib was working on a construction project building a new high school. They were living in the same apartment complex, and as Gib put it, “The apartment manager played matchmaker.”
The time spent in Liberal was a part of the years Gib refers to as “my very own training program.”
After graduation in 1980, his first job was with a contractor in Hutchinson. Next he returned to Manhattan with a similar company, then it was back to Hutchinson through 1988. The Comptons next relocated to Rogers, Ark., with another construction firm, but as Gib said, “My Kansas farm girl wanted to come back to our home state, so I decided to sign on as a project estimator with a Wichita firm.”
The next career move was going into manufacturing with his dad, who had purchased an electric sign company. That venture lasted for one year, followed by a stint in millwork and then as a consultant to a bonding company.
“Each of those jobs was preparing me for my long-term goal of owning my own construction business by 2000,” Gib said.
Throughout that time and until today, Gib and Brenda have maintained their K-State connection. Both are active in the local Wichita K-State Alumni Committee and Wichita Catbackers organization, and Gib recently completed a four-year term on the K-State Alumni Board. He currently serves on both the Construction Science Advisory Council and the K-State Alumni Center Building Committee.
“I like being involved,” he said.
And that connection has involved a financial investment as well. Currently they support the Gib and Brenda Compton Construction Science Scholarship and have endowed the Brenda and Gib Alumni Association Scholarship for Wichita-area youth who will be freshmen at K-State.
“With Brenda being a professional educator, and me considering myself a champion of education, it is very important to us to support educational efforts through both our time and finances,” Gib said.
“Through our estate, something we’ve set up with deferred gifting,” Brenda said, “we will eventually also provide for additional scholarships in general education, construction science and second-tier athletics, as well as general Alumni Association scholarships and funding for the K-State Gardens.”
“Because we have no children,” Gib said, “we’ve chosen to one day leave what we have to our ‘purple family’ and its descendants. And until that time, we will continue doing all we can to contribute to the future of K-State.”
—by Mary Rankin