Spirit of the Gift Biography Project

Histories of the men and women behind WSU's scholarships and fellowships


W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair in Business III

W. Frank Barton began his career during the Great Depression as an auto mechanic. In 1952, he founded Barton Distributors. His paramount business achievement was as co-founder and chair of Rent-A-Center. Although Mr. Barton never attended college, he believed in education and giving back to the community. It was said that Mr. Barton epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit. His son, Craig Barton, believes the Barton legacy stems from his father’s “ability to spot a market before it developed.”

In 1987, Mr. Barton and his wife, Patsy, a WSU alumna, endowed a fund establishing the W. Frank Barton School of Business. At the time, it was the single largest personal gift made to WSU. His other commitments to WSU included serving on the WSU Endowment Association Board of Governors (predecessor to the WSU Foundation Board of Directors) and the Board of Trustees.

After his death in 2000, Mr. Barton’s estate established four distinguished chairs in his honor. It was his desire that his gift help both faculty and students. Due to Mr. Barton’s generosity and dedication to the university, his legacy will continue to benefit Wichita State for many years to come.

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