Welcome back. This week as promised it’s up close with Bob Funk, the founder of Express Personnel Services, the largest privately owned staffing company in America and also the owner of the St. James Hotel and the legendary Express UU Bar Ranch, both of which I mentioned in last week’s column.
Bob was born on May 14, 1940 in Duvall, Washington to Roy and Dorothy Funk, a typical hardworking couple trying to survive in a very difficult economic period in our country’s history which was no cakewalk for most people at that time. Roy was a dairy farmer who milked his small herd of Jersey cows by hand and worked a number of other part time jobs to get by. The Funks were already Christians when Bob attended a tent revival when he was eleven and was saved by the Reverend Billy Graham; it was then that he found his true purpose in life serving others. Christian principles became foremost in his thinking and for many years he believed that he would become a preacher like Reverend Graham. Bob and his older sister were accustomed to hard work, helping their parents on the farm and Bob participated in many school FFA programs. Bob was also very athletic and his abilities in tennis and basketball along with his FFA experience helped pay his way through college.
After graduating from Seattle Pacific College in 1962, Bob attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, one of the world’s finest seminary schools. This was his first trip overseas and he completed his studies at the University before returning home and beginning his successful business career.
On December 21, 1982 Bob bought the struggling ACME Temp Company which was just about to go belly up. Bob’s honest and diligent approach to the business turned things around and he opened franchise offices around the country. Today Express Personnel has over 560 offices in four countries which generated 1.9 billion dollars in revenue in 2010 and Bob Funk’s life has become a model of the American dream. He has used his earnings to pursue many other interests including ranching. Funk ranches raise Angus and Limousin cattle and are famous for their bulls. He also has a prize winning stable of Clydesdale horses which travel the U.S. and Canada performing at fairs and rodeos. His lifelong love of athletics led him to purchase two professional sports teams in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Blazers and the Redhawks and he also sponsors professional rodeo and tennis as well as many other sports.
The most difficult part of writing about Bob Funk’s life is trying to describe his philanthropic efforts. This down to earth person has received awards and distinctions far too numerous to include here and he is reluctant to talk very much about his good works. His interest in one of my favorite places, Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico, was instrumental in keeping hiking trails open there when Bob bought the adjoining 160,000 acre UU Bar Ranch to protect them. I have also discovered that he is the second largest supporter of OSU, just after T. Boone Pickens.
Bob is equally generous with his time and he has worked hard to promote the Oklahoma City area and the entire State of Oklahoma. He is a past President of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and is a past President and current Board member of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He is also Chairman of the Kansas City branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. Helping his fellow man and his community with both time and money has been his goal in life since the day he walked down that aisle to be received by Billy Graham. He has also used his company as a tool to help others and at a recent ceremony where he was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” he humbly announced “I’m not sure I’m that successful. You’re only as successful as the last person you helped.” His philosophy is that you can live 40 days without food, 4 days without water, 4 minutes without air but you can not live 4 seconds without hope. That’s Bob Funk, rancher, businessman, preacher and philanthropist.