Business professor Larry Straub helped own and operate a successful million-dollar family business for more than 35 years. When it came time to sell the family business, Straub chose to put his expertise to work and pursue his passion for teaching.
Though Straub has plenty of experience as a businessman, he also has many years of experience teaching business classes at both Wichita State University (WSU) and Friends University.
Approaching the age of 60, Straub wasn’t ready to retire when the family business sold. His 30 years of adjunct teaching experience inspired him to seek out a full-time higher education career.
An opening in Newman’s School of Business attracted him for many reasons.
“I was very aware of Newman University and its reputation within the state and region,” he said. “It was very impressive. I also liked the idea of teaching at a teaching university versus more of a research university.”
He began teaching at Newman in the summer of 2019 as an adjunct for the Spirit AeroSystems program and will complete his first full semester of teaching in the coming weeks. He found it ironic that he took the position replacing longtime professor Ron Ryan, one of his favorite professors who taught at Friends University at the same time Straub was obtaining his Master of Business Administration there.
Straub brings enthusiasm for business, a mentoring spirit and a substantial amount of real-world experience to the classroom.
“I think one of the biggest things I felt I could bring to the university is a bridge to the Wichita and Kansas business communities,” he explained. “The second thing I felt I could bring is practical experience, having been a business executive for more than 35 years and chief executive officer for more than 25 years, I felt I had many experiences that could benefit the school.”
Of his 35 years with his family company, Straub spent 25 as chairman and CEO. The business grew to be a $115 million company with 150 employees and stores in seven communities throughout Kansas.
Straub is teaching a variety of bachelor- and master-level courses including strategic management, operations management and executive development. The course he’s enjoying the most is one he’s never taught before — business ethics.
“There are so many interesting directions you can go with this class. It is fun to introduce students to many of the contemporary (and traditional) topics and show them how complicated and multi-dimensional they can be,” he said.
Straub has been a student many times throughout his life and finds teaching to come rather easily.
“I pride myself on being able to take any textbook in business and cut it down to size a bit, keying on the most important aspects and demonstrating how it applies in the real world. I do this by utilizing my own extensive experiences as well as bringing in select guest speakers into the classroom.
“These guest speakers are individuals that bring their own professional and real-world experiences into the classroom and share them with the students. The students respond very well and get valuable contacts for their futures.”
He believes, and teaches his students, that education is truly a lifelong experience.
“I attained my bachelor’s, two master’s and my doctorate all non-traditionally throughout my life as a family man and working adult; finishing my doctorate at the age of 55 years of age. I emphasize to students … continued education and skill attainment will be crucial to ensure success and career sustainability.”
Between teaching courses within his full-time position at Newman University, Straub teaches part-time at Friends University and WSU, including seminar classes for WSU’s Growing Rural Business program.
He said he loves teaching at the university level and connecting with faculty.
“I love the blend of teaching and contributing to the combined academic knowledge base. Additionally, the students at Newman University are very high functioning and very serious.”
The class sizes, he said, are large enough to build excitement and energy in the classroom yet small enough to keep track of everyone.
Not only does he enjoy the students at Newman, but also the staff and faculty, and has especially enjoyed learning about and meeting the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, Newman’s sponsoring religious order.
He also has a soft spot for the eight campus cats. “It may sound silly, but I am an animal enthusiast and I love that the university helps feed and take care of the cats living on campus. I asked Mo (Floyd, director of security) recently if they needed some cat food donations and he said they can always use help with that. I found a great sale on big bags and brought in two the next day,” he said.
Straub said he has felt welcomed by the Newman community and appreciates the new employee orientation process that has helped him integrate into the university community.
“It’s just a really enriching, caring and engaging environment,” he said.
Straub and his wife are both taking on new endeavors in their careers. He said it makes them both feel rejuvenated and young again. He plans to teach as long as he is healthy and able.
“God willing hopefully into my 80s,” he said. “I have always loved it, loved helping students, mentoring and helping guide them toward their goals and ambitions.”