Gene has a lifetime of explorations and experiences. From author to philanthropist, Gene's influence and impact spans a wide spectrum of creativity and business pursuits.
Gene Bicknell was born in Picher, Oklahoma. He had four brothers and one sister. A poor family, but with strong values and hard work ethic. His family moved to Kansas when he was a small child. When he was 16 he attended college at what is now Pittsburg State University. He worked his way through college while he obtained his degree in business. Later returning to earn his MBA from Pittsburg State.
Gene has five grown children, eighteen grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. Gene's wife Rita passed from this life to her heavenly home in April 24th, 2020.
In 1955 Gene went to work for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Topeka, Kansas. He left Goodyear to begin a career in Insurance sales with New York Life. Gene was a New York Life Insurance representative in the Pittsburg area and worked his way from sales to management. He continued to work for New York Life until 1971.
In 1962, while working for New York Life, Gene bought into the Pizza Hut system. Becoming a franchisee for Pittsburg, Kansas and Joplin, Missouri. Working at night and staffing with college students, Gene expanded with Pizza Huts in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
Gene founded a pizza company in 1965 known as C.B. International. The company became Southeast Pizza Huts, Inc. in 1979. In 1984 Southeast Pizza Huts became a publicly held company and the name then changed to National Pizza Company. National Pizza Company, now known as NPC International, Inc., went from a publicly held company to a privately held restaurant group in August of 2001 and currently consists of over 1100 Pizza Hut restaurants operating across the United States. In May of 2006 Gene sold his interests in NPC International to Merrill Lynch and Assoc. of New York.
In 1971, Gene founded Pitt Plastics, Inc., a plastic can liner manufacturing company. Pitt Plastics, Inc. has steadily grown through the years, continually increasing and improving their product line. Through the 34 years of operation several major expansion projects were completed which added additional bag manufacturing lines, more technological procedures, and additional warehousing and inventory space to the facility. These expansions helped to position Pitt Plastics, Inc., as one of the top plastic can liner, packaging and storage bag manufacturers in the country. In 2001, Pitt Plastics acquired Capital Poly another can liner manufacturing company with plants in Columbus, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia.
In addition to the position he held with NPC, International and currently holds with Pitt Plastics, Gene is Chairman of the Board of Zouire, which sells promotional items such as T-shirts, denim shirts, pique golf shirts, sweaters, jackets, hats, etc., to major corporations throughout the U.S.
Gene is on the board of two smaller banks, SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), and various other boards for groups (non-profit and advisory) across the Nation.
COMMUNITY SERVICE AND OTHER ACTIVITIES
Gene was on the Pittsburg City Council and was the youngest Mayor ever in Pittsburg, Kansas. He served on the USD 250 School Board, and was a finance board member of the Kansas 125th Anniversary Commission, as well as, the Board of Mt. Carmel Medical Center.
He has chaired every major fund raising drive in Pittsburg: Red Cross, Salvation Army, Cancer Society, Athletic Scholarships, YMCA, United Way, and most recently was honorary chairman of the “Legacy of Hope” drive for the Cancer Center at Mt. Carmel Medical Center and is one of the current fund raising chairman for the Salvation Army drive in Pittsburg. He also chairs the $100,000,000 PSU campaign.
Gene founded the O. Gene Bicknell Center for Entrepreneurship at Pittsburg State University. He was also one of the founders of the Alumni Foundation of Pittsburg State. He is currently on the Board of Councilors at Pitt State and, Gene served as Chairman of the Search Committee for the new President of Pittsburg State and Chairman of the Technology Center fund drive. He has taught MBA students at Pitt State and has also taught as an ad hoc professor at Pitt State University and lectured at Wichita State University and Kansas State University as well as other major Universities throughout the United States and abroad.
An authority on Human Behavior patterns and motivation, self improvement and people skills, he has designed a graduate course in Entrepreneurship which designates planning, preparation and research, personal development and improvement, while encompassing business planning and long range thinking skills; such as intuitiveness and sense of urgency, listening and learning.
Gene began the O. Gene Bicknell Celebrity Charity Golf Tournament in 1991, which benefited Pittsburg State University and Mt. Carmel Medical Center. The Tournament was held each year in Pittsburg, Kansas during the month of July. It showcased the community and brought recognizable celebrities to Pittsburg. Steve Jones, Tom Purtzer, Wedgy Winchester have anchored the Pro-Am. While baseball and football greats and Hall of famers lead the sports celebrities. Brett Favre - Steve Owens in Football; George Brett - Enos Slaughter -Hank Bauer - Ralph Terry in Baseball; Robert Newman - Pat Boone - Peter Marshall - Jimmie Rodgers, Dale Robertson in entertainment, and many others. In July of 2005 the 15th and final Celebrity Golf Tournament was held. Over it’s 15 year history Gene’s tournament contributed over $1.3 million to Pittsburg State and to Mt. Carmel.
Politically, Gene has helped candidates on every level with various campaigns. From envelope stuffing, to door-to-door fundraising, to personal contributions; he has supported many candidates. He served on the Businessman’s advisory committee for President Bush. He was a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1988 and 1992. He ran for Governor of Kansas in 1986 and was defeated in the Primary. In 1994, he once again sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination but was defeated in the August 1994 Primary. He still remains very active in fund raising and behind the scenes.
OTHER ACTIVITIES AND HOBBIES
Gene has done radio and TV sportscasting off and on over the past 30 years. He has acted professionally in 24 movies, episodic TV shows, TV commercials; he has a strong background in theater, and has done TV Pilots.
Gene wrote and directed a Patriotic Broadway Musical called “Celebrat America” at the Mansion Theater in Branson, Missouri. Currently he is involced ion a television production called “Dry Creek”. Co-writing with Ann Carpenter, created by Les McDow. Gene plays the character Dr. Wall.
Gene enjoys playing golf and tennis, spending time with family, flying, writing and performing. He has written three books and is currently working on a fourth.