' IT ' S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE '

Pima Medical Institute: a father's growing legacy

2011-06-19T00:00:00Z Pima Medical Institute: a father's growing legacyBy Becky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2011 12:00 am  • 

When Dick Luebke Sr. founded Pima Medical Institute in Tucson almost 40 years ago, he probably never imagined it would grow to 13 schools in seven states.

And he probably didn't know - but might have hoped - that two of his sons would someday take over the college and carry on his legacy.

"If Dad were here, he'd say it's all about the people. Students come first, and then hiring good people is the key to business. He'd sum it up in those two things," said CEO Dick Luebke Jr., 58.

Mark Luebke, 49, of Mesa, is president.

They're both dads themselves, and their kids are nearing the age they were when they entered the business. A third generation of Luebkes is starting work at the school, and at least 10 other family members work in the business.

Dick Luebke Sr. died in 2008. Here's how his sons remember him on Father's Day:

On their impressions when their dad started the business in 1972:

Mark, who was 10: "I thought it was cool when he decided to do a TV commercial. The first one was shot actually in our living room. Our mom was in the commercial."

Dick, who was 19: "I was proud of my dad that he decided to take the plunge to own a business. It takes a lot of courage, even back then, to risk going out on your own. Probably more so than now, people who wanted to do a business would have to take a second mortgage on their house. At that time we had nine children in our home, and here he is putting a second mortgage on the only thing that kept us from the elements. It was a pretty brave and confident thing to do."

On how their dad recognized opportunity:

Dick: "He is really the classic American entrepreneur who could see an opportunity and then go grab it. …

"In his own life, he was headed to get a business degree and he'd work all day long, then he'd go to school at night, only to find out after he'd progressed through the first and second year that the classes he'd need were not offered at night. …

"He had a real keen sense that making education accessible to people was really an important need to be met in the marketplace."

Mark: "He would read the Sunday help-wanted section religiously. And I always thought to myself: 'Dad, you have a job. Why are you looking in the help-wanted section?'

"And what he would see there is he would see all the companies that were looking for a particular type of person, and he'd say, 'Wow, since there's so many of these jobs, there must not be enough people to fill those jobs.'

"So oftentimes, the next course that he might offer was based around that. That's how he would see that opportunity."

On their dad's character as a businessman:

Mark: "He had an amazing sense of humor, and he was also very patient, especially with young people. He was very accepting of people from all walks of life, and that is one thing he really taught us to be: tolerant of others."

Dick: "Recently there was a story that we got through our alumni website that a gal wanted to share. It happened almost 20 years ago.

"My dad used to own the vending machines in the student break room. It was kind of a funny thing because nobody would really know he was the owner of the school, changing out the soda machines and candy machines, but he liked it because he could eavesdrop on students.

"This gal said she came into the lounge and she was going through a really difficult time, and he noticed she was downcast and took the time to listen to what was going on in her life. Just before she got up to go back to class, he came over and reassured her that everything was going to be OK, that she would make it. And he slipped her a bill and told her to have a good day.

"As she was walking back to class, she looked in her pocket and he had given her a $100 bill. She said it was just enough for her to make groceries and to get through the end of the month. She said when she saw him the next week, he just shrugged it off like it was really no big deal.

"It so characterized the kind of guy he was. He tended to listen with his heart."

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 807-8012.

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