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  • Jack Bowerman

Mike O'Bryhim's new book: Once Upon A Time In The Land of Overbrook

Mike O’Bryhim has just published a new book, “Once Upon A Time In Overbrook,” about his life and his philosophy of life.  In it he describes his upbringing in the small town of Overbrook, Kansas and provides plenty of stories about his time at Baker.  He goes on to talk about his career in the employee benefits business and his family life. He wraps up with a discussion of the keys to success in business and life. 

Mike’s (Baker Class of 1969) earliest recollections as a child were when he was living with his sister Pam (Baker Class of 1968) and his single Mom, Kathryn, in the big cities of San Diego and Los Angeles.  Mike barely knew his biological father who “lacked the ability to work very hard.”  He had a number of adventures and misadventures playing with his friends and his 16 cousins in California and remembers spending time on the beach.  His most serious misadventure was when he was hit by a car and spent weeks in the hospital recovering. 

Mike’s Mom met a native Kansan and former Baker University student named Bernard “Scoot” O’Bryhim (Baker Class 1947, and, yes, this the same “Scoot” O’Bryhim who was mentioned in the blog article about Bennett Sims).  They dated for awhile and Scoot asked Kathryn to marry him.  Part of the arrangement was that the couple and the kids would move back to Scoot’s hometown of Overbrook where he would take over the family’s grocery business.  Mike was in for a culture shock moving from the big city to the small town.

Actually, gregarious Mike adapted to life in Overbrook relatively quickly. In many ways life there was idyllic and he still had his share of adventures.  As he entered his teenage years, he became a member of 4-H.  He and Pam decided to raise pigs and he rode his bike to a local farm which let them house his animals. He won several awards for his pig production.  In addition, Mike worked long hours at his step-dad’s grocery store.  The union of his step-dad and mom produced two more siblings Connie and Cliff (Baker Class of 1978) who eventually took over the family’s grocery business.

As you might guess from his success at golf in his adult years, Mike was an accomplished athlete in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball.  He started in football for three years in which Overbrook lost one game.  Mike played with Ron Skaggs (Baker Class of 1968) and Lyle Chase (Baker Class of 1970). 

It comes at no surprise that before his graduation from Overbrook High, Mike began attending rush parties at Baker. He was a legacy at Zeta Chi where his step-dad had been a member, but the Kappa Sigs rushed him hard and he joined that fraternity when he entered Baker University in 1965.  In addition to focusing on academics, Mike enjoyed everything the social life at the school had to offer.  His memories of panty raids, parties at the fraternity house, bar hopping in Lawrence, dancing to Ann Brewer and the Flames at the Teepees are epic.  He barely avoided having a serious accident on the infamous back road to Lawrence.  He began dating Kathy Asel (Baker Class of 1970), they became “pinned” and she was named Kappa Sigma Sweetheart. 

These were the Vietnam years and Mike opted to join the Air Force National Guard. After basic and technical training, Mike returned home and needed a job because he and Kathy were going to be married January 31, 1970.  He interviewed with Bankers Life of Iowa and was offered job in employee benefit sales. After he and Kathy were married and he had spent a year with the company in training and some success in sales, Mike was offered a position in the Wichita office.  While they were reluctant to leave Kansas City, they decided it was a chance for them “to build their own kingdom.”  Kathy soon got a job teaching in an elementary school.

After Mike’s boss in the Wichita office received a promotion, Mike, at 24 years old, was named head of the office.  Over the years Mike acquired the employee benefits business of a number of large companies including MBPXL (a beef processing company), Beech Aircraft, Rent-A-Center, Dillons Grocery and Eby Construction. He spent 31 years with the company which had been renamed Principal Financial Group. He then took early retirement at age 55 and setup his own broker/consultant company, Retirement Plan Solutions which was also a successful venture. 

Mike’s family life was also a source of pride.  He and Kathy had two sons, Tim and Brendan (Baker Class of 2000), both of whom became successful professionals.  Both sons have married, and they now have four grandkids.  However, things were not always easy.  Mike began to experience some chest discomfort, but the EKGs did not detect any heart issues.  Mike then consulted with a cardiologist who was one of his clients and the doctor had concerns. They performed a heart catheterization which detected blockages and Mike had a quintuple bypass the next day. Mike recovered “thanks to nurse Kathy,” and went back to work.

Mike concludes his book with his nine principles of success in business and in life as well as a look to the future. In addition to his success in business, Mike is justifiably proud of his contributions to the community. He served on charitable organization boards and as President of several. He worked for many years donating and raising funds for charities.  He is also proud of having grown up in Overbrook and is grateful for that “special place.”

Mike’s book is available on Amazon: Once Upon A time In the Land of Overbrook

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