The Story Behind the Building: Devlin

Devlin Hall is marked by its sharp angles and overall clean and sleek appearance. Its namesake, Tom Devlin, however, is known for his philanthropic nature and business successes. Devlin Hall is quoted as “the first building in the world dedicated to entrepreneurship.” Devlin Hall opened its doors in 1989, decades after Devlin graduated from Wichita State University.

Ernie Talley started a business called Mr. T’s Rental in Wichita during the 1960s. Originally just a rental business, Talley set the stage for Rent-A-Center when he told two customers that they had rented a washer and dryer long enough to have paid for it in full. Devlin, then an employee, saw potential in renting home products.

Devlin, along with W. Frank Barton, launched his idea and co-founded Rent-A-Center in 1973. In 1987, Devlin and Barton sold Rent-A-Center to Thorn EMI for $587 million. He wrote an autobiography in 2005, recounting his personal experiences with the business world and more, entitled “Playing Through.” 

Devlin has stayed active in the business community since then, with a sustained interest in golf. Devlin currently owns Flint Hills National Golf Club, a golf club in Andover. 

Recognized as a Kansas Golf Foundation Contributor to the Game, Devlin helped bring national golf championships to Kansas. Devlin has affiliations with multiple golf clubs, a partner in California’s Pebble Beach Golf Links. Devlin also helped found Montana’s Rock Creek Cattle Company, which was voted the #1 best residential private golf club in America in 2012. 

Devlin now serves as chairman and chief executive officer of Devlin Enterprises, a private investment firm. Devlin Enterprises has stakes in several real estate properties, including Flint Hills National Residencies. 

Lifelong outdoorsman, Devlin is a long time member of Flint Oak, a hunting club in Elk County, Kansas. Ray Walton, late owner, recognizes him as one of the founding members of the club.

Aside from hunting and golf, Devlin has interests in fishing and, of course, philanthropy.

“Mr. Devlin is very philanthropic,” Rhonda Hertel, Devlin’s administrative assistant, told the Wichita Business Journal. “He contributes to many organizations that benefit people in this area. Mr. Devlin and his family have a passion for Wichita and want to support the people and community that have supported them.” 

Sticking to his roots in entrepreneurship, Devlin is involved with Youth Entrepreneurs, a Wichita-based non-profit. Devlin’s interests have remained relatively close to home.  

“Wichita is home,” Devlin Enterprises president Tom Mack told the Wichita Business Journal. “The Wichita metropolitan area provides the educational systems, lifestyle and business environment that has allowed Devlin Enterprises to thrive.”