Pete Debusk Has Really Made A Difference

By John J. Duncan Jr.

My friend, Pete DeBusk, is one of the finest men I have ever known. He has touched thousands of lives in good and positive ways.

He has made a huge difference in the lives of countless numbers, including some very meaningful ways for me and my family.

I think most people do not appreciate those who start and run businesses nearly as much as they should. Certainly, one of the best things you can do for anyone is to give them a job. Pete has provided jobs for thousands of individuals, helping them and their families. He and his companies have invested and produced products that have helped many thousands, maybe millions, get well. Very little is more significant than helping sick people get well.

Pete has played a very important role in government and politics as well. He has done this mainly through his service on the MedPAC Commission, the main healthcare policy body for our government. He also has become a trusted advisor to Governors, Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen, and officials at both the state and local levels.

But what Pete has really put his heart and soul into is his work at Lincoln Memorial University. LMU was a good, but very small, rural college until Pete took charge.

Even though LMU had a long and distinguished history, it might not have survived if it had not changed in the ways that Pete suggested and, more importantly, that he worked to bring to fruition.

He told me many years ago that the future of higher education was in graduate education. Pete was the driving force behind the LMU medical school, law school, veterinary school, graduate school administrator and nursing programs, the new math and science building, and now the new dental school.

I doubt there is any college or university in this country that has done as much with as little as LMU has.

Pete has put millions of his own money into the school in addition to so much of his time and effort. LMU does not have many wealthy contributors, nor does it get all the state and federal money that major state universities get.

Like the tortoise chasing the hare, though, LMU has come on strong over the last 20 years or so. Now its graduates are helping people all over the U.S.

LMU’s medical school was featured in People Magazine and its law school in The New York Times. Its nursing program is the largest in the state, and the school administrator program is the largest in this region. I recently attended the opening of the new LMU Dental School.

I was in on the first three meetings to seek approval for their vet school. I thought Pete couldn’t pull that one off, because the national veterinarian association has turned down many, in fact, most such applications for years. Now, the LMU Vet School gets over 1,000 applicants for its 100 available spots each year.

Very few have been as good a friend to me and my family as Pete has. He is the one who talked my son, Zane, into attending LMU, and Zane had the best college experience of any of our children.

My late wife, Lynn, spent the last nine years of her working life raising money for LMU in tandem with Cindy Whitt and Pete. Lynn loved me, but she almost worshiped Pete.

Pete was one of my strongest supporters in my 15 campaigns for Congress. One of many examples was when he hosted a reception in his home when John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, came down to campaign for me.

Pete did not grow up with a silver spoon. His family often lived in trailers following mining camps where his father worked. He attended 13 schools before he graduated from high school.

In his inspirational book, “The Rabbit’s Got The Gun,” he tells how he worked at his regular job, then spent every weekend in an empty building for 18 months making by hand his first medical product, a lightweight boot for foot and ankle injuries. I related to so much in his book, even down to our desire for beautiful five-dollar Converse tennis shoes.

If you have a child or grandchild you hope will someday succeed, have them read that book by and about a great man named Pete DeBusk.