Phil Lakin: a Purposeful ‘Busy Person’

Contributing Writer

SERVING OTHERS: Phil Lakin, left, in his role as president of the Rotary Club of Tulsa, presides over the annual Rotary meeting at Celia Clinton Elementary School, the club’s Adopt-A-School. Lakin is involved in service to others through many venues in addition to Rotary, including his role as a Tulsa city councilor, CEO of the Tulsa Community Foundation, and in serving his church and family.


“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” – Lucille Ball.
Phil Lakin: Family man. Deacon. Avid climber. of America’s largest community foundation. Tulsa City Councilor. President of one of the 10 largest Rotary Clubs in the world. The epitome of a “busy person.”

“I can honestly say I love my life,” Lakin says. “And I feel incredibly blessed.”
And with such blessings, come responsibilities and obligations, he says.

“After graduating from Baylor I began a successful career in the corporate world,” he says. “But it felt empty. I realized I didn’t like ‘marching to work’ every morning in a starched white shirt, doing work that I didn’t really want to be doing.
“So I left and went to work for Baylor, working with alums to secure funding for my alma mater.”

Working in development for Baylor University made Lakin realize he had a passion for building futures. But as much as he loved Baylor, he longed to return to his hometown of Tulsa. And, in 1999, that wish came true as Lakin came to Tulsa as the first, and only, of the Tulsa Community Foundation ().

“It’s been an incredible experience that just gets better all the time,” says Lakin. “I started out thinking I knew about the non-profit world but quickly realized how little I knew. My job at the foundation has provided me the opportunity to truly learn about the needs of our community, the incredible non profits that serve those needs and the amazing philanthropic spirit of Tulsa.”

Under Lakin’s leadership, the foundation has become the largest community foundation in America growing from $117,000 to over $4 billion.

“More than how we’ve grown, I am really most proud of the amount has invested into the community by way of grants in our 12 short years,” he says. “If you average it out evenly over the 12 years, that amounts to approximately $60 million each year, which is more than 10 percent of the City of Tulsa’s annual operation budget. Or, about the equivalent of holding the Championship in Tulsa each year,” he says.

“The great news is that TCF’s investments in Tulsa will continue at more than this rate conceivably forever.”

Lakin’s belief in the giving power of the Tulsa community is so strong that he trademarked the phrase, “America’s Most Generous City.”

Philanthropy to Public Service
Investing in the future is a common theme in Lakin’s life. Despite the impact being made by the , Lakin felt more was to be done in the community. So he ran for city council. His first run was in 2009 facing incumbent Bill Christiansen. While he lost that close election, Lakin ran again in 2011 and won the council seat for District 8.

“I see and am part of the positive influence that the charitable and corporate sectors have on the city each day,” Lakin says. “I want the governmental sector to become more of a positive and driving force, leading our city to places it should be, respectful of its past traditions and successes.”

Lakin says he is pleased with the council so far.

“We are working together really well. We have a solid team and tremendous respect for each other and the council as an entity.”

Lakin says one of his biggest challenges as a councilor has been saying “no.”

“In my career and my family life, I’m used to saying ‘yes’. I want to help people in every way and the hard part in this role (city councilor) is that if I say yes or no with my vote some people aren’t happy.

“I’m in the business of making people happy so this has been the most difficult part of being a councilor personally. I want to create the best solution for every constituent and I know that’s impossible.”

Family and Faith First
Lakin and his wife, Adriane, have been married 17 years. They have three sons, ages 14, 11 and 7. They are his first priority over all.

He is an avid climber and hiker who has reached the summit of all 53 of Colorado’s ranked 14,000-foot mountains.

The Lakins are active members of Southern Hills Baptist Church where he serves as a deacon.

Finding the rewards of service to others in life are a driving force for Lakin and this is reflected in one of his favorite quotes:
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” –Albert Schweitzer.

“Making a positive impact is important to me,” Lakin says, “whether it’s on my children, the foundation, the council or Rotary. To me, that is success.”

Updated 04-24-2012

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