Pioneer of Spirit AeroSystems stays busy in retirement with 4Wichita Board

November 15, 2016

By Brian Whepley

Jeff Turner and son Brice

Jeff Turner grew up in Wichita and went to Wichita State University before joining and then leading Boeing Wichita and Spirit AeroSystems. He's a Shocker through and through, but he's also a fan of KU School of Medicine-Wichita and its record of turning out doctors for Kansas.

That's why, though he's retired but not exactly slowing down, he gives his time to serve on the board of 4Wichita, which advocates for and raises funds to support the school's mission.  

"I look at what the med school in Wichita does and dollar for dollar, pound for pound, it's very productive," said Turner, recounting how his business career involved many such assessments. "It's interesting to look at things like that and ask why this med school can do such a fabulous job with limited resources. I was interested and wanted to know more about it."  

Turner's Wichita ties are strong. The son of a vocational arts teacher and stay-at-home mom, he was raised in North Riverside and attended Marshall Middle School and North High before studying the relatively young field - it wasn't a dedicated major yet - of computer science at WSU. He went to WSU and church with his wife, Rhonda, and they raised their two children, Brice and Krista, in the Air Capital.  

In 1973, Turner had gone to work as a computer programmer at Boeing before moving into management roles. He became vice president and general manager of the planemaker's Wichita division in 1995, and a decade later led the sale and spinoff of Boeing's Wichita commercial aviation facility to what became Spirit AeroSystems.  

Until retiring in 2013, Turner had spent much of his career dedicated to ensuring the health of a branch - Boeing Wichita - of a much bigger organization. He hopes that experience is useful when advocating for KU School of Medicine-Wichita. "Spending most of my life in big organizations, having a bit of an outlier in thinking is not a bad thing to have," he said.  

Since leaving Spirit three years ago, Turner has remained busy in community and business affairs while having more time to spend with family and on the golf course. He and Rhonda have traveled more for fun, and he's led men's study groups at his church, Pathway, that focus on mentoring and discipleship, saying that, "The spiritual side of life, especially men, is one that gets neglected."  

He serves on the boards of Rockwell Collins, Intrust Bank and the WSU Foundation and is chairman of Doc's Friends, the group that helped restore and, recently, bring aloft a rare surviving B-29. Turner also is co-chairman of the Leadership Council, which is the sponsoring organization for the Greater Wichita Partnership economic development group.  

He maintains an active role - though he calls it a hobby - in TNW Group, a private equity firm that he formed with his son, Lynn Nichols of Yingling Aviation and Mike Williams, a former Boeing and Spirit executive. TNW Group has invested in and nurtured young businesses, including Retro Systems, a Valley Center company that makes computer-controlled cutting machines; Air Capital NDI, a non-destructive testing firm; and several others.  

"I love business; I think it's fascinating," he said with a burst of energy and humor, touching a bit on why he stays active in community endeavors like 4Wichita. "Running a good business and making a profit and helping people have jobs, I think that's a mission from God."

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Nov 15, 2016
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