Norma and Bill Triplett are memorialized with an endowment that will help provide scholarships for business students. / Image by Triplett family photo
"If you will be attentive to the small things in business and make sure that the small things are done properly, the big things will take care of themselves. "
Those who knew the late J. William (Bill) Triplett, who passed away in 2009, remember him as a man who routinely put his words into practice.
"Bill was a real stickler for details," said family representative Phil Adams, an Opelika attorney and his hard work and attention to the small things paid off.
A native of Anniston, Bill graduated from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, in 1957. After a short stint in the U.S. Army, he returned to Anniston to help in a family business owned by his father. After Bill's father passed away, he took over the business but in 1968, decided to start his own business as a franchisee for Jack's Hamburgers in Opelika.
Several more years passed before Bill decided to branch out and started the popular Tyler's Restaurant chain which included three locations in Opelika, one in Auburn and other locations in Alexander City and LaGrange, Ga. As part of that newly formed business, Bill created a special niche for fast food restaurants in the area: breakfast.
"He really was an innovator in the breakfast part of that business," Adams said. "At that time, the restaurants like Bill's really didn't do business until 10 or 11 in the morning when they started selling for lunch. Bill realized that a southern style breakfast, complete with freshly made biscuits, could be a real plus."
It wasn't long before other hamburger restaurants began to also serve breakfast but homemade fresh biscuits had already become his trademark in the area.
"He was the quintessential American entrepreneur," Adams said. "He started with nothing, worked hard and built his business. He built his business from sweat equity."
To memorialize Triplett's passion for hard work, entrepreneurial spirit and their deep love for Auburn, his wife Norma Triplett, wanted to give something back to the place they both deemed to be so special.
Before her passing away in December of 2012, Norma decided to establish the J.W. Triplett Memorial Endowed Scholarship for the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business. The endowment, which exceeds $1 million provided from her estate, is for the purpose of providing scholarships for students in the Harbert College of Business.
"They (the Tripletts) understood that deserving young people want to go to Auburn but do not have the resources in today's times to afford it," said Adams. "Norma and Bill wanted to create something where these young people could be identified and assisted so as to give them an opportunity to graduate and excel."
"When Norma was trying to decide what she wanted to do upon her death, she said that the one thing that she and Bill could always agree on was their love of Auburn," Adams said. "She wanted to do something in his name to memorialize how they both felt about Auburn and promote excellence in the College of Business."
To be eligible for the annual scholarship, students must be enrolled in Harbert College and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Each scholarship is for one academic year. Recipients will be chosen by the college's scholarship committee.
"He (Bill) loved the idea of the American dream of somebody starting a business, making a go and doing it with hard work," Adams added. "That's the reason I think Norma did what she did to establish the scholarship fund."