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Jim was born in 1956, the sixth of nine children of Paul and Albertine Denning. Jim grew up in Western Kansas in the city of Great Bend. Jim's dad Paul worked in the oil field as a rough neck and pipe fitter. Jim's mom Albertine was a full time mom until all the kids were grown and self-sufficient, then she worked as a nurse's aid.

After graduating from Great Bend Senior High School, Jim attended Fort Hays State University where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Finance with emphasis in Accounting and economics. Immediately after graduation from Fort Hays, Jim and Marearl moved to Dallas, Texas where Jim worked as a financial analyst for First International Bancshares and the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank. Jim became CFO/CEO of Dallas Eye Institute for several years.

In 1993 Jim moved back to Kansas to join Discover Vision Centers as the CEO. Jim retired as CEO of Discover Vision Centers in 2011 to serve in the Kansas House of Representatives. He currently is on the board and serves as Vice President.

Jim has been involved in the local community as well as the national and international community. Jim has served on many local boards including Independence Chamber of Commerce, Commerce Bank Advisory Board, State Ambulatory Surgery Society Association, Metropolitan Medical Society Legislative Committee, and Regional Specialty Providers. Jim was a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Jim has written numerous articles and book chapters on the business of health care. Jim has been involved in many market changing FDA clinical trials. The most well-known trials include helping develop the mathematical nomogram used in LASIK surgery and a bifocal type of technology implant used in cataract surgery.

Jim and Marearl married in 1981 and have lived in the same house in Overland Park since 1993. Jim and Marearl have two daughters and are the proud grandparents of five wonderful grandchildren.