Alumni Magazine-Fall 2023

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As Ball State University's historic partnership with Muncie Community Schools enters its sixth academic year, the collective work of many— MCS employees and students, Ball State faculty, staff, alumni, and more—continues to transform the district.

FALL 2023

Grow. Serve. Lead.

Ball State University has maintained a distinctive history linked to the production of military officers for nearly 50 years, with an average of 15 cadets per graduating class. Through a challenging four-year curriculum, the Ball State ROTC program prepares cadets for a life of service. It develops quality leaders while providing a pathway to additional training and networking through internships, summer travel opportunities, and branch specialty awarded to each cadet upon graduation.

Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13

Ball State University Alumni magazine is published twice yearly. University Marketing and Communications Muncie, Indiana 47306 765-285-1560

Printed by EP Graphics, Berne, Indiana. Printer uses ink with soy oil, and all wastepaper and solvents are recycled.

Greg Fallon, ’04 Editor; Chief Digital Marketing and Communications Officer

Elizabeth Brooks, ’95 Senior Graphic Designer, Art and Production Director

President’s Cabinet

Charlene Alexander Chief Strategy Officer

Jean Kramer Crosby, ’96 President of Ball State Foundation and Alumni Association, Vice President for University Advancement

Deedie Dowdle

Vice President for Marketing and Communications

Ro-Anne Royer Engle, ’18 Vice President for Student Affairs

Sali Falling, MA ’88

Vice President and General Counsel

Alan Finn Vice President for Business Affairs and Treasurer

Paula Luff

Vice President for Enrollment Planning and Management

Loren Malm, ’86 Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

Anand Marri Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Jeff Mitchell Director of Athletics

Becca Polcz Rice

Vice President for Governmental Relations and Industry

Courage Continues to Guide Us

Dear Alumni and Friends:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

In our strategic plan, we state that courage is one of the enduring values that guides our work, and we define courage as our collective commitment “to set ambitious goals and to take the risks necessary to achieve those goals.”

Courage is at the core of our origin story. In 1918, after four unsuccessful efforts to sustain a college in Muncie, the five Ball brothers ignored the failures of other people and embraced the inherent risks of purchasing a failed enterprise in order to ensure that their neighbors would have access to higher education in their community.

They achieved their ambitious goal. And ever since our founding more than a century ago, courage has been an enduring value that characterizes our faculty, our staff, our students, and our graduates. Indeed, courage defines our University’s culture.

In this edition of our Alumni magazine, you will read about some of these people and some of our ambitious initiatives.

In 2018, we embarked upon an unprecedented partnership with the Muncie Community Schools (MCS), because we believed that we had a moral imperative to act—to help provide a high quality, public education to every child in Muncie (page 24). I am grateful to the members of the MCS board, to the MCS teachers, staff, and administrators, and to the families who have entrusted us to provide that opportunity to their children. Working together, we have restored hope in a brighter future for these children—and our community. Our Ball State students frequently embody courage.

In November 2021, Ethan Whitehead, a student in the Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning, passed away after collapsing in a classroom. While coping with the profound sadness from this loss, several of Ethan’s classmates completed his semester final project while completing their own (page 30). These remarkable students recognized that finishing Ethan’s project was important. They titled this project, “He Flies,” and they presented their work at a juried presentation that included several architecture industry experts and leaders—and to Ethan’s parents.

I shared this story with my colleagues during my annual Fall Convocation address in August, because it is a source of inspiration for me. It is a vivid reminder of why I feel so fortunate to serve as your president.

It also reminds me of another of our University’s enduring values—gratitude, which we define as our obligation to express appreciation to other people and to demonstrate our gratitude through our actions.

In the following pages, you will read several stories about our graduates and other benefactors who have made generous philanthropic investments in our University. These gifts are a manifestation of their gratitude—and their aspiration to help us improve the lives of our students and the other people whom we serve. You will also read about how you can participate in our ambitious campaign to generate even more financial support for our transformative mission.

Gratefully yours,


officialballstate ballstateuniversity

WE FLY / Fall 2023 3 2 Ball State University Alumni Magazine CONTENTS FROM THE PRESIDENT
Ball State University BallState ballstateuniversity
Engagement FEATURES 20 Epitomizing Beneficence From humble beginnings to president of a tech and marketing company, graduate Timothy Andrews, ’84, supports those who helped him 22 Philanthropy, Passion, and the Power of Giving Back Bente Weitekamp, ’98, leads by example when it comes to using talent, wealth, knowledge, and time to benefit others 24 Courageous Partnership
initially as “Project Moonshot,” the partnership between Ball State and Muncie Community Schools continues to transform local education 30 In Honor of Ethan Whitehead Architecture students lean into the courage needed to work together and finish project after classmate tragically passes 32 Built to Last After 15 years of growth, Ball State Sports Link is here to stay, leading the way in the world of sports production 36 A Matter of Life Ailing Ball State nursing instructor fights for his life using the strength of his family, including daughter who graduated in May DEPARTMENTS 4 News / 8 Community / 14 Sports / 38 Class Notes Foundational Sciences Building ON THE COVER
to right) Muncie Community Schools (MCS) Board Member, Dave Heeter, ’83; MCS Volunteer, Wilisha Scaife, MA ’14; MCS Teacher, Kelly Agnew, ’96 MAE ’01
Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13 Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15

Another Fundraising Record

Thanks to the generosity of Ball State alumni and friends from across the world, the University experienced yet another extremely successful One Ball State Day (OBSD) effort in 2023.

The annual 24-hour fundraising event, held April 5, resulted in an OBSD record $1.2 million-plus raised with more than 7,400 total gifts—all of which benefit Ball State’s students, faculty, programs, services, resources, and more.

Gifts this year came from all 50 states (for a third year in a row) and from 11 total countries, another OBSD record. In all, there were 2,510 gifts made by Ball State employees, and 248 gifts made by current students.

For more, visit

“I am grateful to all of the members of our University community—our students and their families, our graduates, and our faculty and staff—who make One Ball State Day a success each year. Their contributions enable us to provide a transformational educational experience to our students, so that they can pursue fulfilling careers and meaningful lives,” Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns said.

$1.2 million + raised for Ball State students, programs, and more


Donors from every grad year


Total number of donors


Total number of gifts

Mark your calendars: April 3, 2024

OBSD returns

Esports Ranked Nation’s Top Program

Ball State University earned Program of the Year honors at the inaugural EsportsU Collegiate Awards, a new national recognition program held May 6-7 at Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Ball State’s Esports program was selected the best among more than 3,000 academic institutions in the nation represented by EsportsU, a business vertical of Collegiate Sports Management Group.

“We are thrilled to receive the Esports Program of the Year Award. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our players, coaches, and staff,” said Dan Marino, Ball State’s esports director and head coach of the varsity team. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done to earn this award and look forward to continuing to build a program that fosters excellence, sportsmanship, and teamwork.”

Home, Sweet

Eco-Friendly Home

Learn more about Alley House at

Ateam of R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP) students—with faculty leads, design advisors, and interdisciplinary consultants— planned, designed, and helped build an award-winning, energy-efficient, eco-friendly duplex. This duplex, named “Alley House,” will be affordable housing for two families on the Near Eastside of Indianapolis.

Alley House was ECAP’s project for the 2023 Build Challenge portion of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon®, an international competition for which students create net-zero energy buildings powered by renewables. ECAP was named 2023 Build Challenge Overall Winner. ECAP’s community partners on Alley House were Englewood Community Development Corporation, Gratus Development, and Cedar Street Builders. — Landa Bagley

NEWS WE FLY / Fall 2023 5 4 Ball State University Alumni Magazine NEWS
Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15

Beautification and Improvements

The list of recent Ball State University campus project completions is impressive:

• The Alderdice Gates, a stunning entryway to the East Mall on the south end of campus.

• The Brown Family Amphitheater, an outdoor performance and gathering space in the heart of campus.

• The full demolition of LaFollette housing complex and installation of a green space which will complement North Dining and Beyerl Residence Hall (North Hall).

• The addition of Cardinal Central on the first floor of the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Cardinal Central combines many key student services into one physical space— Office of the Registrar, Retention and Graduation Service, Student Financial Services and the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.

• Expansion of the Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse to now include an Environmental Education Center.

• New pathways for the East Mall.

Another major renovation project is advancing. The Cooper Science Complex renovation will soon enter Phase 3. Among many next steps during this phase, the building will soon have a beautiful glass façade installed on the southeast corner which will open the building to natural light and scenes from Ball State’s historic Quad.

Additionally, shared during recent Board of Trustees meetings, upcoming plans of renovations at Ball State provide an exciting look at what is ahead.

In May, Board members were presented a $81.6 million North Campus renovation plan which includes four buildings— the Hargreaves Music Building (MU), University Theatre Building (TH), Art and Communication Building (AC), and the R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning Building (AB).

The improvements will address increased classroom demand while better centralizing classes. Currently, theatre and dance and music classes at Ball State are held in eight different buildings. Work on MU, TH, and AC will centralize those classes with spaces better designed for those programs.

At Ball State, Theatre and Dance majors have more than doubled from Fall 1996 to today with more than 400 current students.

In AB, renovations will provide additional design studio spaces, digital media labs, and new spaces for Construction Management, Architecture, and Interior Design collaboration. The Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning has seen enrollment growth for each of the past six years. Work on all four buildings will also bring facilities up to code, improve safety systems, improve IT infrastructure, and better meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

Execution of the full North Campus renovation plan is expected to last through the Summer of 2026.

Rising Star Wins Multiple Acting Awards

After high school, Florida native Imani Brissett, ’23, was all set to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, but while participating in a community theatre production, he found his passion in musical theatre. He swiftly switched gears and headed to Ball State University to major in musical theatre and perfect his craft. And perfect he did.

In April, Mr. Brissett took first place in the Irene Ryan National Acting Scholarships with help from his acting partner, Sawyer True, ’23. He also received the Mark Twain Scholarship for Comic Performance. And he was awarded the prestigious College of Fellows Jane Alexander Fellowship

Award for Acting. The fellowship recipients were selected from the Irene Ryan Scholarship national finalists at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“The KCACTF is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our University’s best and brightest Theatre and Dance students, and this is the 19th year we’ve done so,” said William Jenkins, department chair of Ball State’s Department of Theatre and Dance and a professor of Theatre.

“I am so proud of Imani for this much-deserved recognition, and I am excited for the opportunities ahead of him.” — Jennifer Criss, ’98 MA ’23

6 Ball State University Alumni Magazine NEWS WE FLY / Fall 2023 7 NEWS
Imani Brissett, ’23, in the role of Flick in the production of “Violet” at University Theatre. Photo by Kip Shawger Top: Construction of the Brown Family Amphitheater, located in the heart of campus, is complete. The outdoor space will be the site of performances and gatherings this Fall. Left: Young students participate in activities at the Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse Environmental Education Center.

Students travel from all over America and the world to study at Ball State

It doesn’t matter if the trek is from around the world, across America, or from the other side of the state. Leaving home, family, and friends to pursue higher education is a big step. The same can be true for students who transfer to a new university after establishing ties and completing college coursework elsewhere. Still, Ball State University is the choice of many international and transfer students—like Abimbola Adeyemi and Lindsey Lidy.

Ms. Adeyemi is an international student originally from Nigeria. Ms. Lidy transferred to Ball State from another university in her home state, Indiana. Both students said leaving their familiar settings was challenging and required courage in their own ways, but coming to Ball State was easy. They knew they found the university where their educational career goals would be achieved and where they could be part of a welcoming campus community.

Ball State Supports its International and Transfer Students

Ball State’s newly admitted international students get significant support from the University, including an orientation program, student visa advising, and academic advising services.

Currently enrolled international students receive continued support from International Admissions & Services and Ball State’s Rinker Center for Global Affairs. Ongoing support services include advice on how to maintain lawful status for student visas, acculturation support, English language support from the Intensive English Institute, and academic advising.

To aid admitted incoming transfer students, Ball State has a Transfer Center where students can receive help getting through the transition, and have a variety of resources. Learn more online at

Lindsey Lidy, Transfer Student

Hometown: Speedway, Ind. | Major: Architecture

When Lindsey Lidy decided that she wanted to pursue a career in architecture, she had already completed a year at her original college. The Speedway, Ind., native wanted to get a degree from a university with a top-rated architecture program, and she wanted to stay in her home state. After researching her options, Ms. Lidy chose Ball State’s R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP).

Ms. Lidy started at Ball State in 2021 as a secondsemester sophomore and successfully applied for ECAP’s five-year Architecture program. As of this Fall semester, Ms. Lidy is a senior—based on her coursework credits— and is beginning her third year in the Architecture program.

As for the friends she made at her previous college, Ms. Lidy said she knew she could keep in touch them while being open to forging new connections.

“Ball State has such a small-town feel to it. I’m from a small town, so it felt like it would be easy to make friends and feel at home here,” she added. “I just threw myself all-in on the transfer to Ball State. Brand new school. Brand new experiences. It was not at all about looking back at what I was leaving. It was more about the excitement and opportunities that I had ahead of me at Ball State. It’s been great!”

Abimbola Adeyemi, International Student

Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria | Major: Information and Communication Science

Her current pursuit of her master’s degree at Ball State is not Abimbola Adeyemi’s first experience as an international student in America. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss her home country, family, friends, church, and culture. Fortunately, Ms. Adeyemi has her four children living with her in Muncie while she attends Ball State. She has other relatives in the United States, including her uncle who lives in Colorado.

Her positive interactions within the welcoming communities of Ball State and Muncie are especially impactful as she deals with occasional bouts of homesickness.

“The people here, on campus and in the city, are so friendly, nice, and willing to help me,” she said. “I feel good here.”

Ms. Adeyemi earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering in Nigeria several years ago. She decided to change careers. Her goal is to work in Software Engineering and eventually teach in that field.

“I love teaching,” Ms. Adeyemi said. “I want to be a professor. That, my children, and my other goal of getting my PhD, are what keep me going.”

She believes getting a quality post-secondary education at an American college or university could make it easier to work anywhere in the world. After getting a master’s degree in Computer Science at another university in America’s Midwest, she decided to augment her education with a master’s degree in Information and Communication Science at Ball State. Ms. Adeyemi started attending Ball State in 2022. She is on target to complete her master’s program in 2024. After that, she intends to pursue a doctorate in a related field. —

COMMUNITY WE FLY / Fall 2023 9 COMMUNITY 8 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
iStock credit: Pure Imagination

A Lifetime of Service

Bibi Bahrami, ’14, has dedicated her life to caring for others and serving her community. She is a co-founder and the president of the Islamic Center of Muncie, a Rotarian, and a previous member of the advisory boards for Ball State’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and several other organizations.

In 1979, her family was forced to leave their home in Afghanistan after the war that followed the Soviet Union’s invasion. She spent six years in a refugee camp before eventually immigrating to Muncie with her husband, Saber.

Ms. Bahrami refused to forget those left behind. The Bahramis continued to visit Afghanistan, bringing medical and other supplies, and treating as many Afghans as possible. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, Ms. Bahrami realized it was the perfect time to act and make a difference.

“I grew up in the kind of home where there wasn’t a stranger,” she said. “We treated people from all walks of life as one of us, as humans, and I have continued to do that since coming to beautiful, beautiful Muncie.”

People & Culture, Not Just Policy

Starting a new chapter and moving to Indiana from his home state of Florida in the dead of Winter may seem unconventional, but that is how much Darrell Clark believes in Ball State and its mission. In January, Ball State Human Resources welcomed him into the fold with the newly formed title of Associate Vice President for People and Culture.

Ball State, too, has embarked on a new chapter. As with many organizations and institutions across the country, the University is making a shift in focus from merely human resources to people and culture. This shift acknowledges the organizational policies and procedures and their development, but also the investment in its people.

Led by Mr. Clark and his team, the University is committed to a transformation of its human resources into an area devoted to a “best practices” model of people and culture enhancement. The goal is to focus on employee relations and build a culture that promotes growth, productivity, and innovation. The area plays a critical role in attracting, developing, and retaining employees that embrace the Ball State strategic vision and develop practices that improve the employee experience.

“Ball State is right in step. Many companies are now making that transition,” Mr. Clark said. “People and Culture as a title makes sense because when you have a company or educational institution, you have vital business components to attend to, but you have to take care of employees, their pay, their benefits, their well-being, etc.

“Often, people forget that the greatest investment that you make is in your people. So, you invest in your people, their wellbeing, and make sure that you’re providing them a positive work environment.”

As East Central Indiana’s largest employer with more than 3,000 faculty, professional, service, and staff employees, Ball State has already proven to be on the right path. Recently, Forbes, the popular business magazine, recognized the University as the fourth-best midsized employer—and the only recognized educational institution—in Indiana.

“Now that we know how the industry sees us, it gives us some type of barometer and measurement to work off of,” Mr. Clark said. “One of the objectives of our strategic plan is to be an employer of choice, and we would like to have applicants prefer Ball State over other employers. That’s my priority.”

Grateful for her own opportunities, she founded the non-profit organization AWAKEN (Afghan Women’s and Kids’ Education & Necessities) in 2002 to give Afghan women and children access to healthcare, education, and vocational training. Also, AWAKEN has built schools, opened a medical clinic that treats over 3,000 patients per month, and much more.

In 2021, AWAKEN formed the Muncie Afghan Refugee Resettlement Committee subcommittee to assist in the urgent need to resettle Afghans starting new lives in the U.S. Around 35 families— more than 130 people—were relocated to the Muncie community. Though the subcommittee work has ended, Ms. Bahrami and AWAKEN continue to work nonstop to battle hunger and help struggling families in Afghanistan with basic needs.

Ms. Bahrami has received many honors and awards for her charity work, including the Ball State International Development Award and the Indiana Women of Achievement Award. Her lifelong dedication to helping others has had a positive impact on local and global communities. She was also nominated for an Academy Award for the Malala Yousafzai-produced documentary “Stranger at the Gate,” which helps spread the message that compassion can transform people’s lives.

“I’ve been so inspired by my community here, the good work they do, and the support I’ve had for the last 37 years of my life in Muncie,” Ms. Bahrami said. “But I am especially grateful for the last 20 years with AWAKEN, working alongside the people of Afghanistan.”

To learn more about AWAKEN, visit

Photos by Samantha Blankenship, ’15
10 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
We can all make a positive change, but it comes down to good intentions, hard work, and respect for others.
If we have those three things, all of us can make a difference.
— Bibi Bahrami, ’14

Nurturing Minds, Forging Connections Urban Immersion program strengthens student experience

To be a part of this program means to be a part of a larger community— beyond yourself and your classmates— especially one you may not have expected.

— Spencer King, ’20

As fourth-grade teacher Spencer King prepares for his fourth year of teaching in the Wayne Township School district in Indianapolis, he reflects on what he calls the keystone of his educational experience at Ball State—the Urban Immersion Internship Program.

“I was able to be in the classroom all day for most days of the week—and when I wasn’t, my courses with Ball State professors helped me embed and connect what I was learning to my experiences in the classroom,” said Mr. King, ’20. “Putting theory into practice in real time developed my pedagogy and broadened my perspective as a future teacher more than what I believe I would be capable of remaining on campus.”

For nearly 30 years, the Urban Immersion Internship program, designed for the final year for Elementary Education majors, has placed prospective teachers into classrooms in Indianapolis, fully immersing them in the schools and community from day one. They work with mentor teachers in the classroom, lending an extra pair of hands and fresh

perspectives. Currently, most students are placed at Rhoades Elementary in Indianapolis’ Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township (MSD).

MSD of Wayne Township has three high schools, three middle schools, eleven elementary schools, and a preschool center, serving nearly 16,500 students. Rhoades Elementary is racially and culturally diverse, with nearly 20 percent of the students who are English Learners.

“There are about eight different languages spoken within the (Rhoades Elementary School),” said Dr. Veronica Fife-Demski, assistant professor of Elementary Education and director of the Urban Immersion Internship Program at Ball State. “I think this is such a highlight because we focus a lot on teaching English language learners.”

Internship participants find housing in Indianapolis; their Ball State courses are taught in a nearby church so they do not have to travel to campus, and they quickly become members of the community. The program also requires nine hours of service within the community so

students can gain a deeper understanding of the area and incorporate culturally relevant lessons into their teaching plans. Ball State students in the program begin the year in late July. That time, even before the school year begins, allows them to learn the school, prepare the classroom, and form a bond with their mentor teacher. They also can participate in activities, including parent/teacher conferences, family nights, ice cream socials, and other community events.

Unlike typical practicum experiences, which provide a total of about 30 hours of classroom practice, the Urban Immersion program has students in the classroom three or four days per week working directly with a mentor teacher, accruing nearly 400 hours of valuable experience. Then, in the Spring, they student teach, most often in the same location, but typically at a different grade level for a varied experience.

“By then, they already know the lay of the land,” said Dr. Fife-Demski. “They’ve formed relationships with their mentor teacher and feel comfortable with the school. Because of this, their comfort level is so much higher, and it’s a smooth transition into student teaching.”

Typically, in early Spring, students in the internship program are selected first for interviews for teaching

Opposite page: Spencer King, ’20, gives a demonstration to students during his stint in the Urban Immersion Program, and students show their appreciation. Below: Students engage in a lesson at Rhoades Elementary in Indianapolis.

positions within the Wayne Township Schools district before those jobs are offered to external applicants.

Because of the richness of the experience, nearly 50 percent of the student teachers in the Urban Immersion Internship program stayed within the Wayne Township Schools district upon graduating from Ball State. They connected with the kids and the community in unexpected ways and chose to stay.

“I am thankful to continue teaching in the same school district that I was introduced to through Urban Immersion— cooperating with colleagues and families under the shared vision that all students have a right to a quality education,” Mr. King said.

“My classroom is beautifully diverse, with students of different races, ethnicities, and linguistic backgrounds— all of which learned to work with and teach better through my time in Urban Immersion. To this day, I am indebted to Dr. Fife-Demski for allowing me to participate in this program and to the teachers who worked alongside me and guided me into becoming the educator I am now.”

— Jennifer Criss, ’98 MA ’23

12 Ball State University Alumni Magazine WE FLY / Fall 2023 13 COMMUNITY COMMUNITY

‘Growth Mindset’

Jeff Mitchell has hit the ground running since March 20, when he began his appointment as the new Director of Athletics at Ball State University. He arrived in Muncie following a four-year tenure as deputy director of athletics at the University of Southern Mississippi. In addition, Mr. Mitchell held various senior administrative roles for 12 years at Santa Clara University.

So, what are his early impressions of Ball State Athletics? Here’s a Q&A with Mr. Mitchell:

What are your priorities for the upcoming year?

The first priority has been to create depth in our department so that we can deliver on what our ultimate goal is—to dominate the Mid-American Conference (MAC). This is no different than the most competitive athletic teams which win with depth. We also are wanting to win organizationally with our depth, and we’ve been hiring the past few months for several positions as we prepare for this next year.

No. 2 is to build excitement for football season. That includes selling as many season tickets as we can, enhancing the game day atmosphere at Scheumann Stadium, creating an exciting pregame tailgate atmosphere for students and fans, and establishing a homefield advantage for the Cardinals. We then want to replicate that for basketball season and beyond.

We also want to continue to take a hard look at facilities plans that will enhance student-athlete development and show our commitment to studentathlete development.

What is your vision for Ball State Athletics?

I want us to be relentless in developing our student-athletes as athletes, scholars, and people, and I want to dominate the MAC. I want us to be the most comprehensively excellent athletic department in the Mid-American Conference. So that's winning championships, being the best-in-class academically, having the most advanced compliance office, exceeding fundraising goals, having the most social media followers to promote our brand regionally and nationally, and so on.

I also want our student-athletes to graduate at high rates. In addition, if every student-athlete could win a conference championship at least once in their four years, that would be amazing. But we've got to put

things in place to accomplish that vision and to sustain it. It's ambitious, but with our mindset to continually pursue excellence, believe we’re on track for success. We just won the Jacoby Trophy for the best women's athletics department in the MAC, which hadn't been done since 2003. We placed second in the Reese Trophy for the best men's athletics department. So, it's there for the taking. We just have to go do it.

What courageous steps can Ball State Athletics take over the next few years to raise its profile?

One of the most basic steps that we can take is to be incredibly proud of who we are as an institution.

I challenge all of us to embrace the strength of the Ball State brand and be aggressive in our promotion of the University as a leader in higher education in the 21st century and as a difference maker in intercollegiate athletics. We're not afraid of change. We celebrate it. We can pivot and adjust with the best of them. We want to be the class of our league, and if we do that, then we will continue to be competitive on the national level.

What are some opportunities on which you believe Ball State Athletics can capitalize?

We've got to be courageous in the new landscape of NCAA athletics and be bold enough to lead from the front, as opposed to sitting back and waiting to react to whatever changes happen. An area where I'd like us to be a change agent is the new holistic approach to healthcare for studentathletes, which is inclusive not only of the traditional sports medicine offerings and strength and conditioning training, but also provides access to mental health services. We are going to hire an administrator who will oversee these areas and blend these elements of wellbeing to create a more healthy and competitive student-athlete who thrives at Ball State. That is a step that some institutions have probably taken to some extent, but not to the degree which I think we can do it in partnership with the experts that we have on our campus and in the Muncie community. believe we can elevate the level of well-being of our student-athletes and set the bar for what the future of healthcare looks like in college athletics.

We won six different conference championships and advanced to 11 postseason tournaments in 2022–2023. That's remarkable and is a credit to our talented studentathletes and the devoted coaches and staff who mentor and support them. We also had some individual accomplishments that garnered national championships and distinctive acclaim. We celebrate those victories, promote them, and start to see them as the standard. And then we continue to elevate that. We don’t put limits on what we can accomplish together. The idea is to bust through that ceiling and continue to climb. I believe that part of our bold, courageous approach is to have a growth mindset and to not be satisfied with just being mediocre, but constantly seek to elevate Ball State as an institution. It’s crystal clear to me that the institution has that same approach. We're in a healthy place right now institutionally, and athletics wants to be on the forefront of that effort to help that growth in a first-class way. tell anyone who will listen that we are operating from a position of strength and that our growth mindset encourages us to make excellence routine. —

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I want us to be relentless in developing our student-athletes as athletes, scholars, and people ...
— Jeff Mitchell
Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13

Tops in MAC

Ball State University women’s sports teams were awarded the 2023 Jacoby Trophy—presented annually by the Mid-American Conference (MAC) to the school whose women’s teams win first place in the league’s all-sports standings.

Ball State men’s teams finished second in 2023 Reese Trophy standings, Ball State’s best all-sport showing since 2013.

Ball State’s 1-2 finish for both awards marks the University’s best combined finish since 2001.

Together, Ball State men and women finished among the MAC’s top two in their respective all-sports standings for the third time since 1998.

Out of 18 sports at Ball State that compete in the MAC, eight finished first or second in the league and 10 had teams or individuals reach national postseason competition. For women’s sports, volleyball, gymnastics, and outdoor track won regularseason MAC titles.

Lauren Volpe, ’23, helped the gymnastics team capture the 2023

A Place of Strength

ollowing a successful softball playing career at Ball State University and with the Puerto Rico national team, Madison Labrador, ’18 MA ’21, had one more goal she wanted to accomplish: pursue a career in exercise science.

“My undergraduate degree was in Exercise Science, and that passion for human movement continued to be shaped and molded as I was a student-athlete here and got to have hands-on experience with Division I athletes,” said Ms. Labrador, who earned her master’s degree in Sports Performance.

Following a short stint in the private sector and as the head strength and conditioning coach at Tiffin University,

Ms. Labrador returned to Ball State to be the strength and conditioning coach for the men’s basketball program. She is believed to be one of only a handful of women in the country to hold a similar role on a men’s college basketball staff.

“Being an inspiration for those who seek representation and those who aspire to pursue coaching is really special to me,” she said.

Ms. Labrador joined head coach Michael Lewis’ staff last season and helped the Cardinals to a 20-win season.

“She’s very knowledgeable of her subject and well-versed in several backgrounds in strength training,” Coach Lewis said. “She’s energetic, she’s got big ideas, and she’s got a really bright future.” — Cody

Aloud roar could be heard in Austin, Texas, and across the state of Indiana at approximately 10:30 p.m. on June 10. In the waning moments of the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Ball State University’s Charity Griffith, ’23, leaped over the bar set at 1.85 meters and secured a national championship in the high jump event. But she wasn’t done just yet. Following her usual pre-jump routine of visualization and pointing to the sky, Ms. Griffith took her standard 10-step approach and went even higher, clearing 1.93 meters to set a new program record—one that she already held. It was quite an impressive feat, considering her highest jump in high school was 1.67 meters—nearly a foot shorter on the conversion scale.

“I was very hyped and excited that I could clear that height, and to win that national championship,” Ms. Griffith said. “I've always said that I wanted to win an NCAA championship. So to actually put it into reality was almost like a disbelief.”

For Ms. Griffith, it was her third top-five NCAA finish in the previous 12 months. She finished fifth at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships and fifth again in the Indoor Championships. A historic night got even better as Ball State teammate Jenelle Rogers wrapped up a fifthplace finish in the heptathlon later that evening and secured First Team All-American honors with 6,018 points—also a school record. It was the first time in school history that Ball State produced multiple outdoor All-Americans in

the same season, and the first time two Cardinals earned top-10 finishes in the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

“I told Jenelle before the year started that we were both going to nationals,” Ms. Griffith said. “I was very happy and excited to see her compete, and grow more confidence to match her abilities. The mindset is so powerful, and it all came together with her performance.”

For Ms. Griffith, she’ll shift her focus to international competition as she aims to qualify for the World Athletics Championships and, ultimately, a chance to compete for her country at the 2024 Olympics. The bar has been set. — Cody Voga

WE FLY / Fall 2023 17 SPORTS
Ball State Track and Field’s Charity Griffith Takes Courageous Leap to a National Title
Photo courtesy of Brendan Maloney
16 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13

Staying Active to Battle Health Challenges

Ball State graduate using boxing, mountain-climbing, and marathonrunning to fight back Parkinson’s

For Steve Gilbert, ’68, his journey to doing the impossible is based not only on gut-wrenching adversity, but also on the courage to face it head-on.

Mr. Gilbert majored in Psychology at Ball State and was one of the founding members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on campus. However, he didn’t pursue a job in psychology. Soon after he retired from a long career as a beverage wholesaler in 2004, his world came crashing down.

“ Within a few months after I retired, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and not long after, Parkinson’s Disease,” Mr. Gilbert said. “After that, I was managing things, but not really living. Then I heard about Rock Steady Boxing.”

Rock Steady Boxing is a nationwide, nonprofit organization giving people with Parkinson’s hope by improving their quality of life through non-contact, boxingbased exercises. It is believed that the vigorous exercises done by boxers can lessen the impacts of the disease.

“I read about Rock Steady and the success it has had. So, I went in 2007 and asked for a pair of gloves,” Mr. Gilbert said. “And it put me on a course to do things that I would have thought impossible.”

Soon after, Mr. Gilbert began to add half and full marathons to his exercise routines. This past Spring, he qualified for the Boston Marathon in the mobility-impaired class and posted a personal best time of 5:11:04. At 77, he was older than all but 20 of the 30,000 entrants. And Mr. Gilbert has climbed mountains. He summited the 12,000-foot Medicine Bow Mountains in Wyoming and the 14,260-foot Mount Evans in Colorado. Then came a trek up the Inca Trail in Peru to reach Machu Picchu.

“He’s fierce,” says Kristy Rose Follmar, a former World Boxing Federation light welterweight champ, and Mr. Gilbert’s longtime boxing coach. “He works like an animal in the gym and around the punching bags. But he’s a brilliant man and a gentle soul.”

His Parkinson’s symptoms have remained relatively mild—which Mr. Gilbert credits to his rigorous lifestyle. He has no plans to start “taking it easy.” The support from his wife, family, and friends is crucial.

“What I’ve come to realize is that many of the best things in my life have happened to me after I got Parkinson’s disease, thanks to the program at Rock Steady Boxing,” he said. “What am I doing with my life if I can provide some inspiration to others with Parkinson’s (or other challenges) and don’t?” — Dan Forst, ’85

WE FLY / Fall 2023 19 Tickets Broadcast Information eNewsletter #ChirpChirp @BallStateSports Stay connected Cardinal Varsity Club: The foundation for a quality Division I athletic program. Show off your Ball State pride with officially licensed Cardinals gear!
Photo courtesy of Steve Gilbert

Epitomizing Beneficence

Growing up in St. Louis Crossing, Ind., Timothy M. Andrews, ’84, didn’t have the same liberties as most kids—and he would be the first to admit that.

In fact, Mr. Andrews and his mother didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was in fifth grade.

“We were on food stamps and Medicaid,” Mr. Andrews said. “We received a welfare check every month because my mom was disabled and unable to work. It was not an easy time.”

Mr. Andrews overcame his situation through his passion for journalism and a small-town support system that helped him get to Ball State University.

“I have felt supported every step of my life,” Mr. Andrews said. “It was the neighbors, the people that we went to church with, and the community we lived in. I may not have been always proud of the fact that we were on welfare, Medicaid, and food stamps, but I felt incredibly supported by those programs, and they were very important to me.”

That sense of community followed him during his time living on campus in Swinford Hall, and his years with The Ball State Daily News. And being part of the Ball State family made an impact.

“We had some great professors who were really important in my life: David Knott, MA ’71, who was my advisor with The Ball State Daily News; and Marilyn Weaver, ’65 MA ’70, who was the department chair of the School of Journalism,” Mr. Andrews said. “They really believed in me and gave me great advice.”

Fortified by his degrees in Economics and Journalism, community support, and a courageous spirit, Mr. Andrews spent 16 years rising through management roles at Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and now serves as president and chief executive officer of the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) in Philadelphia.

Since joining ASI about 20 years ago, he has led a transformation of the largely print business into a digital and events business platform with 350 employees and a global network of 25,000 suppliers, distributors, and decorators in the $26 billion promotional products industry.

Just as Ball State has invested in him, Mr. Andrews has given back generously.

In 2021, Mr. Andrews helped create an endowment to fund a graduate assistantship within the Multicultural Center to study LGBTQ+ issues with a focus on the intersection between LGBTQ+ studies and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities.

Mr. Andrews credits a meeting with Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns in New York City for rekindling a strong personal connection to the University and for inspiring a sense of optimism about the University’s future.

“I was so impressed by his approach in growing Ball State and making it more meaningful,” Mr. Andrews said. “I was also impressed with the community engagement with local educational institutions that he and others at Ball State have been involved in. I was just really excited about the work that was being done.

“Everyone at Ball State I have been in touch with is incredibly impressive. They’re passionate about what they’re doing, and they’re engaged in the community, which is broadly defined. It isn’t just the community of their department or their school, it’s the community at large. just find that to be really invigorating and exciting.”

That excitement helped drive Mr. Andrews to join the Ball State University Foundation Board of Directors and make a pledge of over $1 million as a leadership donor towards the new performing arts center as part of The Village Revitalization Project. In total, Mr. Andrews has committed more than $2.7 million to the institution.

“I think the performing arts center will draw people from around Indiana to the Ball State community and they will begin to understand what’s going on the Ball State campus and feel the excitement here,” Mr. Andrews said. “It will bring more entertainment, more enthusiasm, more arts, and performances of all types. It will create another level of engagement in the community and allow people to feel at home.”

Despite spending the past four-plus decades more than 500 miles away from his alma mater, Mr. Andrews doesn’t forget how special Ball State was to him.

“I think Ball State is a big place, but it fosters a community and really mentors students,” Mr. Andrews said. “It isn’t just a transactional place. They deeply care about you as a person.” 

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20 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
From humble beginnings in the Heartland to president of a technology and marketing company in the City of Brotherly Love, Timothy M. Andrews, ’84, gives back to the community that helped get him there.
First-generation students celebrate at an event inside the 10,500 square-foot Multicultural Center located in the heart of campus. Ball State University and the Ball State University Foundation acknowledged a substantial gift by naming the center’s first-floor lobby in recognition of Tim Andrews. Photo courtesy of Tim Andrews

Philanthropy, Passion, and the Power of Giving Back

As vice president of development for the Community Health Network Foundation, Bente Weitekamp, ’98, knows first-hand the impact of giving.

Ms. Weitekamp leads the fundraising strategies that engage donors in the organization’s mission to enhance health and well-being. With over 200 sites throughout Central Indiana, this is no small feat.

But her dedication to philanthropy was instilled in Ms. Weitekamp from an early age.

“My parents led by example, and I understood early that it is our responsibility as humans to use whatever gifts we possess—talent, wealth, knowledge, time—to benefit those around us,” Ms. Weitekamp said.

Her husband, Jeff, grew up in much the same way, and they have made sharing their time and resources a family priority. They give to the Community Health Network Foundation, several organizations within the arts, and to colleges and universities, including Ball State.

In her last year at Ball State as an Urban Planning major, Ms. Weitekamp worked on an affordable housing project and became interested in the social dimensions of a healthy community. After graduation, she traveled around the country for a year, working for the Alpha Chi Omega fraternity.

“I was exposed to various nonprofit organizations doing wildly diverse work in very different communities,” Ms. Weitekamp said. “What I saw was how a nonprofit—and more importantly, the nonprofit’s donors—influences a

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community and improves the quality of life of a community. Coming out of that year of traveling, I knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector.”

Ms. Weitekamp, a Ball State University Foundation Board member, recently became a member of the Women of Beneficence, a women’s collaborative philanthropic group at Ball State created to support students and fund innovative projects and programs on campus. She is excited to deepen her engagement with the University and directly influence the good things happening at Ball State.

“Ball State is ‘my place,’” she continued. “It is where I had the opportunity to practice skills valuable to any career or vocation and to develop critical thinking skills and thoughtful opinions. I am thankful to Ball State for the privilege to learn the value of authentic relationships in a challenging yet safe environment, and I am eager to help support that learning in whatever form it may take.” 

Frequent Flyers are dedicated Cardinals who make monthly, recurring gifts to Ball State University. Your support of the programs nearest and dearest to you will provide ongoing support to students who are doing good in communities around the globe. This is our Call to Beneficence … and yours. Use the QR code to join today.

“As a former scholarship recipient myself, I know that no gift is too small. Every dollar counts when it comes to the essentials, and giving monthly allows me to maximize my impact on current Cardinals in need of financial support.

Dividing up a meaningful gift into twelve smaller payments makes sense for my budget— and automatic payments make giving easy.”

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22 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
You’re invited to become a Frequent Flyer
Photo courtesy of Bente Weitekamp


Ball State and Muncie Community Schools enter the sixth academic year of an ambitious, successful partnership

“Project Moonshot,” as it turned out, was the University’s innovative, strategic plan to work with state government to help revive Muncie Community Schools (MCS), the city’s struggling public school district.

In May 2018, the Indiana General Assembly adopted unprecedented legislation granting Ball State oversight of MCS. Two months later, Ball State and MCS embarked on a historic partnership to transform Muncie’s public school system into a national model for innovative, holistic education.

Now, with the partnership entering its sixth academic year, the results have been promising, with significant improvements to the district’s budget, enrollment, student and teacher retention, teacher pay, pre-K offerings, and academic programming.

But the collaboration has also served as a reminder at Ball State of the importance of setting ambitious goals—and taking the necessary risks to achieve those goals.

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For a brief time, long before plans were made public, it was identified by a small working group as “Project Moonshot.”
That’s because, as Ball State University President Geoffrey S. Mearns describes it: “We knew what we were doing was ambitious and had risk.”
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Ball State students work with kindergartners at Muncie’s Longfellow Elementary School as part of “Let’s Build,” one of the University’s Immersive Learning experiences. The program sparks interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields at a young age in hopes of filling future needs for professionals. Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13

To appreciate the extraordinary nature of the Ball State-MCS partnership is to also understand the history of Muncie and its public school system.

In the late-1960s, Muncie was thriving with a strong automotive industry and Ball State, a rapidly growing public institution of higher education, in its backyard. The city’s school system had also significantly expanded, enrolling almost 20,000 students, counting Burris Laboratory School, in 1967.

However, by the 1980s—in large part due to significant economic shifts and the loss of manufacturing jobs—Muncie began a population decline; by 2020, the city had experienced a 20-percent decrease in population. The school system suffered, too; over a 50-year period, student enrollment decreased by more than 70 percent to about 5,000 students in 2017. The once-vibrant school system closed multiple buildings, eventually merging Muncie’s three proud public high schools into one.

Test scores and overall morale worsened, leading many parents to transfer their children to nearby districts. Retention of dedicated, veteran teachers and administrators, if they

hadn’t already been laid off due to budget concerns, also became a major issue.

“By no fault of their own, teachers had been through a pretty rough period of feeling unheard with a lack of support due to circumstances out of their control and poor financial management,” said Kelly Agnew, ’96 MAE ’01, a fourth grade teacher at West View Elementary School.

“I think the system lost a lot of teachers and faith from the community during that time.”

The school system’s financial woes, meanwhile, were among the district’s most critical issues. In 2017, the local newspaper reported that Muncie Community Schools’ budget was approximately $10 million in the red.

That same year, state government stepped in. First, the Indiana General Assembly enacted special legislation to appoint an emergency management team of private consultants to help lead the district. Then, later that year, the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeal Board voted 5-0 to seize full control of both the academic and financial operations at MCS. The board officially designated the district as a “distressed political subdivision.”

The state, the city, and the MCS community hoped better management would stabilize the school district. But rather than state oversight leading to MCS regaining its own control, a unique and innovative path forward took shape: a local institution of higher education with a century of experience in preparing excellent teachers and school administrators; a new, appointed school board consisting of local community leaders with complementary skills and diverse experiences; and, a state government willing to get creative to put the struggling school district back onto a path of stability.

In May 2018, the Indiana General Assembly adopted the legislation granting Ball State oversight of MCS. Starting in July 2018, Ball State and MCS embarked on a partnership with little to no precedent in the American educational system.

Those who had been working diligently on “Project Moonshot,” now with the full support of the state and Ball State Board of Trustees, were ready to unleash their courageous plan.

“We came to a simple conclusion: if we stepped up and answered that call, people might hold us accountable for the outcome,” President Mearns said. “And we thought, ‘If we’re going to be held accountable for the outcome, we want to have substantial capacity to influence the outcome.’”

In accordance with the new law, President Mearns and the Board of Trustees appointed a seven-member school board, which ensured that individuals with specific experience and skills formed a well-rounded board that would make meaningful, effective, and creative decisions for the district. And with an appointed, rather than elected, school board, politics no longer had a place in governing MCS, a line that seemingly blurs in many states around the nation.

Those first seven appointed MCS board members were: Dr. Brittany Bales, ’10 MA ’14 PhD ’22, former instructor of special education, Ball State; WaTasha Barnes Griffin, executive director, YWCA of Muncie; Mark Ervin, ’81 MA ’85, attorney, Beasley & Gilkison LLP; Dave Heeter, ’83, corporate executive vice president, Northwest Bank; Jim Lowe, associate vice president for facilities planning and management, Ball State; Keith O’Neal, lead pastor, Destiny Christian Center; and Jim Williams, attorney, DeFur Voran.

“I thought the bones of the system were really good, and while some change was going to be painful, there was a decent foundation on which to build,” said Mr. Williams, who has served as president of the MCS Board of Trustees since the partnership began.

“I never for a moment considered it to be one of those situations where it would be a long haul in receivership,” he continued. “I thought there would be a natural path out; I just wasn’t sure what that would look like. The partnership was, by far, the best of many alternatives.”

For Mr. Heeter, his mission as an MCS board member was personal in nature. A longtime ardent supporter of Ball State and its athletics

programs, both of Mr. Heeter’s parents, Bob, ’48 MA ’54, and Barbara, ’46, Heeter, were once teachers in the Muncie school system and Ball State graduates.

“I felt like I had an understanding of the city and a sense of history as to education in the community. And also, on a personal basis, just felt maybe it was something my parents would’ve been very proud of me to do to help,” Mr. Heeter said. “I think felt a certain level of responsibility to help any way I could and to try to make the public school system in Muncie better.”

Appointing a board was a first step. Utilizing its resources, Ball State was able to include parents, students, and community members in the strategic planning of MCS’ future. From listening sessions with the community to annual professional development events for teachers and staff, a new culture has been established that focuses on placing learners first. And with deep experience in philanthropy and grant writing, Ball State deployed resources and experts to rapidly transform the financial standing of Muncie schools.

“Really, I thought that the first step was going to be taking a deliberative and thoughtful approach to governance that inspired confidence among the families, the students, the faculty, staff, and the community,” Mr. Williams said. “This is not something that has been done before, so approaching it in a thoughtful and deliberative way that looked forward and did not spend time with recrimination—looking backward—that was step one.”

In July 2019, the MCS Board took another important step by hiring Dr. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski as the district’s first director of public education and chief executive officer. Dr. Kwiatkowski had been serving as senior education advisor for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, and while she knew a jump back into school administration—particularly in Muncie, with so much change abound—would be daunting, she was encouraged about the opportunity after having an initial conversation with Mr. Williams.

“I had spent several years working on policy, learning about best practices, research-based strategies. I knew what needed to take place in districts, and I really thought this would be the perfect opportunity to implement some of those tactics. And I wanted to be able to see that my work was making a difference at a student level,” Dr. Kwiatkowski said. “Getting into the schools regularly and seeing how I could affect students and their families and teachers was very attractive to me.”

WE FLY / Fall 2023 27 26 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
Dr. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski (center), director of public education and chief executive officer at Muncie Community Schools, and Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns (right) greet students on the first day of school at South View Elementary School on Aug. 8. Dr. Kwiatkowski had previously served as senior education advisor for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15


Since the beginning of the Ball State-MCS partnership, the results have been remarkable: student enrollment is up for the first time in 15 years; the budgets have been balanced each year since 2018 and are now millions of dollars in the black; and teacher pay has not only increased by more than 30 percent, but MCS is now one of the top-paying districts in the state.

In 2020, Muncie Community Schools implemented a five-year strategic plan that focuses on five pillars: high-quality pre-K education; recruitment, development, and retention of educational leaders; student-centered teaching and active learning; social and emotional learning; and family and community engagement. Already, pre-K enrollment at MCS has increased by more than 300 percent since its partnership with Ball State began. At the same time, an innovative Newcomer Program geared toward refugees has attracted 60 new students to the district.

For community supporters like Wilisha Scaife, MA ’14, the Ball State-MCS partnership has been invigorating. Ms. Scaife, a Muncie Central graduate whose three children are also MCS grads, has spent considerable time volunteering in Muncie classrooms and helping facilitate professional development workshops in her role as a professional learning specialist with Ball State’s Teachers College.

“It’s been wonderful to see the coming together of like-minded educators who truly care about students and their families, working to assist teachers in engaging students to ensure academic success,” Ms. Scaife said. “And there is so much more to do. I remain hopeful and believe we can do better and be better together.”

The hard work at Muncie Community Schools continues into the start of the 2023-24 academic year and beyond. School officials are encouraged by the positive results of the partnership with Ball State yet remain focused, for example, on improving elementary school literacy levels and continuing to build out the district’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum.

And that’s the point. Thanks to the courageous steps of many, including those in state government, at Ball State, within the school district, and others, the focus at Muncie Community Schools is back to where it should be—on the students.

For those at Ball State, the risk of such an endeavor has been well worth the reward.

“It’s part of our DNA, and it continues to be—that concept of courage and innovation,” President Mearns said. “Anytime you’re doing something new, there’s always risk associated with that, and that’s what courage is.” 

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Jim Williams, a local attorney and president of the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) Board of Trustees, reads with local students as part of the "Drop Everything and Read" event in 2022. Mr. Williams has served as the MCS board president since the partnership between Ball State and the school corporation began in 2018.
It’s been wonderful to see the coming together of like-minded educators who truly care about students and their families ...
— Wilisha Scaife, MA ’14
Students at West View Elementary School in Muncie play under a parachute during the last day of the school year. Schools like West View have experienced stabilized enrollment and significant teacher retention since the start of the Ball State-Muncie Community Schools partnership in 2018. Photo by Bobby Ellis, ’13 Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15

In Honor of Ethan Whitehead

Students finish final project after classmate passes

In Honour of Him

at Ball State. Parents do not typically attend presentations, but the Whiteheads were invited by David Ferguson, dean of ECAP. The student trio presented Ethan’s project, which was well-received on its merits. Each of them did well on their individual projects also.

Nearly two years after the presentation, the Whiteheads remain grateful for what the students did.

“These students were under a lot of pressure to do their projects and Ethan’s,” Doug Whitehead said. “So doing this for us means even more.”

Julie Whitehead still gets a bit choked up when talking about it.

“It was obvious that Ethan made an impact on these students, and they cared about him to the point that, as future architects, they did this for Ethan and for his parents and family. They saw him. And it was just the most incredible gift!” Ms. Whitehead said. “I miss my baby so much. But it helps to know that he was with these people who did see him for who he was.”

Emma Wynn was among the handful of students present when their classmate, Ethan Whitehead, collapsed in their classroom at Ball State’s R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning (ECAP) on Nov. 11, 2021. Ethan, just 20 years old, never regained consciousness. He died as the result of an undiagnosed medical condition.

Understandably, his passing weighed heavily on Ms. Wynn. What happened to Ethan was difficult to process. And, it didn’t matter that she didn’t know him very well.

“In our Architecture program, we are a family,” Ms. Wynn explained. She knew she wanted to learn more about Ethan, and honor him. When Alec Meister, a fellow Architecture student, sought other students to help him finish and present Ethan’s semester final architecture project, Ms. Wynn volunteered without hesitation. So did Josh Hoff, who had an architecture studio class with Ethan.

“I wanted to do this for Ethan,” Mr. Hoff said. “Whenever he’d

come into class, he had this sense of joy; he’d fill everyone’s heart with that joy as well. He had persistence and a feeling of just wanting to be there every day.”

Mr. Meister, Ms. Wynn, and Mr. Hoff—all seniors this academic year—knew that completing Ethan’s project would be in addition to completing their own individual final projects with only six weeks left in the semester.

“It really hit me hard when I found out that Ethan passed away,” Mr. Meister said. “I knew, in my heart, I had to finish his project. It was very scary knowing that I had my own project to do and thinking, ‘How am I going to finish another one as well?’ I asked people in my class if they would help me. I just had faith.”

For the final project, each student had to conceptualize and design a new use for an old storefront space. Ethan—a creative, quirky, out-of-the-box thinker who valued environmental sustainability—envisioned a micro-distillery with some unique elements, including a “living wall” with live plants such as ivy. The student trio dove into Ethan’s notes and social media to learn more about Ethan and his vision for the project. Their research and work yielded a project titled, “He Flies.”

“In the end, we finished it for Ethan, doing it as we felt he would,” Mr. Meister explained. “We also added several elements to it, allowing the project to be a memorial to him as well.”

In December 2021, Ethan’s parents, Doug and Julie Whitehead, attended the final project’s juried presentations in the Architecture Building

He Flies

To help others and pay tribute to Ethan, Julie and Doug Whitehead established The Ball State University Foundation Fund in support of the “Ethan Whitehead Guest Lecture in Sustainability.” This fund was started in 2022 with a monetary donation from the Whiteheads.

Also, the Whiteheads contributed to an existing emergency fund for ECAP students in need, using Ethan’s earnings accumulated from working over two Summers. He was saving the money to help cover his college expenses.

The Whiteheads were not asked to donate to Ball State or ECAP. They were moved to do it, partially in response to the kindness and compassion shown to them by Ball State—its leadership, faculty, staff, and students—in their time of pain.

“Our son loved Ball State so much,” Julie Whitehead said. “Now, we know why.” 

An intelligent, creative, kind, and quirky person, Ethan struggled socially and emotionally throughout his school years—mainly because of his quirkiness, according to his mother, Julie Whitehead. Ethan sought a place, outside of his Middlebury, Ind., home, where he would fit in as he pursued his dream of becoming an architect. He found that at Ball State.

Learn more about Ethan Whitehead—and how the campus community embraced his family as they grieved—at

WE FLY / Fall 2023 31
(Left to right) Ball State Architecture students Josh Hoff, Emma Wynn, and Alec Meister finished and presented the semester final project of Architecture student Ethan Whitehead, who died on campus Nov. 11, 2021. Above are two renderings from the project, “He Flies.” Three Architecture students finished and presented this project in memory of and in tribute to their late classmate and aspiring architect, Ethan Whitehead.
30 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
Ethan Whitehead

Sports Link connects Ball State audiences with the athletics community, delivering exclusive content on far-reaching platforms to showcase the unique moments of Cardinals teams and characters.


After starting as a small project, Sports Link has developed into an industry leader

Chris Taylor, ’96 MA ’98, remembers canvassing the halls looking for students to join Sports Link, a new endeavor at Ball State University. Mr. Taylor had just returned to his alma mater from Nashville and was given a 10-month contract to get the program started.

Now, 15 years later, only a handful from the hundreds of applicants each year are selected to join this elite, award-winning program—which has roughly 60 students participating any given year. Housed within the College of Communication, Information, and Media’s Department of Media, Sports Link began in 2008 as an Immersive Learning pilot program in which students would

32 Ball State University Alumni Magazine WE FLY / Fall 2023 33
Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15

tell stories and produce video content as the modern industry was just beginning to take shape.

Today, with its impressive track record of helping graduates find meaningful sports production work at top-rated organizations— including ESPN, Turner Sports, FOX Sports, Tupelo Raycom Sports, Indy Car, NASCAR, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and NCAA athletics departments across the country—Sports Link is a built-to-last program.

“We started as an extracurricular club, and then we added the academic component behind it,” said Mr. Taylor, senior director of Sports Production. “Students were enrolled in a class and earning academic credit for it, and we started to see those numbers grow. We were pulling people out of the hallway to build this thing in the early years, and then about four or five years into it, we realized we could actually turn it into a major and into an academic track.”

At the beginning of Sports Link, the program received space in the lower level of the Ball Communications building—a small studio and an area to hold classes, plus the necessary equipment to produce Sports Link’s work.

The program got its first taste of success early after winning a student Emmy Award for a feature story on a men’s basketball player at Ball State. During the next decade, students began earning professional Emmys and college sports video group awards—something that has become a regular annual occurrence.

Since the program’s inception, students in Sports Link have earned more than 200 state, national, and international awards for sports production—including 43 Emmy and/or student production awards and 14 Sports Video Group and Best of College Sports Media awards.

The program has also garnered the respect of the nation’s most prominent outlets. Martin Khodabakhshian, a director and producer at ESPN since 2001, has seen firsthand how Sports Link’s students evolve in their time in the program.

“I think they’re elite,” Mr. Khodabakhshian said. “I wish I had a program like Sports Link when I was going to school and learning the craft. The students are ahead of the game in terms of video production and storytelling. They ask very smart questions. They want to take educated risks in their storytelling opportunities.

“They’re shooting videos, editing, and building graphics among many other responsibilities. Because of that, they’re very equipped to take on anything in the sports production and storytelling world.”

Through the years, the program has grown immensely after receiving expanded studio space and high-end equipment to stay ahead of industry trends. Sports Link took that support and ran with it, creating the nation’s first and only sports production academic track.

Central to the conceptualization and creation of Sports Link, Chris Taylor, ’96 MA ’98, has helped guide students to promising careers at top-rated organizations including ESPN, Turner Sports, and FOX Sports, as well as many professional leagues and NCAA athletics departments across the country.

Photo courtesy of Sports Link

What helped launch the program, according to Mr. Taylor, was having key supporters on campus, including former President Jo Ann M. Gora, and Dr. Joe Misiewicz, Emeritus Chair of the Department of Telecommunications. Support also came from coaches, studentathletes, and others in the Athletics Department, with whom Mr. Taylor had familiarity after having served as a communications director in the department in the years prior.

“We also had great support and access from Athletics to tell stories and produce events,” he said.

“There are schools who have sports broadcasting and there are schools who have sports journalism,” Mr. Taylor said. “We have elements of both of those—that’s part of who we are and what we do—but we’re the first and still the only four-year academic track (in the country) in the production aspect of sports.”

With the ever-changing field, students from the Sports Link program produce around 50 live events per year, including those that appear on ESPN digital and various Sports Link platforms. Opportunities to work on production crews for live events, as well as tell stories about various Ball State Athletics programs can happen right away when a student steps on campus.

“What think is courageous about the program currently is the way that it gives

students the opportunity from the moment they walk in the door to craft, write, and tell the stories,” said Dr. Paaige Turner, dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM).

Dr. Turner recalls an early memory about the program when she began serving as dean of CCIM.

“I was at a basketball game, and there is a first-semester, first-year student down there shooting pictures of the basketball team,” she said. “That takes a lot of courage to hand over equipment to a student and to hand over the story to the students. And even more importantly, it takes courage on the part of the student to step up and say they will cover and tell a story in their first week or first month.

“I believe the reason they have that courage is because our faculty and staff are going to be there every step of the way, so if the story doesn’t turn out the way they hoped that time, it will the next time. We are committed to them as learners,” Dr. Turner said.

As further evidence of Sports Link’s evolving reach and courageous nature, the program in 2019 successfully developed a unique partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales to create an immersive learning, global storytelling project called “Transatlantic Storytelling.” Through the partnership, students created a feature-length documentary in 2020. The 76-minute film received national and international airtime, including linear television in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the two programs agreed to a five-year understanding, which recognizes the

mutual benefits of an educational partnership and will lead to collaboration, opportunities, and faculty and student engagement.

While Sports Link has been ahead of its time and ambitious in its scope, it has a keen eye to the future.

“We’re going to be seeing students expand more into multi-platform production,” Dr. Turner said. “Originally, it would have been photos or the packages where they’re showcasing individual athletes. But now, what we’re seeing is layers of information through the use of media vehicles such as Twitter, Twitch, and Instagram, as well as the short-form documentary that tells the athlete’s story.

“The future is over-the-top programming or multi-channel storytelling. Our students learn to tell outstanding stories and to use all media channels.”

Mr. Taylor points out one key element that has been the backbone of the program as it looks to the future.

“We’re in such a society that is so instant and instant gratification. You’re scrolling, you’re sliding, or you’re flipping channels and the story gets lost,” Mr. Taylor explained. “But what we’re really seeing into this new era, is that storytelling has always been there. Long-form storytelling is growing in terms of documentaries and programming.

“That’s the thing that separates us truly from everyone else: we can go take a story on a Ball State student-athlete, and we can go layers and layers deep about a story to make this a memorable piece of content that serves multiple purposes.” 

"They’re shooting videos, editing, and building graphics among many other responsibilities. Because of that, they’re very equipped to take on anything in the sports production and storytelling world.”

— Martin Khodabakhshian, ESPN director and producer

Photos courtesy of Sports Link

34 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
WE FLY / Fall 2023 35


Faced with multiple life-altering—and potentially lifethreatening—chronic illnesses, Dan Minnick vowed to live to see his youngest child, Dawn, graduate from Ball State University.

That day arrived on May 6, 2023, as Mr. Minnick, an instructor of Nursing at Ball State and proud father of three, was in the audience with his family for Spring Commencement ceremonies.

Overcome with joy, Mr. Minnick watched as Dawn graduated from the College of Health’s School of Nursing— just as he did in 1995, and his son, Dustin, did in 2022. Mr. Minnick also participated with Dawn in the Nurse’s Pinning Ceremony the day before Commencement.

In those special moments, happy memories eclipsed the physical pain and his health challenges. He uses a feeding tube and has an implanted pump for administering painmanagement medication. He uses a cane, especially when his legs go numb. None of that overshadows Mr. Minnick’s spirit that won’t allow him to stop fighting for his life.

What fortifies his spirit? His family.

“My wife Sherry is my rock. My children—Dawn, Dustin, and Desiree—are my life. I push on for Sherry and the kids, even though my children are grown,” Mr. Minnick said. Her husband’s resilience is a source of pride for Sherry Minnick.

“I know there are days when he’s tired—and he’s always in pain, even with the medication,” she said. “I know there are days when he wants to give up. But he gets up and goes about his day. He keeps going.”

Fueled by his love for and from his family, Mr. Minnick’s fight is more than the human instinct to survive. It is this uncommon blend of courage, perseverance and hope he has deployed when he faced other major challenges.

Like when he was homeless during his first year at as a Ball State student, sleeping in his Volkswagen Rabbit with his dog after leaving the U.S. Air Force. For financial reasons, Mr. Minnick was ineligible for GI Bill benefits, he explained.

“At 24 years old, I was homeless for a reason. I couldn’t afford to go to school and have a place to live without overburdening myself with school and working full time,” Mr. Minnick added. “I showered on campus. I ate a lot of uncooked ramen noodles, and vegetables in cans. After a while, a professor at Ball State offered to let me keep my dog in his yard during the daytime.”

He excelled academically at Ball State and was awarded scholarships, making it easier for him to afford housing and tuition. He stayed on his career path and became a registered nurse.

Mr. Minnick said he “fell in love” with the world of healthcare—particularly the work of nurses—when he was a hospital patient for an extended period.

“I was probably 19 years old at this time. I woke up from surgery and I was crying,” he said. “I remember these two people laughing and making fun of me for crying. A nurse took my hand and patted it. That’s when I knew that I wanted to be that person who grabs someone’s hand and comforts them. I wanted to be a nurse.”

His healthcare career spans nearly 30 years, including 19 years as an intensive care unit nurse at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital before moving into healthcare education.

Mr. Minnick became a clinical lecturer of Nursing at Ball State in 2019 after teaching elsewhere and getting his master’s degree.

“I figured I could touch the lives of far more patients by teaching 60 nursing students a semester than I could ever do by working as a nurse,” he explained.

As he has navigated his health challenges, Mr. Minnick said his colleagues and others within the College of Health— especially in the School of Nursing—have supported him in many ways.

“They’ve been there for me with words of encouragement. They’ve modified my (work) schedule and adapted so I can succeed professionally and continue making a living,” he said.

In addition to what he offers as an instructor, Dan Minnick’s value to the School of Nursing includes the life lessons he teaches by example, said Dr. Linda Siktberg, professor and director of Ball State’s School of Nursing.

“Amidst Dan’s challenges, he maintains perseverance and resilience,” Dr. Siktberg said. “Dan is an example and inspiration for nursing students and faculty to maintain persistence and focus on their goals when they experience challenges.”

That perseverance and resilience didn’t end when Mr. Minnick achieved his goal of attending his daughter’s graduation.

“I’ve had struggles before and I just keep going,” Mr. Minnick said. “I've never given up in my life. I'm going to fight until the very end. I have many blessings—especially my wife, my kids, and my work. And every day that sun comes up, well, that’s a blessing for everyone.” 

36 Ball State University Alumni Magazine WE FLY / Fall 2023 37
Dan Minnick and his family pose for a photo after his daughter, Dawn Minnick, graduated from Ball State in May 2023. (Left to right): Dan’s wife, Sherry; Dawn; Dan’s son, Dustin; and Dan Minnick. Photos courtesy of Dan Minnick For any updates Dan Minnick or his family want to share with our Alumni readers, visit
Ailing nursing instructor succeeds in goal to see his daughter graduate from College of Health, vows to continue his fight for life

Our Call to Beneficence, and Yours

Ball State was born from the generosity of the Ball family. They would be honored to know so many people are following in their footsteps and investing in the University’s future. Our mission reflects our history, and we owe our existence to the beneficence of our donors.

Thank you to alumni, friends, and fans who made more than 39,000 gifts totaling more than $58 million to Ball State University last academic year. Our student body and employees do not take your investment in them for granted. In fact, they’ve invested themselves—nearly 1,600 students, faculty, and staff of the University gave to Ball State this past fiscal year.

As any Cardinal knows, beneficence, which we define as doing good for others, symbolizes our enduring values. It lives in the hearts of each student, faculty, graduate, friend, and employee of the University, touching all corners of the world.

Our past is rooted in the beneficence of the Ball family; our collective philanthropy determines our future success.

This is our call to beneficence and yours.


Our Call to Beneficence: The Campaign for Ball State University is the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the history of our University. Reflect on the transformative impact that our University has had on you and your life. And reflect on the impact that your generous gift can have on the lives of our students and the people in the communities that we serve—an impact that will endure for many generations to come.

ENSURE Student Opportunity & Success

Student opportunity is about making college accessible and affordable to all students based on their potential—not on their ability to pay. Student success is about investing in people and programs that support our students, so that they can graduate in four years. And student success and opportunity are about minimizing the amount of money that our students need to borrow, so that they are able to pursue fulfilling careers and to lead meaningful lives.

Like many of you, many of our students are the first in their families to attend college. They arrive on our campus with a sense of purpose— not a sense of entitlement. Please help us enable our students to fulfill their purpose.

ENRICH the Academic Experience

For more than 100 years, our University has embraced academic innovation. On our campus and in our communities, our students have abundant innovative learning opportunities—undergraduate research, project-based courses, internships and externships, and immersive learning in the community. These opportunities are provided by our talented faculty and staff, because these opportunities enrich the academic experience of our students by enabling them to apply what they learn in our classrooms and labs to the challenges they will face when they graduate.

At our University, we provide our students with a premier educational experience. That’s why young women and men choose Ball State. And that’s why employers hire our graduates.

EXPAND our Campus & Community Impact

Our beautiful campus ensures that our students learn and live in modern, well-equipped facilities. Your philanthropic support will enable us to continue to enhance our campus and maintain these facilities for the benefit of our students.

Our University also has a transformative impact on the people who live and work in the communities that we serve.

With your financial support, we can ensure that all students have the opportunity to take advantage of these enriching educational experiences.

Many of these facilities also enable us to provide cultural opportunities and entertaining programs to our friends and neighbors. We enthusiastically embrace this aspect of our mission, because we embody the enduring values of Beneficence. We are grateful for the generous support of our founders and our benefactors, so we are committed to demonstrate our gratitude by inviting the members of the community to enjoy the cultural amenities and entertaining programs that we offer. Please help us to serve our friends and neighbors.

38 Ball State University Alumni Magazine CLASS NOTES

A New Way to Elevate Your Career

Ball State has entered a partnership to offer two STEM-focused master’s degrees—in Data Science and Computer Science—with Coursera, one of the world’s largest online learning providers.

You’ve already experienced the quality of a Ball State education, and these degrees are no different.

Ball State professors completely designed the curriculum and course work.

You can take courses in data science and computer science before deciding which degree to pursue.

Earn a Ball State degree and receive a Ball State diploma.

The all-online degrees are designed for learners who may or may not have educational backgrounds in these fields.


A Legend Returns

David Letterman, ’69, returned to campus in May to speak with an audience at Emens Auditorium and to debut the studentproduced documentary “Clear Reception with David Letterman.”

Ball State’s partnership with Coursera increases course section availability, expands our course offerings’ flexibility— and provides additional benefits for you:

Pay in-state tuition, no matter your state of residence.

No data science or computer science background required for program admittance.

No application fees. Program admittance is performance-based. To be fully admitted into either program, you’ll register and complete three pathway courses. If you earn a 3.0 GPA or better in these courses, you’re in!

Photo by Jordan Kartholl, ’10

The film resulted from a collaboration of students in the Department of Media, Center for Emerging Media Design & Development, and Schools of Art and Music. The film chronicled Mr. Letterman’s new-found fascination with glass art at Ball State’s Glick Center for Glass and the making of a unique art piece inspired by his everyday life. Mr. Letterman was joined on stage by recent graduates Faith Denig (producer), and Ameliah Kolp (writer/director), and Academy Award-winning director Morgan Neville.


Sharon A. Robinson ’70 BS ’72, Carmel, Ind., celebrated 40 years of dedicated service with F.C. Tucker Real Estate Company. Ms. Robinson is also a relocation expert and an American Red Cross Disaster response volunteer.

Mary E. (Munchel) Posner, ’71, Tell City, Ind., was part of a multi-part PBS documentary, “The Movement and the Madman,” which chronicles the efforts of protesters to keep nuclear weapons out of Vietnam. Dr. Posner organized Ball State’s chapter of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee and was a key figure in the student anti-war movement in Muncie, Ind. Dr. Posner was also interviewed by fellow alum Brad Byrd, ’74, on the news program “InDepth” on WEHT, Channel 25 of Evansville.

For more than 30 years, a group of brothers of Phi Sigma Epsilon (now Phi Sigma Kappa) has gathered annually at the last home basketball game of the season. The group, including Joe Huber, ’73, John Dietrich, ’73, Dave Shanks, ’73, Steve Redden, ’73, Rob Reeve, ’74, Brad Coates, ’74, Steve Dyer, ’74, Phil DeRolf, ’74, Greg Dyer ’77, Bill Lackey, ’79, Eric Calstedt ’92, and up to about 15 others, have lunch and share stories at the Pizza King on Bethel Avenue, visit the Village and shop for Ball State gear, and end the trip with breakfast at the Sunshine Café the next day before departing. The important tradition is one they hope to continue.


William (Mike) Sherman, MS ’80, Youngstown, Ohio, former faculty member and vice provost at Ohio State University and former provost at the University of Akron, has been named special assistant to the president at Youngstown State University and will oversee the new Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning.

Scan Ball State University BallState ballstateuniversity ballstate officialballstate ballstateuniversity

WE FLY / Fall 2023 41 CLASS NOTES
Marlene Carey, ’77, Anderson, Ind., former human resources director at Community Hospital of Anderson, launched her public relations firm, Carey Forward Communications, LLC. Master’s in Data Science Master’s in Computer Science
Sample the pathway courses for up to one week after the semester begins. You have until the end of that week to withdraw and receive a full refund. the QR codes to learn more


Steven K. Alspaugh, ’82, Indianapolis, was elevated to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows. AIA Fellows achieve this membership honor for their work and contributions on a national level to the profession of architecture and society. Only three percent of AIA’s total membership carries this distinction.

Kevin A. Lansberry, ’86, Orlando, Fla., assumed the role of interim chief financial officer of the Walt Disney Company. Mr. Lansberry had been the CFO of Disney Parks.

Craig D. Farnsworth, ’86, Muncie, was named to The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Council Fellows. Mr. Farnsworth is the Roan Distinguished Professor of Practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture.

Eric R. Jackson, ’88, Florence, Ky., professor of History and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, and former director of the Black Studies program at Northern Kentucky University, published “An Introduction to Black Studies.” The book’s seventeen chapters address the eight primary disciplines of Black Studies: history, sociology, psychology, feminism, religion, education, political science, and the arts.


Kevin D. Shelley, ’90, Brownsburg, Ind., was promoted to chief operations officer of Schmidt Associates, an architecture, engineering, and interior design firm in Indianapolis. Mr. Kelley joined the firm in 1990. Some of his notable projects include the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, the Indianapolis Marion County Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse, and the Indiana Farm Bureau Fall Creek Pavilion.

James (Jere) Robinson ’92, Indianapolis, joined Choice Hotels International as regional vice president, upscale hotel development. Mr. Robinson is the Midwest regional leader for the U.S.-based Cambria Hotels development team.

Ball State graduate Tina (Prather) McIntosh, BS ’94 MA ’95, was having fun and making a good living as an event planner for several years after graduating. But after experiencing some personal tragedies, her life’s passion for caring for older adults—which she originally discovered while attending Ball State—resurfaced.

Ms. McIntosh quit her event planning job and started Joy’s House—a nonprofit organization in Indianapolis that offers daytime care to adults with life-altering diagnoses, plus services for caregivers.

Tina McIntosh shared many of her life lessons in her recent book, “Embrace the Imbalance.” (

Twenty-four years later, Joy’s House is still operating—now, with two locations in Indianapolis. Ms. McIntosh remains the president and CEO of the organization. But with this fulfilling career came some major ups and downs.

“We’ve seen a lot. Recessions. Growth. Having to restructure. We’ve made it through a worldwide pandemic,” Ms. McIntosh said. “During my time at Joy’s House, I’ve birthed three children, and my husband and I lost three babies. I’ve had cancer twice. My husband has had cancer twice. I’ve had more surgeries and treatments than I care to tally up. And somehow— to me, it was due truly to the grace of God—we continued to do the work at Joy’s House and provide these services that are so desperately needed.”

Ms. McIntosh, who is a Women of Beneficence member, has been honored for her work through Joy’s House. She was named the 2023 Indiana honoree of USA TODAY ’s “Women of the Year,” which recognizes women who have made significant impacts in their communities and nationwide.

She also made an impact while attending Ball State by engaging in volunteer activities, including work at an adult day service provider in Muncie.

“There was something about working with all of the older adults that just stuck in my spirit,” she said. “Throughout the years, I carried with me those moments I spent with them. My personal tragedies happened, and then it became clear to me in my mind. I saw what Joy’s House was supposed to become, and I realized I should be doing that. So, I did it.”

55+ Years of Dedication

Dr. Thomas Harris, ’67 MA ’68, associate professor of Information Systems and Operations Management, has had a front-row seat to the evolution of computers and technology, starting in the Office of Research as instructor of computer techniques and research computing consultant in 1968.

“This phone in my pocket has more power than all the computers in Indiana combined had when started,” Dr. Harris said with a laugh.

Entering his 56th academic year this Fall, Dr. Harris holds the record for the longest period of continuous service to the University—and he’s not ready to retire just yet.

“My passion is teaching, and I am not tired of it yet,” he said. “If I can get students to think critically and creatively, I have done my job. And I don’t want to do anything else.”

With more than 25 years of legal and human resources expertise behind her, Lori K. Stanger, ’93, Winona Lake, Ind., became vice president of people & culture at Wildman. Wildman is a familyowned company that provides uniforms, linens, PPE, and other safety products to the Midwest region.

Jenna Hyatt, MA ’94, Pullman, Wash., was named associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and dean of students at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. Dr. Hyatt received her master’s in College Student Counseling and Personnel Services.

Chris Ruszkowski ’94, Denver, was promoted to chief marketing officer of Bad Ass Coffee of Hawaii. Mr. Ruszkowski has over 25 years of marketing experience and hopes to lead Bad Ass Coffee in its franchise development and sales growth. He has been with the company since 2020.

Jeffery M. Sears, ’95, Cicero, Ind., was elevated to vice president of Enterprise Sales at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group.) Mr. Sears has been with the company for three years, most recently as regional sale director.

Kiesha M. Warren-Gordon, ’95, Fishers, Ind., a longtime professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Ball State, was the recipient of the 2023 Gerald Bepko Community Engagement Grant Award. This award, given by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, honors a faculty member at an Indiana institution who embodies the concept of community engagement.

Michael J. Rains, ’96, Indianapolis, was named chief financial officer at Cambia Health Solutions in Indianapolis. Most recently, Mr. Rains was vice president of strategic finance for Elevance, where he was responsible for all strategic finance covering three million Medicare and 12 million Medicaid members.


Byron A. Hughes, MA ’02, Knoxville, Tenn., was appointed associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs and dean of students at the University of Tennessee (UT). Dr. Hughes joins UT from Virginia Tech, where he served as dean of students for five years.

Allison D. Otu, ’03, Phoenix, was named associate vice president of outreach with Educational Outreach and Student Services at Arizona State University. Ms. Otu is also the Greater Phoenix Economic Council Health Innovation Committee co-chair. She is a board member of the Arizona School for the Arts, the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, and the Downtown Phoenix Partnership. In 2019, she was appointed by Mayor Kate Gallego to the Phoenix Women’s Commission and serves as Chair.

Having served Auburn University as director of Health Promotion and Wellness Services since 2010, Eric C. Smith, MA ’04, Auburn, Ala., was appointed the new executive director of Campus Recreation and Wellness Center and Sportsplex after a national search.

Joshua W. Shenk, MBA ’06, Cincinnati, was hired by Midmark Corp. of Versailles, Ohio, as vice president of Research and Development. Mr. Shenk will oversee research and development in outpatient care, concentrating on products and solutions that enhance patient outcomes.

Jennifer A. Terry, ’06, London, England, was elevated to director of international emerging talent recruiting for Meta (formerly Facebook). Ms. Terry has been with the company since 2017.

Ashlie D. White, ’06, Chicago, was promoted to senior vice president; brand, multicultural at Edelman, a communications firm with more than 60 offices globally.

Tricia L. Chamberlain, ’07, Portland, Ore., was elevated to senior creative director, global brand director of Nike Women. Ms. Chamberlain has been with Nike since 2014.

WE FLY / Fall 2023 43 CLASS NOTES 42 Ball State University Alumni Magazine
Photo by Samantha Blankenship, ’15

“Ball State was the beginning of my American dream that eventually came true. Making a planned gift was a way for me to say, ‘thank you’ and help make Ball State better. Ball State and the campus life helped me develop an understanding of American people and norms of American society, prepared me with basic ‘skills’ to survive in the U.S., and helped me understand ‘What’s American,” besides all the academic trainings. Obviously, these were extremely beneficial to me, as I am a happy retiree after 31 years of (my) successful professional life.”

You Can POSITIVELY IMPACT THE LIVES of Ball State University Students

After 13 seasons working with the Tri-City ValleyCats minor league baseball team in Troy, N.Y., Michelle R. Skinner (right), ’07, Fayetteville, N.C., made a move to work with the Fayetteville Woodpeckers as their general manager—one of only two women in the Carolina League, and one of only nine women in minor league baseball. In her travels, she’s met Kara E. Beitler (left), ’21 MS ’22, minor league dietitian apprentice, and Zachary Cole (center), former Ball State outfielder who’s played for the Houston Astros and the Fayetteville Woodpeckers and been named Player of the Week twice. The trio bonded over their love of baseball and Ball State.

Torey W. Fox, ’15 MA ’17, Cornelius, N.C., received his second promotion in his six-year tenure with NASCAR. He is now senior manager, social media content with the organization, managing day-to-day operations of the league’s social media handles on X, Facebook, Instagram, and others.

Lincoln M. Clauss, ’17, Brooklyn, N.Y., will star in the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaret with performances running through Oct. 8, 2023, at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Mr. Clauss has appeared in Burn All Night, Peter Pan, Sweeney Todd, and Rent. His television credits include “Batwoman” and “Girls5eva,” a Netflix musical also starring Busy Phillips, Tina Fey, Amy Sedaris, and Jimmy Fallon, among others.

Megan A. York, ’18, New York City, joined Nike as an associate AIA – 3D Footwear Designer. Ms. York has worked with several prominent architecture firms since earning her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Ball State. Previously, she was also a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitman School of Design.

Jordan A. Edouard, ’19, Coral Springs, Fla., was announced as the new coach for the girls soccer team at Coral Springs Charter School. Ms. Edouard played for Ball State’s soccer team and earned her degree in Exercise Science.


Having worked in several entertainment industry positions, Joseph R. Jansen ’11, Orlando, Fla., accepted a position as senior manager, attraction operations at Universal Orlando Resorts. In this role, Mr. Jansen manages overall rider and show operations and is responsible for overseeing guest service standards, facility upkeep, budgets, hiring and training of staff, safety, and many other components of the day-to-day operations of the parks.


Ryan M. Kennedy, ’21, Oklahoma City, was hired by Goodwill North Central Texas as its director of e-commerce sales. This role carries responsibilities that involve driving success and growth in Goodwill’s e-commerce department, including implementing sales strategies, overseeing budgets, and managing staff.

J. Richard “Dick” Emens, LLD ’22, Columbus, Ohio, son of former Ball State President John R. Emens and longtime supporter of Ball State, passed away in June at 89. Dick Emens served in several roles at the University, including board chair and chair of the Finance Committee of the Ball State University Foundation Board of Trustees. He also served as board chair and scholarship chair for the Ball State Bold capital campaign. After his father passed away in 1976, Mr. Emens established the Emens Leadership program in his father’s memory and was deeply committed to the success of Emens Scholars. Over 40 Emens scholarships now benefit exceptional high school students on their paths to Ball State. Ball State awarded Mr. Emens an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2022. Mr. Emens will be remembered for his dedication to students and generosity to the University.

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The spirit of Beneficence, “Benny,” is calling you back for an exciting week of fun and tradition. It’s the perfect time to return to campus, reminisce, reconnect with classmates, and celebrate Ball State.

2000 W. University Ave. Muncie, IN 47306 ELECTRONIC SERVICE REQUESTED The information presented here, correct at the time of publication, is subject to change. Ball State University practices equal opportunity in education and employment and is strongly and actively committed to diversity within its community.
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