March 19, 2014
The Ball State University Board of Trustees on Wednesday voted to award an honorary doctor of laws degree to U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), the university’s May Commencement speaker, and an honorary doctor of humane letters to Indianapolis philanthropist, businessman and attorney Thomas Lofton.
An Indiana native, Messer is a summa cum laude graduate of Wabash College, where he joined the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School. He has served as executive director of the Indiana Republican Party and, while in the Indiana House, represented the 57th District. Messer is an accomplished education reformer, authoring nationally recognized high school dropout reform legislation in the Indiana Statehouse and serving in the private sector as president and chief executive officer of Hoosiers for Economic Growth Network and School Choice Indiana.
In 2012, Messer was elected to Congress, representing Indiana’s 6th District, which includes Muncie and Ball State. He was elected president of the congressional freshman class and serves on the House committees on budget, foreign affairs, and education and the workforce.
Lofton is chairman of the board of directors for the Lilly Endowment. He began his career as a law clerk in the U.S. Supreme Court and later was a first lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Army. He became a partner in the Indianapolis law firm of Baker & Daniels, where he specialized in helping charitable organizations such as the Lilly Endowment and Conner Prairie. He retired as managing partner at Baker & Daniels to lead the Lilly Endowment, guiding the policies and programs of one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the world. As chairman, he led a decade-long effort that resulted in the creation of community foundations in every Indiana county.
Also Wednesday, the board approved a new master of science degree in emerging media design and development. The new program will provide students with the applied and theoretical skills needed for work with emerging media in teams and establish a foundation for additional soft skills that employers want. The goal of the degree is to prepare students for high-growth needs in the arts, entertainment and recreation; educational services; information; and professional, scientific and technical services. The new degree is, in part, the result of a study that revealed high-growth needs in Indiana and surrounding states.
In other business, trustees approved two items related to the university’s retirement plans, including the Alternate Pension Plan and the university’s two voluntary plans – the Tax Deferred Annuity 403(b) and 457(b) plans. Both items restate and amend the current plans and are intended to make the plans easier to understand by incorporating prior amendments and clarifying definitions. Also, they incorporate several other changes that ease the administrative burden of the plans. The board also approved a new supplemental 401(a) plan that offers the university and certain employees more flexibility in retirement planning.