Trustee Hollis Hughes Jr. named a Sagamore of the Wabash

Topic: Board of Trustees

December 22, 2016

Hollis Hughes
Ball State University Trustee Hollis E. Hughes Jr. was named a Sagamore of the Wabash, a high honor conferred by Gov. Mike Pence.

Ball State University trustees on Dec. 16 celebrated an honor for one of their own, as member Hollis E. Hughes Jr. was named a Sagamore of the Wabash.

Hughes, who is retiring from the Board of Trustees after 27 years of service, was surprised at the news as he received the award conferred by Gov. Mike Pence.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve,” Hughes said, adding that his only regret was that his wife, Lavera, who very recently passed away, wasn’t able to share the honor with him.

During his time on the board, Hughes served as president (2011-14) and as secretary (2006-11) and was instrumental in helping to shape the growth and expansion of the university’s campus, especially during the Ball State Bold and Cardinal Commitment capital campaigns.

Together, Hollis and Lavera Hughes were generous not only in the time they devoted to the university, but they worked to preserve opportunities for new generations of Cardinals through their membership in the Fellows Society (Silver level).

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this special award,” said Board Chair Rick Hall. “Hollis has lived his life in service to others, and there could be no better embodiment of the spirit of the Sagamore. I’m honored to call him colleague, friend and fellow alumnus.”

In 1989, Hughes received the Outstanding Black Alumni Award from the Black Alumni Constituent Society and the Benny Award from the Ball State University Alumni Association.

Hughes’ commitment to his community extends well beyond Ball State. He is the former president and chief executive officer of the United Way of St. Joseph County, and is a past director of South Bend’s Model Cities Program, responsible for planning, coordinating and allocating the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s resources to local government agencies, organizations and citizen groups.

He also served as director of South Bend’s bureau of housing, director of the St. Joseph County Housing Allowance Office, director of the Housing Assistance Office Inc. and executive director of the St. Joseph County Housing Authority.

Hughes served as the chairperson for the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and helped lead a discovery discussion on Civil Rights Issues Facing Muslims and Arab Americans in Indiana, post-Sept. 11. 2001. Additionally, Hughes appears in The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories, a collection of oral histories catalogued by the IU South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center.

When Hughes retired from the United Way of St. Joseph County, then South Bend Mayor Stephen J. Luecke told a local newspaper that Hughes taught those around him, “Doing good is good, but we need to be accountable and have measurable outcomes.” That idea to ensure progress was a shift in mindset, Luecke said.

Hughes began advocating for the work done by and through the Indiana Donor Network after receiving a liver transplant that allowed him to maintain a full and active life.

“In talking to other (organ) recipients, I’ve observed they do more than just continue on with their lives; they try and give back by getting involved and making a differing in their community,” Hughes said at the time. “That was such a big part of my life before my transplant, and I hope I’ll be able to continue giving back.”

Hughes grew up in the South Bend area and began his career as a teacher in the local school district, where he later also served on the board.

The Sagamore of the Wabash originated during the term of Gov. Ralph Gates (1945-49) and is a personal tribute to men and women who have rendered a distinguished service to the state or to the governor. Though there is no known record of the number of individuals who have received the award, one past recipient includes fellow Ball State alumnus David Letterman, who was named a Sagamore of the Wabash in 2007 by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels.

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