When the Ball State football team took the field at Rogers Center in Toronto for the 2008 International Bowl—their first bowl appearance in more than 10 years—more than 30,000 fans cheered them on. Alumnus and former Ball State football player Gene Booker was just as enthusiastic as he watched the game from home.
“As a graduate of Ball State and an avid football fan, my life is still affected by the team’s performance,” Booker says. “I still feel that emotional involvement with the university.”
But Booker is more than a fan. He’s doing his part to increase the team’s odds to play in future bowl games through an endowed fund from his estate that will support the ever-changing needs of the program.
“After 35 years of experience as a professor, administrator, businessman, and politician, I know that the public formulates an opinion about the university based on the athletic program and its teams’ successes,” says Booker. “If the football team is successful, the university will be viewed in a more positive light.”
Booker, a 1952 graduate, spent most of his career as a professor at Western Michigan University and even received a Teaching Excellence Award. The last 15 years of his teaching career, he dedicated himself to various positions, including a fundraiser for the Republican Party, the director of Michigan National Bank, a real estate developer, and chairman of the investment committee of the State of Michigan.
Even with so many accomplishments, Booker has often thought of his college days and his positive experiences as a Cardinal football player.
As a member of the 1949 team coached by the great John Magnabosco, Booker was accustomed to exceptionally different playing conditions than the team enjoys today. For instance, the Cardinals’ home field, Scheumann Stadium, was renovated in 2007 with many enhancements: a new FieldTurf playing surface, a larger and improved communications center, and state-of-the-art accessible seating.
Created through a bequest in his will, the Dr. and Mrs. Gene S. Booker Fund will be allocated to the greatest needs of the football program.
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