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A 60 year look at the history of the Ball State Foundation

1950s: Great Beginnings

On October 26, 1951, the articles of incorporation and bylaws were filed with the Secretary of State and officially established the Ball State University Foundation. The first board of directors meeting soon followed in the office of Ralph J. Whitinger, BS ’29, LLD ’68, a local accountant and board member.

  • Board member C. Cree Gable makes first donation of $1,000. After one year, assets grow to $4,634, primarily through board members' donations. Ledgers close in 1959 with $215,000 in assets.
  • Foundation authorizes awards of 10 renewable scholarships of $100 each in 1952.
  • Following the untimely death of board president Joseph T. Meredith, Ralph J. Whitinger becomes the new leader in 1953 and goes on to serve for 30 years.
  • First fund drive raises $3,075 for L.A. Pittenger Student Center furnishings.
  • In 1956, foundation accepts half interest in E. Fay Kitselman home to be used as a campus conference center. The other half is received in 1959. The location is now the home of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

1960s: Growth and Expansion

Ball State saw new growth when it changed from a teachers college into a broad-based university under President John R. Emens. Fundraising efforts are directed toward the John R. Emens College-Community Auditorium and brought in more than $1.5 million.

  •  In 1961, foundation authorizes the purchase of Ballinger farm, a property adjacent to campus for resale to the university, to be used for future growth.
  • Board Chairman Ralph Whitinger donates $100,000 in 1967 and challenges fellow alumni to give, matching each gift that year up to $100,000.  
  • Assets increase over 600 percent, with funds totaling $237,121 in 1961, expanding to $1.6 million by 1970.                   

1970s: Continued Growth and Maturity

The foundation passes the million-dollar-mark in assets and funds grow rapidly to $6,587,292 in 1979. New avenues of investment and fundraising are explored.

  •  Foundation receives the L.L. Ball Home, E. B. Ball residence, and “Lincoln House” from the Ball Brothers Foundation in 1974.
  •  Planned giving program established in 1976, promoting future gifts in wills, trusts, real estate, life insurance designations, and other assets.
  • Whitinger Scholarship Program, created in 1976, grants awards based on academic ability, character, creativity, and leadership potential.
  • As assets grow, new avenues of investment and fundraising activities are explored, strengthening the foundation’s partnership with the university, community, and alumni.

1980s: Transition and Expanded Horizons:

Between 1980 and 1989, assets grow sixfold, from $6.7 million to $41.2 million. More than half of that is provided for university support. The foundation staff also expands during this period.

  • Staff expands: Donald L. Mays, BS ’62, MA ’65, EdD ’69, named first executive director in 1980, followed by Laura Hansen Dean, BA ’72, who served from 1987-1990, and previously as planned giving director beginning in 1981. Alice Prettyman appointed director of planned giving in 1987, serving for more than 20 years.
  • Ralph Whitinger steps down in 1982 and prominent Muncie business executive Phyllis C. Shafer, BS ’47, elected first female board chair, serving for more than 15 years.
  • Foundation becomes an estate planning resource for Indiana professional advisors by forming the Philanthropy Advisory Council in 1982. 
  • Five-year Wings for the Future campaign kicks off in 1987, ultimately raising $44.7 million.

1990s: Expectations Continue

The foundation experienced a period of great transformation during the 1990s, largely a result of the task forces implemented by the foundation board of directors. During this period the foundation modified its investment policy, strengthened its financial organization, broadened board membership, and established a scenario for long-range planning.

  • David W. Bahlmann, JD, named executive director, 1990 to 2013.
  • Amended bylaws state that each board chairperson serve only two years.
  • Garfield creator and Ball State alumnus Jim Davis, BS ’67, chairs the Alumni Center Campaign, raising $7.5 million. Opening in 1998, the building houses the offices of the university advancement team, including the foundation, and is the hub for hundreds of events each year.
  • Beneficence Society established in 1995, honoring donors who make a planned gift of any amount for the benefit of Ball State. 
  • The family of charter foundation board member, Alexander Bracken, donates the family home for use as the president residence – Bracken House.  
  • By 1999, total assets grow to more than $103 million, investment earnings exceed $45 million, and over $88 million is designated in university support.

2000 to present: Providing Maximum Sustainable Support

Economic turmoil during this decade made a significant impact on returns for the foundation. However, the foundation was still able to continue providing significant support to Ball State. Even in a turbulent economy the foundation managed to achieve the third highest investment returns in its history: +20.6 percent, behind only fiscal years 1985 and 1997.

  • Financial resources provided for high profile construction projects including Student Recreation and Wellness Center, Football Training Facility, Shafer Tower, and women’s sports facilities.
  • Above and Beyond Campaign concludes in 2002, raising more than $113 million.
  • Foundation allocates $500,000 to the Student Managed Investment Fund. Since 2005, 125 business students have participated in building the portfolio to an average return of 2.3 percent.
  • Foundation named “Small Non-Profit of the Year” in 2007 by the editorial staff of Alternative Investment News and Foundation and Endowment Money Management.
  • First long-term strategic plan (2007-2012) is created, paralleling the university’s strategic plan and setting goals to guide future decisions and policy making procedures.
  • Staff member Thomas B. Heck, MS ’83, appointed to the new position of chief investment officer in a distinctive role facilitating the working partnership between the foundation and third-party investment firm, Perella Weinberg Partners.
  • Ball State Bold: Investing in the Future concludes in 2011, raising more than $210.8 million.
  • Foundation celebrates 60th anniversary with totals of more than $199 million in assets, $292 million in university support, and $90 million in planned gift expectancies.
  • Cherì E. O'Neill named foundation president and CEO, January 1, 2013.