By: Marc Ransford—
Muncie, IN–A century after their ancestors helped create what today is Ball State University, members of the Ball family from across the nation came to campus to celebrate the past 100 years.
Dozens of descendants of the original five Ball brothers gathered Thursday, Oct. 18, for the Ball Family Centennial Celebration in the Fine Arts Building (home of the David Owsley Museum of Art) to observe the milestone.
Ball State President Geoffrey S. Mearns said the remarkable relationship between the family and the University is as solid today as it was 100 years ago when the Ball brothers purchased the land and buildings of a defunct institution and donated them to the State of Indiana.
This gift became the Indiana State Normal School Eastern Division, which opened in 1918 to meet Indiana’s need for more and better teachers.
“We share our deep and abiding gratitude for the women and men who founded this institution — and for the family whose vision and sustained generosity continue to transform the lives of our faculty, staff, and students,” President Mearns said. “On behalf of the entire University community, to you — the members of the Ball family who have joined us this evening — thank you very much.
“That relationship is special. That relationship is unique. And that relationship is why I am so very honored to lead this institution at such a pivotal time in our history.”
As part of the evening, members of the Ball family along with University leaders and supporters of Ball State, looked back at the past century by viewing the opening few minutes of the student-produced Centennial documentary, “From Normal to Extraordinary: Ball State’s First Century, ” and a new Beneficence video.
The celebration also featured brief remarks given by Ball family members: Jud Fisher, chief operating officer of the Ball Brothers Foundation, and Tom Bracken, the secretary of Ball State’s Board of Trustees and vice chair of the board of the George and Frances Ball Foundation.
President Mearns said the theme of the Centennial, “Proud Past and Bright Future,” exemplifies the pride in the University’s founders’ contributions and courage.
“You can see that pride in our Centennial signage across campus — signage that features historic imagery, including several iconic photos of the Ball brothers,” President Mearns said. “And you can hear that pride in the voices of the people who participated in the making of our student-produced Centennial documentary.”
About 40 telecommunications and digital storytelling students came together to work on the documentary covering Ball State’s history. Music media production students produced the film’s musical score.
“Along with their faculty advisor, Chris Flook, these students invested thousands of hours of hard work into the project,” President Mearns said. “The film they’ve created exemplifies the value and the importance of the innovative educational experiences that we provide at Ball State.”
President Mearns closed the evening by pointing out that Muncie is facing many of the same challenges that are afflicting many other communities in the Midwest and across the country.
“But I firmly believe that this city will thrive again,” he said. “We have the capacity to do so, and that capacity is rooted in the strength of the partnership between our University and the community. This partnership would not be as impactful without the philanthropic support, guidance, and longstanding commitment of the Ball family.”