"Our Call to Beneficence" is a podcast hosted by Geoffrey S. Mearns, the president of Ball State University. The podcast features conversations with Ball State graduates and friends who embody the spirit of Beneficence through their professional success and their personal service.

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Current Season

S3E4: ‘Pay It Forward And Pass It On” (Betsy Ross, Author, Entrepreneur, Emmy-Winning Sports Reporter, and Former ESPN Anchor)

Betsy graduated from Ball State in 1972 with a degree in journalism. After working in print and television media in South Bend, Indiana, she became a television news anchor and reporter for the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati.

In this episode, Betsy shares how her coverage of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta caught the eye of producers at ESPN. She also shares more about the business she later founded, Game Day Communications, and why she was inspired to write a book honoring the accomplishments of female athletes who made possible the opportunities that women in sports have today.

S3E3: ‘Education is the Great Elevator for Everybody” (Jim Champy, Best-Selling Author, Philanthropist, Business Consultant)

Jim Champy is a leading expert on management issues involving business engineering, a topic for which he wrote a New York Times best-selling book that has sold more than two million copies.

In addition to being the co-author of Reengineering the Corporation, Jim was most recently chairman emeritus of consulting for Dell Services. Before that, he was chairman of consulting and head of strategy for Perot Systems.

In this episode, Jim shares how his college education prepared him to launch his first business, Index, a consulting practice he founded with a few hundred dollars with his classmates from MIT. Today, Jim continues to consult with business executives of major companies seeking to improve business performance. He also gives back as a philanthropist and as a mentor, including to Ball State students.

S3E2: ‘I See Great Progress’ | (Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, CEO for Muncie Community Schools)

Dr. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski—or Dr. K as she is affectionately known in the community—serves as the director of public education and CEO for Muncie Community Schools (MCS).

In this episode, Dr. K talks about what inspired her to lead MCS in this distinctive administrative role. She also reveals more about her background and career, for which she has spent 35 years working in public education in Indiana.

S3E1: 'Protecting the Rights of the Disabled' (Greg Fehribach, Attorney, Advocate and Ball State Graduate)

Greg Fehribach is an attorney and the founder of The Fehribach Group, a consulting firm specializing in accessibility, universal design, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He is also a proud two-time graduate of Ball State who made history as the first student with a disability to be elected to serve as the University’s student body president.

On this new season of “Our Call to Beneficence,” Greg talks about how the accessibility of Ball State’s campus in the 1970s made him think he had “died and gone to heaven.” Greg’s positive student experience compelled him to serve on the University’s Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2007.

S2E11: 'The Realities of a Career in Entertainment' | (Dwight Smith, Veteran Television Producer and Ball State Graduate)

Dwight Smith is an innovative producer of reality television shows in Hollywood. He’s also a proud graduate who, in his own words, grew up as a “Ball State baby.”

In this episode, Dwight talks about how our University fostered his love for the entertainment industry and how one of his favorite professors helped him launch his career in Hollywood.

S2E10: ‘It Was a Ride of a Lifetime’ | (Randy Pond, Corporate Executive and Ball State Graduate)

Randy Pond is an accomplished Ball State graduate who presently serves as the chair of our University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign.

As our May Commencement speaker, Randy inspired our graduates with his story about being a first-generation college student. After graduating from Ball State in 1977, he embarked upon a successful and fulfilling career that allowed him to serve as a corporate leader for one of the largest and fastest growing technology companies in the world.

S2E9: ‘Give of Yourself to Others … In Kindness” (Sutton Foster, Tony-Award Winning Actress, Singer, Ball State Instructor)

Sutton Foster is a two-time Tony Award winning actor, singer and dancer. She is also an instructor at Ball State University.

Fresh off her starring role alongside Hugh Jackman in the revival of The Music Man, Sutton returned to Ball State this Spring to prepare for an upcoming concert series and to teach and mentor our students, as she has been doing since 2010.

S2E8: ‘I’m Your Guy’ — Ball State AD Jeff Mitchell on Being Passionately Prepared for A Career in College Athletics

Earlier this month, Jeff Mitchell began his tenure as Ball State’s new director of athletics. Already he has identified his vision for the next era of Ball State Athletics—a vision inspired by his previous experience leading athletics departments at universities across the country.

In this episode, Jeff talks about playing baseball in his youth and how his passion for the sport led to becoming a student-athlete at Millsaps College. And he reveals how his commitment to Millsaps’ athletics department—and to being qualified for future professional opportunities—allowed his career to flourish.

S2E7: Creating a New Model for Equity in the Arts (Mali Jeffers)

Mali Jeffers graduated from Ball State University in 2004. Since then, she has combined her passion for art and design with her skills in advertising and marketing to serve as co-founder of GANGGANG, a cultural developmental firm.

Together with her husband, Alan Bacon, Mali is committed to building culture and community in her hometown of Indianapolis. Since founding GANGGANG in 2020, Mali’s firm has contributed works of public art and performances in conjunction with the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Indianapolis. GANGGANG has also staged two successful iterations of BUTTER, a multi-day fine art fair that has garnered national media attention from Forbes and the New York Times.  

S2E6: Carving a Path from the Basketball Court to the C-Suite (Kate Doerksen)

Kate Doerksen is a 2005 graduate of Ball State who, as a Cardinal, excelled on the court and in the classroom. As a star on our women’s basketball team, Kate earned several MAC Honors, as well as a spot in our Athletics Hall of Fame.

While majoring in entrepreneurship at Ball State, Kate was empowered by her professors to believe she had the grit and the passion required to start her own business. And while she was earning her MBA from Stanford, she did exactly that as the founder of Ditto, an e-commerce website for glasses.

S2E5: ‘My Partner in Life and in Work’ — A Candid Conversation Between Jennifer Mearns and President Geoffrey S. Mearns

For more than 30 years, Jennifer Mearns has been the life partner of Geoffrey S. Mearns, President of Ball State University. She is also a mother, a grandmother, and an accomplished professional, having worked in sports marketing before becoming an executive recruiter.

In this episode, Jennifer shares more about her family, her college experience, and her initial impressions of Geoff when they first met. She also provides insights into how the couple navigated multiple career moves—and more than a few major life changes—throughout their years together.

S2E4: Culture, Values, and Career Success — (Angela Ahrendts)

Angela Ahrendts is an accomplished Ball State graduate who, over the course of her career in business, has provided visionary leadership at the helm of companies including Burberry, the luxury fashion house, and the tech giant Apple.

In this episode, Angela reveals the sign that (literally) pointed her to study at Ball State. She also talks about how her undergraduate experience provided her with the valuable learning opportunity to explore New York City, where she launched her career in fashion. And she shares how her Midwestern values inspire her to serve others, both as a leader in business and as a humanitarian committed to using her expertise to benefit the world. 

S2E3: ‘It’s Not How the World Defines You, It’s How You Define Yourself’ — Stedman Graham on Self-Leadership and Finding Your Identity

Stedman Graham is an author, an educator, and an entrepreneur. After earning his undergraduate degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas, Stedman served in the Army, mostly overseas, where he also played in the European professional basketball league. While in the military, Stedman also earned his master’s degree in education from Ball State.

In this episode, Stedman shares why he chose to attend Ball State. He also talks about creating his nine-step plan for success—a plan he travels the globe sharing with others—and how his approach to “identity leadership” prepared him for his relationship with Oprah Winfrey, one of the most famous women in the world.

S2E2: ‘This Is Home’ — Michael Lewis on Becoming Head Coach of BSU Men’s Basketball Team

Michael Lewis was hired as Ball State’s new men’s basketball coach in March. Coach Lewis’ arrival ushers in a new chapter of leadership for Ball State Athletics. It’s also an exciting new chapter for Michael, who has returned to his home state after spending the past three years serving as an assistant coach at UCLA.

In this episode, Coach Lewis talks about his youth playing basketball in Jasper, Indiana, his days as a star point guard for IU, and his experience as an assistant coach at the Division I Level for the past 18 years.

S2E1: Building Opportunities through Business and Sports (Dan Towriss)

Dan Towriss graduated from Ball State in 1994 with a degree in actuarial science. Over the course of his career, he's led a number of successful insurance company acquisitions and earned a reputation for growth and a return on investment. Today, he is the CEO and President of Group 1001, an insurance holding company based in Indianapolis with assets valued at more than $58 billion.

In addition to his commitment to his profession, Dan has a passion for sports and philanthropy. Currently, he serves on the board of two national nonprofit organizations, the Cal Ripkin Senior Foundation, as well as RISE, an organization dedicated to empowering the sports community to eliminate racism and champion social justice.

"A Broadway Dream Realized" (Kayla Davion, Performer)

Kayla Davion graduated from Ball State in 2017 with a degree in musical theatre from our College of Fine Arts. Before she even finished her undergraduate career, Kayla landed a part in her first Broadway show, Waitress.

Since that initial opportunity, she’s consistently appeared in several shows on the Great White Way, landing roles in the musicals King Kong and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.

In this episode, Kayla describes how discovering theater helped her find her path in life and she talks about several Ball State professors who were instrumental to her extraordinary success.

"A Career Dedicated to Higher Education" (John Worthen, President Emeritus)

From 1984 to 2000, Dr. John Worthen served as the 11th President of Ball State University. During his tenure, Dr. Worthen earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues—and the campus community—on account of his effective leadership of the institution.

In this episode, Dr. Worthen recounts growing up as a child during the Great Depression and what inspired him to pursue a career in higher education.

‘For Our Institution to Have a Future, Our Community Needs to Have a Future’ | (Deborah and James Fallows, Veteran Journalists)

Deborah and James Fallows are experienced, accomplished journalists who have influenced culture through their insights on politics, foreign affairs, and life in America.

Together, the Fallows wrote Our Towns, a best-selling book that was published in 2018. Our Towns describes how they spent four years traveling 100,000 miles in their single-engine plane.

‘I’m a Big Picture Person’ | (Jo Ann Gora, Professor and President Emerita)

From 2004 to 2014, Dr. Jo Ann Gora served as the 14th President of Ball State University. During her tenure, she championed immersive learning, created a new brand—“Education Redefined”—for the institution, and successfully engaged with some of our most prominent graduates, including David Letterman.

Dr. Gora shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s, what drew her to academia, and why she wanted to become president of Ball State. She also speaks candidly about the research she conducted before interviewing for the job, including crashing a Ball State alumni event with her husband, Roy.

‘He Was On A Mission to Make Ball State Great’ | (Dick Emens, Son of Ball State President John R. Emens)

Dick Emens was just a young boy when his father, John R. Emens, became the sixth president of Ball State. It was 1945. That same year marked the end of the Second World War—and the beginning of a tremendous period of growth for Ball State.

In this episode, Dick talks about what it was like to grow up on campus during that time. He also reflects on how his father’s transformative leadership and optimistic personality earned him the admiration of our faculty, staff, and students along with a playful nickname.

‘The First Job Is Always The Toughest to Get’ | (Brandon Pope, Anchor, Media Critic, and Columnist)

Brandon Pope is an anchor reporter for Chicago’s CW26. He’s also an award-winning television host, media critic, and columnist.

In the years since he graduated from Ball State in 2014, Brandon has applied the skills he learned in the classroom, along with the power of networking, to stand out in one of the country’s biggest media markets. He’s also parlayed his digital media expertise into a contributing writer position with EBONY magazine.

"Delivering Innovation, One Package at a Time" | (Kent “Oz” Nelson, Retired Chairman and CEO of UPS)

Kent “Oz” Nelson is a Ball State graduate whose discipline, compassion, and common sense propelled him in his climb up the corporate ladder at UPS. In 1959, Oz began his decades-long career at UPS just two days after graduating from Ball State. He began as a sales and customer service representative, and he retired as chairman and CEO of UPS in 1997.

In this episode, Oz talks about the professors and courses that inspired him as a Ball State student and how his involvement in a fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, helped him establish the connections that created his opportunity at UPS.

"I’ll Never Forget That Feeling” | (Tiara Thomas, Grammy, Oscar Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter)

Tiara Thomas is a Grammy and Oscar award-winning singer-songwriter who graduated from Ball State in 2012.

Tiara grew up in Indianapolis and, shortly after completing her undergraduate degree in telecommunications, landed a record deal that opened the door to her professional aspirations of becoming an artist.

In this episode, Tiara reveals how her dream of winning a Grammy began when she was just a young girl and how she recorded her first original song from the stairwell of her LaFollette residence hall.

"From Ball State to a Fortune 500 Boardroom" | (Renae Conley, Corporate Executive and Chair of Ball State’s Board of Trustees)

Renae Conley is an accomplished Ball State graduate who presently serves as the chair of our university’s Board of Trustees.

Renae grew up in Muncie, earned her bachelor’s degree and her MBA from Ball State, and then embarked upon a successful and fulfilling career that allowed her, time and again, to break the glass ceiling.

In this episode, Renae talks about the mentors who helped shape her career ambitions. She reveals why she loved working in the energy industry and what it was like to serve as the first female CEO of the only Fortune 500 company in Louisiana.

"A Truth-Telling Author" | (Ashley C. Ford, NYT Best-Selling Author, Podcaster & Educator)

Ashley C. Ford is a New York Times-best selling author, podcaster, and educator. Her debut memoir, “Somebody’s Daughter,” chronicles her life growing up as a young Black girl in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Ashley’s book was chosen by Oprah Winfrey for publication under her imprint, “An Oprah Book.” In addition to being on a first-name basis with the former queen of daytime talk TV, Ashley has written national magazine features about other celebrities, politicians, and athletes, including actress Anne Hathaway, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Serena Williams.

"A Master Storyteller" | (Don Yaeger, NYT Best-Selling Author, Leadership Speaker, and Executive Coach)

Don Yaeger is a New York Times best-selling author, award-winning keynote speaker, and leadership coach whose clients include executives in the banking, tech, and entertainment industries.

After graduating from Ball State, Don worked as a newspaper reporter before he was hired as a writer and associate editor for Sports Illustrated, the world’s most popular weekly sports magazine. Don parlayed his career at the magazine into a successful second career writing the life stories of some of the biggest names in sports.

"A Lifelong Champion for Students" | (Vince Bertram, President, and CEO, Project Lead the Way)

In this episode, Vince talks about his upbringing, what inspired him to become a teacher and a coach, and his memories of working with legendary coaches John Wooden and Rick Majerus.

Vince describes some of the influential educators he met as a student at Ball State and shares his thoughts about Ball State’s innovative partnership with Muncie Community Schools.