Distinguished Alumni Awards
Anita Aldrich Distinguished Alumni Award
Mildred Ball - 2005
Mildred Ball (BS’60) nearly was not admitted to Indiana University. After briefly attending the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, she moved back home to Gary, working to save money for a transfer to IU - but when her family fell on hard times, she used her earnings to support them, leaving her with just $100 for college.
Unwilling to delay her education, Ball headed to IU anyway, a day after classes had started, and with no transcript (Hampton would not release them until she paid a final bill, something she could not do at the time). The man at the registrar’s office said Ball could not be admitted without her transcript. The two argued back and forth until the young man saw John Endwright, then the assistant dean of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER), and asked him to come over and tell the girl she was wasting her time.
“Before the dean could open his mouth, I looked at him and said, ‘Sir, I have a brother at University of Washington, I have a brother at Iowa State Teachers College, I have a sister at Los Angeles State College, I have a brother here at Indiana University. I want to go to school, too.’ He looked at me and said ‘Let her in,’ and walked off.”
Ball soon became a straight-A student, eventually being hired as a dance instructor in the school. She put herself through school, living in a co-operative dorm and working several part-time jobs. When the art school was looking for models, Ball sat before students in her bathing suit for $1.50 an hour (she was not brave enough to “bare all” for $3.00 an hour). She and other models spent many hours posing for then IU Professor Robert Laurent as he worked on an elaborate structure made of chicken wire. Ball forgot about the project until more than eight years later, when she saw the final result: the Showalter Fountain in front of the IU Auditorium. “I said, ‘My god, that’s it!’ It was like hell trying to balance for that sculpture, but it was fun.”
After graduation, Ball taught high school for 17 years, followed by 10 years as supervisor and coordinator of the Student Park Workers Neighborhood Youth Corp in East Chicago. She then spent 20 years as assistant commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association.
Ball has received awards from the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Indiana Association of Athletic Officials, The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the NAACP (Benjamin Hooks award). She received the school’s John Endwright Alumni Service Award in 1997.
Ball was one of the co-founders of the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club and has served in many capacities with both the School of Public Health and the IU Alumni Association, including the IUAA Executive Council. She also has a Master of Science degree in Secondary Education from Purdue University.