Lilly grant supports Wabash College summer camp

Liberal Arts at Play links sports, liberal arts and career opportunities


Wabash College has received a $696,590 implementation grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to build a summer camp program on campus. Wabash will contribute nearly $175,000 in matching funds for the three-year program.

Part of Lilly Endowment’s Indiana Youth Programs on Campus Initiative, this grant will help Wabash create a new week-long residential summer camp, The Liberal Arts at Play: Sports, Society, and Careers, which is geared toward young men who are entering their sophomore and junior years of high school. The camp will show how studying the liberal arts can lead to a range of fun and engaging careers through sports.

“Through our other successful summer programs like the Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program and Pathway to Your Future, we know how important these pre-college experiences can be for young people,” said Wabash President Scott E. Feller. “We are grateful to Lilly Endowment for funding this initiative, which will give young men an opportunity to have an on-campus experience that will illustrate how the liberal arts can provide a powerful foundation for any career.”

By introducing young men much earlier in their high school careers to the types of relationships they can build at a residential liberal arts college, Wabash will equip students with a wide range of skills necessary for any career they wish to pursue.

Wabash’s liberal arts curriculum and high-impact teaching practices develop the skills in young men that lead to remarkable success at all levels of amateur and professional sports. Academically, the camp will support the College’s mission of educating young men to speak and write effectively, listen carefully, and think critically, which are life skills that are honed in classrooms across the campus.

Wabash’s success in producing leaders at the highest levels of sport is illustrated in the accomplishments of alumni like Mark Miles (president and chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment Corp.), Chris Denari (television voice of the Indiana Pacers), Steve Campbell (vice president of communications for the Indianapolis Colts) and Ryan Vaughn (recent past-president of the Indiana Sports Corp), among others.

Each day, camp sessions will use issues and topics in sports as a vehicle to introduce students to liberal arts disciplines like economics, history and psychology. Alumni and friends of Wabash who work in sports will connect these subjects to their experiences and apply those lessons in discussions, case studies, speeches and media production.

In partnership with Wabash alumni, the camp curriculum will include as many as 16 visiting speakers, as well as day trips to sporting facilities and national headquarters in Indianapolis.

“We are excited about this new Wabash initiative,” said program director Tyler Wade, who is also a member of the enrollment staff. “We believe a liberal arts education is a great pathway to success in any career, and the level of success our graduates have achieved in the business of sports is impressive. We are incredibly thankful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for its support and can’t wait to help young men see all the places a Wabash education can take them.”

Wabash will attract interested and engaged students and build a network of trusted high school partners. This program seeks new majority students who will strongly consider the College and a liberal arts education as a future choice in their professional preparation.

Lilly Endowment launched this initiative to respond to the falling numbers of Hoosiers pursuing higher education degrees. In 2015, 65% of Indiana high school graduates were going straight to college. The college-going rate has dropped steadily since. In 2020, only 53% of Hoosiers were attending college the year after high school.

“By supporting these efforts, we hope that more young people in Indiana will experience what it’s like to be on a college campus and take part in meaningful programs that can help prepare them for success in college,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “It is our belief that these programs will not only add to the academic enrichment of young people, but also inspire them to see higher education institutions in Indiana as part of their plans for life after high school.”

Goals for the initiative include increasing the number of Indiana youth who attend and graduate from Indiana colleges and universities and strengthening how schools recruit and educate students who are traditionally underserved, including students of color, first-generation college students, and students from families with limited resources.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.