Bird adds Distinguished Alumni Award to list of honors

By: Dave Taylor, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
November 25, 2013

Indiana State University's most famous graduate is now officially a Distinguished Alumnus.

During a brief ceremony at the conclusion of the Larry Bird Scholarship Dinner Program on Nov. 8, university, ISU Foundation and Alumni Association leaders presented the basketball great with a 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award.

"This award is the highest honor that alumni receive from the Alumni Association," said Rex Kendall, the association's director. "It recognizes alumni who have modeled success, leadership and service to their community and is awarded to alumni who have embraced and carried out the university's mission."

The presentation came just hours before a more than 17-foot-tall statue of Bird was dedicated outside Hulman Center as part of "Honoring a Legend" weekend, which raised $400,000 to endow a scholarship in Bird's name to help attract talented men's basketball players from Indiana.

"Truly, you are one of the most famous and most recognized alumni in Sycamore history. You are known worldwide and your name is synonymous with Indiana State," ISU Foundation President Ron Carpenter told Bird. "It is because of your work ethic, your success in your career, and your drive for success that we recognize you as the 241st Distinguished Alumnus and probably No. 1 in everyone's heart, at least tonight."

While Bird is known for leading the men's basketball team to the 1979 NCAA championship game against Michigan State and going on to become one of the best players in National Basketball Association history, former teammates and others noted during the weekend that he left nothing to chance following the "dream season." Bird honored a student teaching commitment at West Vigo High School and completed a bachelor's degree in physical education even though he was assured of a contract with the Boston Celtics.

Bird spent 13 years with the Celtics and led the team to three NBA Championships. For his presence on the court, Bird was named rookie of the year, 12 time NBA all-star and 3 time NBA league MVP. He was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice, in 1998 and as co-captain of the gold medal Olympic basketball team in 2010.

Following his retirement from the Celtics, Bird continued his NBA career as the coach of the Indiana Pacers. Today, he is the president of basketball operations for the Pacers and is the only person in NBA history to receive the most valuable player award, the coach of the year award and the executive of the year award.

In typical Bird fashion, he needed but a few sentences to graciously accept the award. "I'm not big on things like this, but I know what it means," he said. "I know how it touches a lot of people's lives. Some people like it; some don't; but for me, to have a statue erected outside Hulman Center is truly amazing. I didn't come here for that. I came here to get an education and play the game that I truly love.... If you dedicate yourself to something that you really love, your dreams will come true and I know I'm living proof of that."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Events-by-Year/2013/The-Larry-Bird-Scholarship/i-G5f6Mxc/1/L/11_08_13_Larry_Bird_Scholarship_dinner-7044-L.jpg - Larry Bird (second from left) poses with his Distinguished Alumni Award and (left to right) Indiana State University Alumni Association Director Rex Kendall, university President Dan Bradley and ISU Foundation President Ron Carpenter. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Hilary Duncan, assistant director, Indiana State University Alumni Association, 812-514-8453 or hduncan@indstatefoundation.org

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu