Mike Ray, ’83, will never forget the investment his father made in him not long after he graduated from high school. He sees it as the foundation of his fulfillment in the business world and his enduring commitment to philanthropy.
A member of the Ball State Foundation Board of Directors since 2016, Ray also recalls his father when he considers the future of his alma mater.
“After graduating from high school, I was happy working at a waterski shop in my hometown of North Webster, Indiana,” he said. “But my father strongly suggested that I pursue a college degree and paid for me to attend Ball State.
“When I think of my University, I realize that encouraging its students to reach for the stars and to give back have always been two guiding principles. Just as my father invested in me, Ball State truly invests in its students.”
Ray graduated with a degree in Accounting and Computer Science. He began his career with Coopers & Lybrand and eventually joined Fort Wayne-based Vera Bradley in 1998 as director of finance. After holding several key positions at the company, including in sales and marketing, Ray was named CEO in 2007. He retired in 2013.
“Seeing the impact of Vera Bradley’s investment in breast cancer research really opened my eyes and got me thinking about paying things forward,” Ray said.
He admires Ball State’s recent bricks-and-mortar improvements, “but my greatest satisfaction is helping students.”
Ray is impressed with how President Geoffrey S. Mearns and others are dedicated to ensuring students’ bright futures.
“Geoff understands what it takes to compete for students—and the importance of keeping tuition competitive—and has a huge level of engagement with all our critical constituencies. He continues to put Ball State in a position to compete with the larger schools throughout Indiana.”
When Ray thinks of Ball State Foundation President Jean Crosby, ’96, he feels even more bullish about the University’s future.
“Jean and her team truly understand that there are many ways to engage with alumni,” he said. “Even simple ways are effective”—as evidenced by the 184 percent increase in alumni giving on One Ball State Day from the inaugural event in 2019 to giving day 2021.
“Everywhere you look, the signs point to great things ahead for Ball State and its students.” — Dan Forst, ’85