Donor Spotlight: Showing Spirit and Paying It Forward with Michael Bryant
March 20, 2013
Born and raised in Jeffersonville, IN, Michael Bryant, a current board member of the Varsity Club, resides in Lynchburg, VA with his wife Paula. They are both Hoosiers through and through. The Bryants have been Varsity Club donors since 1993, and have endowed a scholarship for the men’s basketball team. We recently sat down with Bryant to discuss his connection to IU and his IU inspired “Mancave-Suite.”
Q: Apart from being an alumnus, what other connections do you have with IU?
Michael: I am on the Dean’s Council at the IU Kelley School and, although not currently, I have been president of the IU Alumni Club, the local chapter in Peoria, and I’ve been a member of the IU Varsity Club since 1993. My family has been to a countless number of IU football and basketball games; we’re certainly an IU family. Those are my direct connections to the University. And, of course, my IU Mancave-Suite exemplifies my connection with the university. I’m all Indiana, all the time.
Q: I’ve heard about Tell me about your IU Mancave-Suite.
Michael: This is our fourth house with a room dedicated to IU; our first house was in 1992. It started as an office decorated with IU wallpaper and with an autographed ball. It just kind of evolved from there. I actually put down a replica of Assembly Hall’s court in the corner of the basement in our second house. I added a big screen theatre and a bar to cap off IU Room 2.0.
In the third house, I had even more space to work with. We started with just an IU room and were thinking about adding an office and an exercise room. We knocked down a door and turned all three rooms into the IU Mancave-Suite (see photos). We had a local muralist paint the inside of Assembly Hall on the wall. Coach Crean, Don Fisher, Bobby Knight, and Martha the Mop Lady are all featured in the mural. We love what Fred Glass is doing with the vision of “24 Sports, 1 Team” so much that we decided to add both that slogan and the Varsity Club’s “We Are Hoosiers” slogan to the mural. We keep adding more and more as time goes by; it’s a great family project to work on.
We have an endowed scholarship with the Men’s Basketball program and we actually have a section of jerseys right above the TV of the recipients of our scholarships. Lance (Stemler) and Matt (Roth) were our two previous recipients. Just recently, we found out that (Kevin) “Yogi” Ferrell is the newest recipient. So, we will be hanging a jersey above the TV for him.
Q: What put you in position to become a Varsity Club Donor and what inspires you to give?
Michael: I’m like a lot of Hoosier fans. I enjoyed IU Athletics both as a student as well as an alumnus. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have some success in my life. When I turned 50, my wife, Paula, and I were talking about having a big celebration. As we started thinking about it and what it was going to cost, I decided that instead of spending the money, I wanted to start a scholarship or endowment at Indiana. It’s always been my belief that academics come first. We started off by endowing a scholarship to the Kelley School. I continued to have success, which led to meeting with Kelly Bomba (Assistant Athletic Director, Major Gifts). We started with a named scholarship and moved up to an endowment. (More information about the IU Athletic Endowment Fund.)
As I look into my past, I was raised in Jeffersonville, IN and came from a poor family. I think of the scholarships that I received because people wanted to pay it forward. I never forgot how I got through school and how I got here. When I had the opportunity to pay it forward, I took it and continued to build on that every year. Again, it’s hard to imagine what my life would’ve been without the time I spent at IU and the opportunity they gave a poor boy from Jeffersonville, IN.
Q: What do you find to be most rewarding about donating to IU Athletics?
Michael: IU Athletics has been such a huge part of my life; I live and die Indiana Athletics. As all Hoosier fans know, you build your life and schedule around when teams play. The opportunity to say that I made a difference for the next generation of Hoosiers and student-athletes is just an important thing to me. The campaign, “GIVING WHILE YOU’RE LIVING,” means a lot to me. The joy of giving while I’m still alive is so incredibly rewarding. It’s not even that they have to thank you or anything; it’s just nice to know that you played a small role in someone’s life, just as someone did for me. I get to see what all the student-athletes do after graduation and having that connection with them is incredibly gratifying.
Q: What do you admire most about our student-athletes?
Michael: What I look at, and what I’m proud of, is the tradition of Indiana Athletics. We have always been proud of our student-athletes. Even in this world, where money is such a prevalent part of college athletics, I still believe that Fred, and the whole team behind him, have done a wonderful job with continuing Indiana’s tradition of having wholesome student-athletes represent the university. My favorite NCAA saying, “Most of us go pro in something other than sports,” is exemplified at IU. The parents, the families, and the student body— they all buy into the student-athletes and I think that’s really special.
Another thing that I love is the way that Indiana plays by the rules. It’s a great message for the student-athletes as well as the student body. We play by the rules and do the right thing. When you have that foundation and enforce it and surround the population with it, good things happen. It impacts people in a positive manner for the rest of their lives. I’m really proud that Indiana is on the rise again. Winning championships the right way is a great thing.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Michael: I just want to say congratulations to all the staff of the Varsity Club and all of IU Athletics. Everything you all have done in the past couple years with facilities and what you’ve done to create a level of excellence for our student athletes both academically and athletically is outstanding. We’re all so proud of everything and we look forward to being a small part of that in the future. Best wishes to all of our student-athletes!
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