Ball State Men’s Basketball hall of famer reflects on his role with Board of Trustees

<p>Mark Hardwick was appointed to Ball State's Board of Trustees by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in December 2019. The executive vice president, COO and CFO of Muncie's First Merchants Corporation will serve on the board until December 2023. <strong>Ball State University, Photo Courtesy</strong></p>

Mark Hardwick was appointed to Ball State's Board of Trustees by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in December 2019. The executive vice president, COO and CFO of Muncie's First Merchants Corporation will serve on the board until December 2023. Ball State University, Photo Courtesy

Editor’s note: This Q&A article has been edited for clarity and brevity. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Mark Hardwick's first job location. The article has since been updated to reflect the correct information.

Mark Hardwick, the most-recent member to join Ball State’s Board of Trustees after his appointment by Gov. Eric Holcomb, is more than just an alumnus.

Hardwick was also a member of the 1989-90 Men’s Basketball Team. With a 26-7 overall record, this team made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, was ranked 22nd in the nation and was inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame in 2012, according to Ball State Sports’ website.

He currently serves as the executive vice president, COO and CFO of First Merchants Corporation, a financial services holding company located in Muncie. Hardwick graduated from Ball State with a bachelor’s in accounting in 1993 and an MBA in 1999.

Hardwick sat down with The Daily News to discuss his role as a Board of Trustees member and his time at Ball State.


Q: Can you tell me a little about yourself?

A: I grew up in Jay County, which is close to Muncie. I’m a graduate of Jay County High School. My parents still live in the small town of Dunkirk, where I grew up. My dad was a local barber in the community for 50 years, and my mother was a secretary at an elementary school. They’re both still alive and living in Dunkirk. I've got two brothers. My younger brother is also a Ball State grad, and my older brother — both of his children are Ball State graduates, which is great. 

I was the first person on either side of our family to go to college, and it has been fun to see others follow that same path after I graduated back in 1993. I live in Yorktown, Indiana, married to my wife, Cathy. We're celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary here in May, and she's also a Ball State alum. We met our last year in college and have two children — Halie, who is a senior at Cedarville University in Ohio, and then our son, Bryce, who is a junior at Yorktown High School.

I am a certified public accountant. I started my working career at George S. Olive in Indianapolis which is now BKD. I was on a variety of accounts when I was there — like nonprofits and manufacturing — but I was really drawn to the banking industry, and so, after working in public accounting firms, I had an opportunity to join First Merchants here in Muncie.


In this 1993 photo, Mark Hardwick is guarded by Central Michigan's Leonard Bush during Ball State's 73-48 winning game at the John E. Worthen Arena. Hardwick graduated Ball State in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in accounting and in 1999 with an MBA. Digital Media Repository, Photo Courtesy


Q: After graduating from Ball State, did you ever think you would return?

A: I was recruited to play basketball all over the country. Back in high school, I had the chance to play at the University of Maryland. Stanford University offered a full scholarship, as well as the University of Evansville, before my senior year. I chose Ball State, and it just felt like home. It felt like the place I was supposed to be, and I've never really strayed very far from the Muncie community and Ball State.

I spent those few years in Indianapolis, living in the Indianapolis community and working at George S. Olive, when First Merchants had the corporate controller position available. I pursued that pretty quickly and loved the idea of getting back into this community. Since then, I've been involved on the advisory council of the College of Business, I’ve been a board member of the Cardinal Varsity Club and I’m on the board, currently, of Cardinal Properties, which is a subsidiary of the Ball State Foundation.

As my career continued to expand and our company continued to grow, I started feeling like I had some value that I could add to the Board of Trustees given the size and scope of First Merchants. Some of the complexities that Ball State has to manage are similar to the types of things that First Merchants has to manage.


Mark Hardwick (seated fourth from the right in the back row) poses for a photo with the 1989-90 Ball State Men's Basketball team. With a 26-7 overall record, this team made it to the NCAA Sweet 16, was ranked 22nd in the nation and was inducted into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. Digital Media Repository, Photo Courtesy


Q: As a trustee, do you have any specific goals you are looking to accomplish?

A:  I'm so impressed by the impact that Ball State has on Muncie, Delaware County and East Central Indiana. My first thought was to make sure that we maintain the stature and the impact that we have in this community, and I think the board has done a great job. I'm really excited to be part of the vision that President Geoffrey Mearns has helped to create.

I believe that in our company, one of the things that have made us successful is succession planning and developing talent from within. It's something that I think over time could help take [the] university to the next level.


In this 1992 photo, Mark Hardwick attempts to get the ball from a Xavier University player at the John E. Worthen Arena. Hardwick is a native of nearby Jay County, Indiana. Digital Media Repository, Photo Courtesy


Q: How do you plan to maintain the stature of the university?

A: The role of the Board of Trustees is to help set the strategic vision of the university, ensure that we maintain fiscal responsibility, continue to provide the right level of oversight to university operation and continue to hire, supervise and evaluate leadership. The extension of Mearns’ contract for the next seven years is such an awesome start. 

We keep the students in the forefront of every decision that we make, as well as the taxpayer, and I think if we do those things, we can continue to make and continue to have the awesome impact we've had.

Hannah Gunnell contributed to this story.

Contact Charles Melton with comments at cwmelton@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Cmelton144

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