Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State University Distinguished Alumni practice 'social rent'

October 23, 2014

It is a familiar story. Faculty and staff at Indiana State University go the extra mile to help students who then give back to their university, community, state and nation.

Four graduates selected by the Indiana State University Alumni Association as 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipients - Tom and Debbie Bareford, Charles E. Brown and Krishna Pendyala - took the microphone at the Sycamore Banquet Center Oct. 10 to share their stories.

Tom Bareford said a conversation he and his wife had with business professor Robert Steinbaugh more than 50 years ago "set the compass and rudder for our lives."

Steinbaugh, who died earlier this year at age 88, was "one of the greatest professors that ever lived." Bareford said. "He talked to us one day about social rent ... (and) there being just a little difference between a normal community and a great one. He stressed that if there's one difference between a normal university and a great one, it is ‘social rent' - people's willingness to just help out, give a willing hand when they can. They might not always be the most qualified person, but if they attack it with enthusiasm, people come around and help them do that. The lay people are the difference in our communities and organizations and, I hope, Indiana State University."

Bareford said he and his wife were "extremely humble and grateful" to receive the award.

"This is an honor and a privilege," Debbie Bareford added. "Tom and I ... have done many projects and worked on many committees, but we've always tried to work as a team and help each other. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."

The Barefords graduated in 1964 - Tom at the top of his class with a bachelor's degree in business and Debbie with bachelor's degrees in business administration and business education as well as a master's degree in marketing education. Until their retirement, Tom worked in the banking industry and Debbie as a teacher. Debbie has served on numerous university and Alumni Association boards and committees, and Tom currently serves on the ISU Foundation Board. Both are members of the Blue Card Club, Book and Torch Society and 1865 Society and are recipients of the foundation's Philanthropy Award.

In introducing the Barefords as the first couple to be named Distinguished Alumni, classmate Michael Simmons recalled how the trio worked together to organize a trike race in 1963 in an effort to address the lack of attendance at Indiana State's homecoming. The Sycamore Tricycle Derby, as it is now known, marked its 52nd running this year.

"As the saying goes, Debbie and Tom truly bleed blue in all that they do," Simmons said. "It is clear that these two have shared their passion, enthusiasm and dedication for their alma mater for more than 50 years as a couple. It is only fitting that we present this award to the couple."

Distinguished alumnus Charlie Brown "has influenced not only thousands of ISU students in his career, but also greatly influenced his extended family, his church family, Indiana State student groups (and) the communities of Terre Haute and Indianapolis," said Hollis Thomas, a two-time Indiana State alumnus and friend of Brown's. "He is giving and deeply passionate about helping others succeed and has dedicated much of his career to mentoring students."

After completing a bachelor's degree in English in 1976, Brown stayed at Indiana State, serving as assistant director of Upward Bound and later as director of the African-American Cultural Center that now bears his name. In 1993, Brown completed a Master of Public Administration degree from Indiana State.

"I love Indiana State University," Brown said, recalling how he arrived at Indiana State on a Trailways bus from Indianapolis with just $10 in his pocket. "I worked three jobs while I was on campus, including WISU."

He continued his involvement with the university radio station long after his graduation by hosting a weekly jazz program for about 20 years. Brown recalled how he used his connections in the music industry to bring well-known performers to Indiana State at the urging of President Richard Landini.

"He was so happy," Brown said of Landini. "The last person was (trumpeter) Dizzy Gillespie at Tilson Auditorium. We packed it up."

Brown met his wife, Scotia, a 1979 graduate, while at Indiana State, announcing to her within a week that he intended to marry her. They've been married for 36 years, and the Browns' three children are also Indiana State graduates.

1986 graduate Krishna Pendyala rounded out this year's Distinguished Alumni Award recipients. Pendyala completed a master's degree in educational media who went on to found two multi-media companies and serves as chief empowerment officer at Tetra Advisors. He is president of Mindful Nation Foundation, a blogger for and the author of "Beyond the Pig and the Ape: Realizing Success and True Happiness. He volunteers with national organizations and local organizations in Pittsburgh, where he resides.

"He is, without a doubt, an exceptional person and professional who represents all that ISU stands for," professor emeritus Jim Thompson said in introducing Pendyala. "He is deeply passionate about helping others make better choices to create a better lifestyle."

Pendyala called his time at Indiana State a turning point in his life.

He had attended a competitive undergraduate engineering school in his native India "where my entire confidence was shattered," he said. "I was valedictorian of my high school class, and my first test (at college) was a C. I had not seen a C in my life ... and it progressively got worse."

Pendyala credited Thompson and other Indiana State faculty members, including Robert George, professor of curriculum, instruction and media technology, for helping restore his confidence.

"Dr. George actually put in writing ... that it was unfair for me to have paid tuition to him when he learned more from me. That takes courage," Pendyala said. "These people showered me with love and support, which I had not expected to receive from an educational institution. These are the people who truly change lives."

Calling Thompson his adoptive father and noting that he and his wife Jeannette serve as surrogate grandparents to his children, Pendyala presented his award to Thompson saying, "Jim, this is for you."

Rex Kendall, Alumni Association executive director, described this year's Distinguished Alumni Award honorees as "four incredible award recipients that embody the true blue Sycamore spirit."

Photo: - 1964 Indiana State University graduates Tom and Debbie Bareford were among four recipients of 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Photo: - 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award honoree Charlie Brown, a 1976 Indiana State University graduate, poses with his wife, Scotia, following the award ceremony Oct. 10, 2014.

Photo: - 1986 Indiana State University graduate Krishna Pendyala (right) embraces Jim Thompson, professor emeritus of education, during the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award program Oct. 10, 2014.

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or