February 24, 2022
Life After Witt

Civic Leadership Rewarded

Milt Thompson ’76 Recognized For His Contributions To The Indianapolis Community

He has been dubbed “Mr. Indianapolis,” a lofty designation for any community member, much less an individual who resides in one of the largest cities in the United States. In the case of Milt Thompson ’76, however, the term fits.

He has done so many things. He knows so many people. And the best news? He’s just getting started.

In recognition of Thompson’s tireless efforts to enrich his community, he recently accepted the Charles L. Whistler Award, which honors individuals for their extraordinary public service to the Indianapolis community. It is the latest award on a phenomenal list, ranging from professional and athletic achievement to civic dedication and philanthropic leadership.

A 1998 Wittenberg Athletics Hall of Honor inductee as a result of his tremendous collegiate baseball career and an emeritus member of the University’s Board of Directors and Alumni Board, Thompson is quick to give credit to his alma mater for nurturing his personal and professional aspirations.

“Wittenberg gave me four unbelievable years I can’t imagine living my life without,” said Thompson, who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles after graduating from Wittenberg but chose a law career instead. “She nurtured me and gave me academic, sports and arts opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to a young black man from Indianapolis. She inspired me to go to law school, and not just any law school, but one of the best in the country – the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“That helped me launch an exciting and enjoyable career. Looking back, I can say without equivocation that my experience as an All-American baseball player and student-athlete at Wittenberg boosted my confidence as a professional and convinced me I can compete with anyone.”

A successful prosecutor, Thompson has been recognized as an “Indiana Super Lawyer.” He has served the Maurer School of Law as president of both its Board of Visitors and its alumni association, and he has been inducted into the Academy of Law Alumni Fellows.

In 1987, Thompson was General Counsel to the Pan American Games that brought athletes from 47 nations to Indianapolis, and 10 years later he was the inaugural chair of the newly created Central Indiana Community Foundation. He also served as executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, as a commissioner for the Hoosier Lottery, a member of the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, the Tourism Board of Visit Indy, and the English Foundation, and he was given the Business & Philanthropy Award by the National Center for Black Philanthropy in Washington, D.C.

“Always pay it forward! How many times have we all heard it or know it to be true? From my time as a student when I got the opportunity to make the ‘student address’ during the Wittenberg presidential installation to my many years mentoring young people, I’ve always been a believer in helping the next generation. I’ve been blessed to have a platform, and I feel that I owe ‘Mother Witt’ for all she gave me. Helping to empower students to make good decisions is something I can help make happen.”
Milt Thompson '76

Thompson is now counsel with the law firm of Bleeke Dillon Crandall and president and CEO of Grand Slam, a sports, entertainment, and recreation planning and management consulting firm. He is the co-founder of Indiana RBI, the Major League Baseball program established to revive inner cities and provide opportunities for at-risk youth to play baseball, and Play Ball Indiana, which also supports youth baseball in the inner city.

To top it all off, Thompson is known by many sports fans in Indianapolis simply as “the Voice.” He hosts a weekly radio show on ESPN 950 titled “Playing for Keeps,” and that show is also now available on television on WHMB 40, and on the Internet via the station’s YouTube channel.

It is kind of like every Indianapolis community member is a cherished family member to Thompson. In many ways, his first in-person experience at Wittenberg set the stage for his relationship with his hometown.

“Mother Witt has always had a special place in my heart. I didn’t know her personally until my real mother died,” Thompson said. “As she lay on her death bed, she said, ‘Milt, why don’t you go to that nice Christian college in Ohio?’ So my Dad and I visited the campus on a Sunday afternoon, and he promptly locked the keys in the car.

“But before we could panic, we were overwhelmed with friendly faces and offers of help. A locksmith arrived and saved the day – an almost perfect day. I’d found my new home, and it was easy to make the decision to come to Wittenberg. My Dad felt I would be taken care of, and my Mom felt peace. How true that was.”

Thompson said he felt that warm embrace throughout his Wittenberg experience. He sums it up with a tale of a professor’s generosity:

“After a class one day, my philosophy professor asked me to stay after class. He beckoned me to the window of his office to gaze upon the parking lot and a rather beat up old station wagon. ‘You see that car?’ he asked. I said yes, and he replied ‘that is my old car. How would you like to borrow it for a while? You can take it anywhere you want to go. Just bring it back when you are ready to take my logic class.’ I did, and Professor Bob Long took an interest in my personal situation, and became my mentor and friend, and even came to my wedding. He became a protector … just like Mother Witt.”

Ryan Maurer
Ryan Maurer
Associate Director of Athletics for Communications, Web Strategy & Content

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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