INDIANAPOLIS (March 3, 2006) – Governor Mitch Daniels is reviving an honor originated more than three decades ago by Governor Edgar D. Whitcomb. College basketball coaching legend John Wooden and the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and world statesman, are the inaugural recipients of the Sachem. The Sachem, now the state’s highest honor, given to only one person per year, recognizes a lifetime of excellence and virtue that has brought credit and honor to Indiana.
Wooden is the 2005 recipient. The governor has made arrangements for a former Purdue University basketball player, Steve Scheffler, to deliver the award to Wooden, who lives on the West Coast and was unable to travel to Indiana receive it.
Hesburgh, the 2006 recipient, will be honored at an Indiana State House ceremony on March 7 at 11:30 a.m.
Sachem recipients will be selected by Indiana’s governor.
“True greatness is rare, and implies more than just accomplishment. Hoosiers believe that character counts, too, that the kind of life you live matters as much as the achievements you’ve racked up. The Sachem will be reserved for those who led by moral example as well as successful action,” said Daniels.
Wooden, who was born on his parents’ farm near Centerton in 1910, graduated from Purdue and went on to become a basketball coaching legend following his unmatched success at the University of California, Los Angeles. Wooden’s accomplishments are renowned, but he has said many times that his greatest satisfaction has come from seeing his former players be successful and productive members of society.
Hesburgh, 88, a Syracuse, New York native, led Notre Dame for 35 years, retiring in 1987. His extensive public affairs career has been recognized worldwide. Among his many awards, Father Hesburgh is the recipient of the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His various appointments over decades of work have involved major social issues, including civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, and Third World development and immigration reform.
In 1970, Governor Whitcomb introduced the “Confederacy of the Sachem,” a group of business, industry, publishing, banking and legal leaders, who served as state hosts, welcoming visitors to Indiana and promoting the state’s culture and economy. Among notable founding members were Frank McKinney Sr., an Indianapolis banker and former head of the national Democratic Party; Fort Wayne publisher Helene Foellinger; Dodge Manufacturing President J. Allan MacLean, of Mishawaka; Skyline Corporation chairman Arthur Decio, of Elkhart; Hillenbrand Industries President John W. Hillenbrand, of Batesville; and Walter A. Schlechte, chairman of the Old National Bank of Evansville.
The organization’s name came from the Algonquin term applied to village leaders, implying wisdom, judgment and grace. According to the 1970 bylaws, Confederacy members were to use their status to “promote the sense of purpose and achievement-of-goal of the governmental and economic institutions of the State of Indiana so as to make them a sound base for progress in the charitable, historic, patriotic, and educational activities of the citizens of the state.”
At the time, Sachems constituted an honor greater than being named a Sagamore of the Wabash. Bylaws outlined that Sachems were to nominate and recommend Sagamore appointments to the governor. The Sagamore of the Wabash dates to the term of Indiana Governor Ralph Gates in 1945 and has been the state’s highest honor bestowed by the governor.
Following Whitcomb’s term, the Sachem project was not pursued, and the organization dissolved in 1989. Whitcomb visited Daniels last year to acquaint him with the concept and to give him custody of remaining Sachem funds.
Each Sachem honoree will receive a specially-designed sculpture that captures the Native American heritage of the Sachem. A student at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis Herron School of Art and Design designed the sculpture, which will be presented to Hesburgh next week.
A display about the Sachem, including the sculpture and information about honorees, is being developed and will be featured at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis.
Editor’s note: A ceremony to honor Father Hesburgh is planned for the south atrium of the Indiana State House on March 7 (Tuesday) at 11:30 a.m. Governor Daniels will lead the ceremony.
For additional background information on John Wooden and Father Hesburgh, contact our office.