First Wabash Leaders Scholar Graduates

Less than 24 hours after playing in his last college basketball game, Champ McCorkle ’24 had a lot to be thankful for.

“As a first-generation college student from a modest background, I never dreamed I would have experienced all I have these past four years,” McCorkle, the first recipient of the Wabash Leaders Scholarship and Program, told a crowd of high school students and their families during this year’s recognition program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Wabash Leaders Scholar Champ McCorkle ’24McCorkle, a financial mathematics and philosophy double major from Greenwood, Indiana, shared stories and reflections about his time at the College. He was a Center for Innovation, Business, and Entrepreneurship (CIBE) senior innovation consultant; a member of Lambda Chi Alpha, Math Club, Spanish Club, Crypto Club, and Investment Club; founder of the new Sunrise and Cycling clubs; and a four-year member of the basketball team.

This past summer, McCorkle worked as a finance intern for Eli Lilly and Company.

All of those opportunities, he explained, would not have been possible without support of the Wabash Leaders Scholarship and Program, established by Steve ’63 and Connie Ferguson and supported by Mark ’76 and Helen Miles and others.

“I’ll be forever grateful that their gift made my Wabash journey possible,” said McCorkle, the oldest of three brothers attending Wabash. “Their support allowed me to grow into the capable, driven, and passionate person I am today, ready to embrace any challenge with an open and discerning mind.”

Endowed as part of the Giant Steps Campaign, the Wabash Leaders Scholarship provides support for students who exhibit a high probability of becoming a leader within their communities. It covers the full cost of tuition and room and board at the College for up to four years.

Ferguson, chair of Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc., has had a significant impact on the state of Indiana. From public service to philanthropy, he served four terms in the Indiana House of Representatives, and has been recognized for service to Indiana University as chair of its Board of Trustees, as well as chair of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. He received an honorary degree from Wabash and is a six-time recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, the state’s highest honor awarded by the Indiana governor.

He believes liberal arts colleges provide the right environment for developing leadership skills because they teach students the importance relationships and how to assimilate vast amounts of information, critically analyze it, and communicate broadly. That’s why he and Connie created the Wabash Leaders Scholarship.

“We view this scholarship as a higher calling,” Ferguson explained. “Wabash develops people with integrity, honesty, and all the traits that the institution teaches. I want those people—no matter if they go into education, medicine, politics, business, or government—in leadership. I want to do all I can to support leaders developed at Wabash who will solve the issues that face the nation.”

Scholarship recipients enjoyed this year's recognition program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

Miles, president and chief executive officer of Penske Entertainment Corp. (comprised of the IMS, INDYCAR and IMS Productions), didn’t hesitate to jump on board and support the scholarship program when he got a call four years ago from his mentor and friend.

“When Steve reached out about his idea for this particular scholarship program, I thought it was really compelling,” Miles said, “and an opportunity for me to reconnect with Wabash.”

He reflected back on his time at Wabash and to the lessons he learned that ultimately helped lead him to a successful professional career in motorsports and as a leader on numerous civic and non-profit boards and committees.

“During my time at Wabash, and several years after, I got involved in political campaigns, managing a few. That was like leadership boot camp,” Miles said. “Ultimately, if you’re going to manage campaigns, you have to learn a lot of different specific skill sets, and that adds up to leadership. I’ve felt incredibly fortunate that, like Forrest Gump, I fell into all that. It made an enormous difference in my career.

“I got involved with the scholarship because I wanted to be more intentional,” he said, “and to help get more outstanding young men to Wabash who might not otherwise be able to go due to financial reasons.”

Since 2020, four students have been awarded the Wabash Leaders Scholarship, including Ike O’Neill ’27.

O’Neill, a biology major from Westfield, Indiana, is a member of the wrestling team, Global Health Initiative (GHI), Wabash Christian Men, and Fishing Club. He is part of the pre-medicine program and hopes to go to medical school and become a surgeon.

“Financial aid was definitely a factor with my college decision process. Being one of five children, I worried about the financial burden the cost of college might have on my family,” O’Neill said. “When I got the phone call from (Dean for Enrollment Management) Chip Timmons that I got the scholarship, it instantly felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

“The scholarship has allowed me to spend my first year at Wabash really focused on my studies, wrestling, and getting involved on campus,” he continued. “Saying thank you (to Steve and Connie Ferguson) feels like it isn’t enough. It’s hard to put into words how impactful this is and how truly appreciative I am for their support.”

Ferguson hopes Wabash Leader Scholars will graduate with a drive to continue to grow, give back, and remain committed to leadership in their communities.

Mark Miles ’76, Wabash President Scott Feller, Wendy Feller, Connie and Steve ’63 Ferguson at the IMS.“When students receive this scholarship, I want it to mean something. I want these students to recognize that they have a responsibility to be the leaders beyond Wabash,” Ferguson said. “And I hope that—like Mark Miles and others did—more people will hear the calling and recognize the importance of supporting the work Wabash is doing to provide education and tools to kids who exhibit the skills needed to be great leaders.”

McCorkle’s goal is to do just that as he now prepares to dive into the workforce and further his education.

This summer, he is working as an investment banking analyst for The Peakstone Group, a leading middle-market investment bank in Chicago. In the fall, he will attend The University of Chicago Booth School of Business to pursue a master’s degree in finance with a concentration in investment banking. He has also accepted an offer to join Evercore as an investment banking summer analyst next year.

“My dream is to one day pass this gift on to the next generation of Wabash leaders,” McCorkle said, “and that is my commitment.”


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