TERRE HAUTE —
As a high school student, Phillip Newbill didn’t know much about Indiana State University or even where it was, for that matter.
But there’s one thing he did know. “I just knew Larry Bird came here,” said Newbill, now an ISU senior. “If you ask anyone about ISU, they say, ‘Oh, that’s where Larry Bird went.’”
Newbill, a business management major from Bunker Hill in Miami County, is one of many students to participate in “Letters to Larry,” in which students, faculty and community members are encouraged to write a short note thanking Bird for his contribution to Indiana State.
“Letters to Larry” was organized by the Student Government Association and the Forest, a student pep club. A booth will be set up each day this week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Commons of Hulman Memorial Student Union. Notes also can be written from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the SGA Office, HMSU, Room 621.
On Friday afternoon, the notes will be delivered to Hulman Center, where they will be displayed at the entrance Bird will use for the Honoring a Legend program.
Students who participate in this note-writing have the opportunity to win free front-row tickets to the Larry Bird: Honoring a Legend program on Friday evening. Otherwise, those lower level tickets are being sold for $133.
Bird will be in town this weekend for several events, including a dinner and program Friday to raise money for a new basketball scholarship named in his honor. On Saturday, a 15-foot bronze statue of Bird will be dedicated at 11:30 a.m. on the southwest corner outside Hulman Center.
Tommy Lynch, director of the Forest, said, “We are doing this event as an opportunity for students here to show their gratitude and appreciation for Larry Bird and all that he did for Indiana State University. We want Larry to know that through all the years that have passed, Indiana State still appreciates everything he has done and continues to do for us.”
Newbill decided to write a note because, “I thought it would be kind of cool to pay tribute to him.” When the basketball legend and former Sycamore sees all the notes, “I think it will mean a lot to him,” Newbill said.
Freshman Nicole Marder also wrote a note that said, “Thank you No. 33, Go Larry!” She hopes to attend some of the events this weekend. “He’s a big part of ISU,” she said.
She knew a little about him when she started at ISU, but since then, she’s learned a lot more.
Other letters stated:
“Hey. My sister wears No. 33 at her AAU tourneys in honor of you. Kayla.”
Another read: “Welcome Home Larry. No. 33. Pi Kappa Alpha loves you.”
Yet another said, “Bird-man — Congratulations on all your accomplishments.”
Randa Wells, SGA public relations director, sat at the booth in the Commons and encouraged people to write something to Bird. The goal is “to build excitement for Larry’s homecoming” and also to educate students about his accomplishments at ISU.
Her letter stated, “Thank you Larry for your legacy to ISU.”
She’s from Hutsonville, Ill. As she grew up, her parents would talk about the Bird era “and how exciting game times were around Terre Haute,” she said.
Jacoby Waldron, a senior from Versailles, took the time Tuesday to write a note to Bird, which stated, “Larry, you’re the king.”
“I think it’s awesome that he’s actually coming back here and all of these people are coming back for him this weekend. I’ve never been so excited. I’m glad it’s happening this year while I’m a senior,” Waldron said. “And the fact that he might walk by and see all these letters showing that we do love him and care about him and how awesome he is, and for everything he did for the school, is really cool.”
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.