News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 27, 2013

Kiwanis honoree focuses on next project

John Mutchner presented with Handclasp Award

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — You might expect a man honored for his achievements in two different successful careers to reflect on those past achievements.

But that man wouldn’t be John Mutchner.

On Thursday, the Kiwanis Club of Terre Haute presented Mutchner with its 2013 Handclasp Award, the group’s highest honor. Mutchner was recognized for turning around Rose-Hulman athletics during a 25-year career at the engineering school. He was also recognized for a successful 25-year career as a Terre Haute property developer responsible for more than 400 homes in eight subdivisions.

So what did Mutchner talk about at the Kiwanis lunch in his acceptance address? His latest endeavor, Riverscape, for which the Kiwanis Club also recognized his contributions.

Mutchner for nearly a decade has been a driving force behind Wabash River Development and Beautification Inc., a not-for-profit entity better known as Riverscape.

The Riverscape committee has an ambitious plan to improve thousands of acres of riverfront property in Vigo County, a fairly monumental task but one Mutchner never misses an opportunity to promote.

“This is truly a team effort,” Mutchner said receiving his award, adding he was accepting it on behalf of the entire Riverscape committee. “It’s an exceptionally good group.”

Mutchner, in a 20-minute presentation, spelled out the hopes for the project, which include more wetlands acquisitions in western Vigo County, a trail head in West Terre Haute and extensions of existing hiking and biking trails. Indiana State University, which is moving its campus to the west, is also taking a leading role in a large piece of the overall project, he noted.

The wetlands on the west side of the river are a little known treasure, Mutchner told the Kiwanis Club members. “You get in the middle of that thing, you think you’re in Wyoming. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Mutchner made special note of the contributions to Riverscape of Max Miller, a member of the Riverscape committee who is also a current member of the Kiwanis Club and a 1986 winner of the Handclasp Award. “He has been the absolute backbone of this committee,” Mutchner said.

As for his coaching years at Rose and his career as a developer, Mutchner made no mention of those things. He looked only ahead.

However, Kent Harris, a member of the Kiwanis Club and the Riverscape committee, in presenting the Handclasp Award, spoke of Mutchner’s other successes. Mutchner earned 341 wins as head basketball coach at Rose from 1963 to 1988. That was more wins than the Engineers earned in 55 years before Mutchner’s arrival, Harris said. Harris also applauded the efforts of Mutchner and his son, Jon, in contributing to the housing in the area. “The quality of housing stock has improved dramatically under their vision,” Harris said.

But Mutchner was all about Riverscape.

“We’re doing this because it probably should have started 20 years ago,” Mutchner said. “Money is tight everywhere, and we’re trying to do a big project. We’re getting it done. And we’re going to continue getting it done.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or