Chris May was early in his nearly 13-year tenure as CEO of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame when he received an unexpected guest. He was downstairs working on an upcoming project. One of the museum’s volunteers told him that the rector from Milan was there to see him.
May, who thought it was the current principal in Milan, said he would be ready to see him in a moment. “I think you feel like getting up now,” the volunteer told May.
Cale Hudson, principal of Milan in 1954, was upstairs waiting for May. Hudson had donated his 1954 state basketball championship ring to the Hall of Fame years earlier when his career in education took him out of the state. Hudson, who died in 2021 at the age of 93, was a longtime professor at the University of Nebraska.
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“There’s probably a whole book about the people I met in this job,” May said. “That kind of cemented it for me because I hadn’t been in the job that long yet. It did not register me that the principal of Milan in 1954 could be there to see me. But Cale Hudson was 26 at the time. It was something. of the most unique thing that happened, but there were so many of these kinds of stories that you can hardly even begin to rattle them without forgetting anything. ”
After nearly 13 years on the job, May, 39, made it public Friday that he would resign his position as CEO of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. The native Rushville is leaving the position on good terms and will remain until his replacement is named and helps with the transition to the new appointment.
“It was probably better than I dreamed it could have been,” May said of his tenure. “People are constantly asking if it’s a dream job. I had never dreamed I could get this job. It was not a goal I was working towards. It just happened. I’m a big basketball fan, and in a state that honors basketball like we do here, it was just an incredible experience. I never had the chance to meet some of the people I have met and the relationships I have been able to build with them. ”
Since taking over as CEO from Roger Dickinson in June 2009, May has been part of several initiatives and improvements in the Hall of Fame in his time, including receiving the four largest individual gifts in the organization’s history, one of which led to the creation of The “Gifts of the Game” college scholarship program and another leading up to the hall’s renovation in 2021. The Hall of Fame recently secured a commitment from the Henry County Council paving the way for the expansion of the museum in New Castle.
Hall of Fame President Mark Baltz said that “the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame has a big void to fill.”
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“The wonderful growth and enthusiasm that surrounds the hall can be largely attributed to Chris’ professionalism and outstanding contribution,” Baltz said in a statement. “We wish him all good health and great success in his future endeavors. We all greatly appreciate his tenure with this ‘Taj Mahal’, as I like to refer to it. Our committee will eagerly and aggressively begin the task of seek out one of Chris’ talents to lead the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame forward in our bright future. “
But it’s the relationships, more than the projects, that May said he will value most from his time as CEO. Sam Alford, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer and father of Hall of Famer Steve Alford, has become a close friend. “There probably won’t be a day or two where we do not talk about what’s going on with the Hall of Fame,” May said. When he was first inducted into the Hall of Fame, he received a call from Tom Carnegie, the unmistakable voice of the Indianapolis 500, and the state basketball finals.
“It was a literal goosebumps moment,” May said. “It was like, ‘What could he have to say to me at all?’ It was special, especially because he was one of the co-founders of the Hall of Fame in the 1960s. “
May said his hope as CEO of the Hall of Fame was to “get better every single day and let the big picture take care of itself.” The Hall of Fame is at its highest annual membership and comes after a major renovation last year with plans for expansion.
“We have a lot of momentum going forward,” May said. “I definitely came in as a basketball guy and had a good understanding of a basketball sense of the job. But I had no museum experience. I had no idea how museums work or how they are funded. Sharon Roberts, who was assistant director of the Hall of Fame “Fame for 26 years, helped me so much. I would not have persevered if she had not been here and shown me how it was done.”
The annual highlight of May was the Hall of Fame Classic at the New Castle Fieldhouse. May led the selections of the four best girls ‘teams and the four best boys’ teams in the state to invite to the event each December.
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“With all due respect to all the people I met, Classic was the part of the job I enjoyed the most,” May said. “We took in some really great players and people, but Classic was always what I enjoyed the most. We tried to get all the teams into the Hall of Fame so they could see the whole story of basketball in our state. The two days were the most fun , I looked forward to every year. ”
May said he does not have his next job ready, but is looking forward to some downtime before becoming a “free agent.” He fully intends to be out for basketball games next winter as always.
“I want to breathe and get ready for the next chapter,” he said. “So far no one was able to send in the perfect solution, which is not strange. But I’m excited about the idea of being open to something else and also helping the next CEO switch to the job. I look forward to seeing someone come in who has the fresh energy for the position. ”
Call Star Reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.