(INDIANAPOLIS) – Pacers Sports and Entertainment vice chairman Jim Morris is this year’s recipient of Indiana’s highest honor, the Sachem Award.
Morris was Indianapolis Mayor Dick Lugar’s chief of staff and was instrumental in creating IUPUI, the Indiana Sports Corporation, and the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. He ran the Indianapolis Water Company before President George W. Bush asked him to become director of the United Nations’ World Food Program. He held that post for five years while simultaneously working as the U.N.’s special envoy to southern Africa, fighting drought, hunger and the spread of HIV.
Governor Holcomb says you can look in any direction in downtown Indianapolis and see Morris’s impact, from IUPUI to the NCAA’s headquarters to the Indianapolis Colts. He says Morris’s work at the World Food Program has multiplied that influence globally.
Morris says some people asked him why he went to the Pacers after five years working to combat hunger. He says it’s part of the same mission.
“I care deeply about the well-being of sad, hungry, lonely, vulnerable kids,” Morris says. He says sports teams have a unique potential to change kids’ lives when they’re represented by the likes of Indiana Fever Basketball Hall of Famer Tamika Catchings or former NBA star Quinn Buckner, the masters of ceremonies for the Sachem presentation.
Morris says the lessons he learned under Lugar have shaped his approach since: working to unify people, and making small changes to build the trust to accomplish larger ones.
Morris is the 16th Sachem winner. Governor Mitch Daniels created the award in 2006, giving the first honor retroactively to basketball coaching legend John Wooden for the year before. It’s been awarded each year since except 2016, with recipients including businessmen and philanthropists P.E. MacAllister and Ian Rolland, gospel singers Bill and Gloria Gaither, and Holocaust survivor and educator Eva Kor.