Huntington basketball icon Bob Straight had an immeasurable impact on the lives of countless people, both in Huntington and around Indiana and beyond. But, perhaps none were touched as deeply by the legend as the famous 1964 Huntington Vikings basketball team, who finished as state runners-up that year.
Thirty years later, Mike Weaver, a member of the 1964 Vikes and an inductee in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, wanted to honor the impact Straight had on his life by investing in the next generation.
Weaver and his family’s company, Weaver Popcorn in Van Buren, Indiana, started the Bob Straight Scholarship in 1994 to reward a deserving Huntington North student-athlete who demonstrated the values Straight embodied: character, leadership, service and work ethic. The scholarship gave each year’s recipient an annual $2,500 scholarship for the college of their choice for four years to total a $10,000 scholarship.
However, with Straight’s passing in 2018, Weaver Popcorn came to the decision to close the scholarship.
But, despite Straight’s passing and the imminent end of the scholarship, a fateful conversation in passing between Bill Walker, who at the time served on the Bob Straight Scholarship committee, and Joe Santa, owner of Trophy Center Plus and a former Huntington North athletic director, set the stage for the scholarship to continue in grand fashion.
With Santa learning of the news the scholarship was ending, he was determined to do whatever it took to see its continuation.
“Mr. Straight made an enormous impact on this community including as a coach and as an administrator,” Santa, co-chair of the newly announced Robert M. “Bob” Straight Memorial Endowed Scholarship, said. “Thousands of kids and their parents benefited by his work and his wisdom. He brought a level of respect to Huntington and Huntington North High School that was felt throughout the state. I really didn’t understand that until I became an athletic director and was able to get to know individuals from around the state who had huge respect for this man. For me personally, he helped me land my first job as a teacher and coach at Canterbury High School and he was a mentor to me throughout my 17 years as Huntington North’s athletic director. His legacy has to be continued and a scholarship is a great way to do that.”
With no way to personally finance the scholarship moving forward, Santa and Walker set forth to put together a committee to fundraise money to continue the scholarship with the goal of having the scholarship fully funded and endowed.
In the time since, the scholarship committee has raised over $370,000, headlined by generous donations by Jim Seneff and Doug Ware, two members of the 1964 Vikings.
Ware, who now lives in North Carolina, knew contributing to the scholarship was a necessity to continue the coach’s legacy.
“Coach Straight had a profound influence upon many lives and the world is a lesser place without him,” Ware said. “Providing an endowed scholarship in his name is a small way in which each of the members of his great 1964 team are able to keep his memory alive for future generations of young men and women from the Huntington community. He will always have a special place in my life. He named me to the 1964 team during my sophomore year, which is an honor I cherish even today.”
But, beyond that, Ware noted his desire to contribute primarily came from the immense impact Straight had on his life, both as a Viking and in his adult years.
“Losing my father in 1981 was a crushing loss to me, but coach Straight filled that role throughout my life and still influences much of what I do today,” Ware said. “He was a great leader and taught us many lessons about hard work, sacrifice and commitment to any endeavor in life. He taught us to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. He played a huge role in my receiving a full athletic scholarship to Purdue, which enabled me to have a wonderful education. Over the years, my wife, Ginny, and I grew to love coach Straight and his beloved wife, Jean. We stopped to see he and Jean each time we visited Huntington. I was able to see him two days before he passed away. It was heartbreaking, but I was able to express my deep and abiding love for him and thank him for all he had done for me. I will treasure those last days with him forever.”
With the committee, comprised of Santa, Walker, Seneff, Ware, Weaver, Huntington North Athletic Director Kris Teusch, Beth Armstrong, Ken Klein, Don Martin and Joe Wiley, having reached its goal of raising more than the necessary $250,000 to fully endow the scholarship through the Huntington County Community Foundation, the Robert M. “Bob” Straight Memorial Endowed Scholarship has been established to continue honoring Straight by providing for future generations of Vikings.
To commemorate the achievement and officially announce the new scholarship in a public setting, the committee will present an oversized check to the Huntington County Community Foundation prior to the Huntington North boys basketball game against Manchester on Saturday, scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start. Additionally, former recipients of the Bob Straight Scholarship will be honored during halftime to add to the evening’s celebration.
Saturday will also offer opportunities to donate to the scholarship for those wanting to give back, honor Straight’s memory, support the scholarship and make a difference in deserving students’ lives. Checks can be made payable to the Huntington County Community Foundation with Straight Scholarship in the memo line. Donors will receive a receipt for their tax-deductible gift from the Huntington County Community Foundation.
The application for the 2020 Robert M. “Bob” Straight Memorial Endowed Scholarship will be released early in 2020. In order to qualify, a Huntington North senior must have earned at least one varsity letter in at least one IHSAA sport at Huntington North. Applicants must submit an application, a 300-word statement, a letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor, two letters of recommendation from any other people not related to the applicant, a Huntington North transcript and a recent photograph.