Every year colleges and universities across the country seek out highly regarded individuals to speak at their graduation.
On Sunday IUPUI introduced a former Indy Fever star and Indianapolis icon at the 2017 Commencement.
After playing college basketball for Pat Summit at the University of Tennessee, Catchings was selected third overall by the Indiana Fever in the 2001 WNBA Draft.
She played her entire 15-year professional career with the Fever and led Indiana to the playoffs on numerous occasions, including three trips to the WNBA Finals and one championship in 2012. Catchings also won four Olympic Gold medals while representing the United States.
Other career accomplishments for Catchings include WNBA MVP in 2011, five-time defensive player of the year, and she currently holds the WNBA record for most rebounds and steals in a career.
While Catchings is known to many as one of the greatest female basketball players of all-time, it’s her actions off the court that gives her such high appreciation by fellow citizens of Indianapolis.
Growing up Catchings overcame a lot of adversity to get where she is today. She was born partially deaf and battled a speech impediment growing up. Catchings used that as a driving force to press through adversity, and today wants to give young children opportunities to do the same.
In 2004 she founded the Catch the Stars Foundation, a charitable organization that provides basketball camps and fitness clinics, as well as mentoring and literacy programs to help underprivileged children become successful in sports and academics.
After retiring from the WNBA in 2016, Catchings remained in Indianapolis, and to this day continues to be an intricate part in community service within the city. Most recently she took a front office job with the Indiana Pacers and Fever.
On Sunday, she addressed the IUPUI Class of 2017, but has been actively involved with the Jaguars for much of this spring.
Catchings received a Pacesetter Award from the IUPUI Office for Women at the office’s 20th Anniversary Celebration.
“This award honors women with a strong Indiana connection who exemplify initiative, courage, perseverance, and excellence in their chosen fields,” Assistant to the Chancellor for Communication, Becky Wood said.
Catchings has also been connected to the PHST P330 course – Celebrity Philanthropy, where students worked on proposals for promoting Catchings’ Catch the Stars Foundation.
Within the past couple of weeks, IUPUI Chancellor Nasser Paydar brought in Catchings as a special guest to speak to the IUPUI Women’s Basketball team for their accomplishments this season.
“She spoke at the reception and received her own IUPUI jersey, which she mentioned that she might wear at commencement,” Wood said.
As Catchings approached the stage Sunday, she proudly wore her Jag’s jersey, connecting her love for the sport of basketball with thousands of Hoosiers in attendance.
Chancellor Paydar has teamed up with Catchings to help promote IUPUI Commencement through social media and is honored to have the former basketball star as a guest speaker.
“Over the last few weeks, I have had the pleasure to see first-hand Tamika’s engagement with the IUPUI students and her genuine care for the community,” he said. “I am greatly looking forward to her inspiring presence at our Commencement Ceremony.”
IUPUI’s Commencement was held Sunday May 14 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Ms. Catchings could not be reached for an immediate comment.