Tamika Catchings Receives Kevin R. Armstrong Ethical Leadership Award – The Reflector

Tamika Catchings Receives Kevin R. Armstrong Ethical Leadership Award – The Reflector

The University of Indianapolis Center for Ethics recently held its inaugural ceremony for the Kevin R. Armstrong Ethical Leadership Award. This award, which will be awarded annually to an Indiana resident who has made an impact on their community, was given to former WNBA player and Founder of the Catch the Stars Foundation Tamika Catchings. According to their website, the Catch the Stars Foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower youth with fitness, literacy and character development programs. 

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director for the Center for Ethics Lacey Davidson said this award was named after Kevin R. Armstrong because of an endowment for the celebration of his retirement. According to Davidson, Armstrong was a board member at UIndy, the president of Methodist Health Group and chief of staff at Indiana University Health. Davidson said Armstrong wanted to invest in ethics education at UIndy because of his background in helping people. 

“The purpose of the award is to honor an Indiana resident who makes contributions to their community through strong ethical leadership,” Davidson said. “The reason why we decided to kind of [frame] it that way is we really want to highlight people, our Hoosiers … who are really being reflective in how they think about the future of our state.”

Catchings started the Catch the Stars Foundation in 2004 because she understands the need for positive programs, mentors and support for young people, according to their website. Catchings said she struggled with finding her purpose after getting injured during her senior year of college basketball and found ways to get involved with the Indianapolis community in the wake of her injury. 

“We love what we do with the Catch the Stars Foundation. My sister and I, we started it back in 2004,” Catchings said. “I actually tore my ACL my senior year in college, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I was on my way to the WNBA. … I could be mad that I was hurt and injured and I couldn’t participate with the team. What a second choice was, is I could get out in the community and figure out and learn what is being a Hoosier.”

Photo by Allison Cook Kevin Armstrong presents Tamika Catchings the Kevin R. Armstrong Ethical Leadership Award, with President Tanuja Singh by her side. The purpose of the award is to honor Indiana residents with strong ethical leadership skills that help make a difference in their community.

The Catch the Stars Foundation has given out over $48,000 annually through its Scholar Athlete program, according to its website. Catchings said the program sends former athletes to college because not every athlete will be able to or want to play at the next level, much less for a scholarship. She said the Scholar Athletes also come back and volunteer with the foundation.

“We really focus on developing those character and soft skills,” Catchings said. “That’s something as you enter into the real world, you got to have those skills, you got to be able to look somebody in the face, you got to be able to communicate without having to type, you got to be able to spell. … So there are things that they need to learn.”

Catchings said her discipline and faith have played a large role in her success. Catchings was born with a hearing disability, which she said she was made fun of for when she was younger, which led her to sports. She said through sports she was able to focus on something and discipline herself to become great at it. This discipline has followed her throughout her life and has guided her through difficult times, she said.

“As I’ve lived my life—and the principles and the journey, and just everything that I represent, faith, my family—my faith is always number one, first and foremost,” Catchings said.  “… And what I do in the community, I think everything that I represent, kind of goes along with that.”

Davidson said ethics and ethical leadership can provide people with a framework to guide them through everyday life. She said everyone has goals in life, both long and short term, and those goals should serve as the “North Star” from which people should build an ethical foundation. It is important for students especially to see people like Catchings, who have a strong, ethical foundation and how they have found success, according to Davidson.

“That’s really important for students to have the opportunity to engage directly with some of the people that we bring,” Davidson said. “It allows them to think about what they might want to ask, and it also just brings a different perspective.”

Catchings said her message to students is to keep an open mind and find what drives them to succeed. She said as a kid she never could have imagined herself as a public speaker, but with her support system and discipline she has been able to take advantage of opportunities and make the most of them. 

“As you’re being exposed to a lot of different things, I think just have an open mind,” Catchings said. “Through my faith and all of the skills and all the values that I’ve talked about already, one of the things is now, even more importantly, basketball kind of protected me. And I would really allow people that were like, we all are driven to succeed, we were all driven to play back, but we got driven and going the same direction. … Now that I’m outside of basketball, I’m in business and more in the community, commentating and doing a lot of different things that I never thought I would do.”

Catchings said it has been amazing to see more women succeeding and holding prominent roles in leadership and sports. When she grew up watching her dad play in the NBA, the WNBA had not even been formed yet, she said. Now, she hopes to be someone the younger generations can look up to both as not only a basketball player but also a leader and a businesswoman. 

“You always hear that quote about ‘you can only be what you see,’ and so being able to have examples of people that you can see and that are being successful, but even more importantly, that are giving back to the younger generation,” Catchings said. “Even from where I stand, there’s gonna be somebody that’s going to step into my role at one point. And it’s important for me to make sure that I’m giving back to the next generation.”

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