The Indiana Historical Society (IHS) is proud to announce Sonny Beck, Dennis Bland, Ben Lytle, Tomas Morales and Melissa Proffitt are being recognized as its 2023 Indiana Living Legends. This year’s class of Living Legends will be honored at the annual gala on Thursday, August 24, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, located at 450 W. Ohio St. in Indianapolis.
Each year, IHS recognizes extraordinary Hoosiers for their local, statewide and national accomplishments in a variety of areas and disciplines. The gala is IHS’s signature fundraising event and helps IHS fulfill its mission to collect and preserve Indiana’s unique stories by supporting its statewide programs and services.
In addition to the generous corporate sponsorship of OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc. and Lake City Bank, IHS welcomes individuals and companies to support IHS by attending the event. Event Benefactor Sponsorships are available for $10,000 and include a table of 10 with priority seating, a listing in the evening program and additional benefits. The entire cost of this level is a tax-deductible gift in support of IHS statewide educational programs.
Individual Benefactor tickets are available for $1,000. Patron Tables (10 seats) are available for $5,000, and individual patron tickets are $500. All but $75 of the purchase price for each seat/ticket at these levels is a tax-deductible gift.
The black-tie gala will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. The program will begin at 7:45 p.m. It will be followed by coffee and desserts, during which time all attendees will have the opportunity to congratulate the honorees. WTHR-TV’s Chuck Lofton will serve as the master of ceremonies for the event.
A selection committee of civic and corporate leaders performs the difficult, but rewarding, task of choosing the recipients. For additional information, or to purchase tickets to the 2023 Indiana Living Legends Gala, please call (317) 233-5658 or visit www.indianahistory.org.
2023 Living Legends
Lawrence “Sonny” Beck is CEO of Beck’s Hybrids in Atlanta, Indiana, where his business philosophy emphasizes quality, service, and the importance of agronomic research to the future well-being of the American farmer. Under his leadership, Beck’s Hybrids has become the largest family-owned retail seed company and the third largest seed brand in the United States, serving farmers throughout the Midwest and Mid-South.
Sonny earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy and Plant Breeding and a Master of Arts Degree in Agricultural Economics, both from Purdue University. When he graduated in 1962, he became the first College of Agriculture student to receive Purdue’s G. A. Ross Award, presented annually to the overall outstanding graduating senior man. Sonny was also awarded the Purdue University Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award in 1992, and he received an Honorary Doctorate of Agriculture from Purdue University in 2007.
Sonny has held a variety of leadership positions within the agriculture industry, including president of the American Seed Trade Association; president of the Indiana Crop Improvement Association; a charter member of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture Advisory Board; a charter member of the Purdue Foundation Development Council; a founding member of the Purdue FarmHouse Fraternity Foundation Board; member of the Board of Directors for the Purdue Research Foundation; member of the Board of Governors for the U.S. Grains Council; and a member of the Purdue Agriculture Dean’s Advisory Council.
Since 2013, Sonny has served on Purdue University’s Board of Trustees. He has also been named the Indiana Chamber’s Business Leader of the Year in 2016; NAMA Agribusiness Leader of the Year in 2014; and FarmHouse Master Builder of Men in 2014. Sonny and his wife, Glendia, enjoy spending time with their three children, 13 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
Dennis E. Bland, Esq.
Dennis Bland is president of the Center for Leadership Development, an Indianapolis non-profit organization dedicated to empowering African American youth for the highest academic, college and career success. Founded in 1977, CLD offers 15 curriculum-based youth development experiences as well as the unique College Prep Institute, which help prepare over 6,000 youth and parents per year for academic, college and career achievement. Prior to joining CLD, Dennis practiced law for nine years, specializing in medical malpractice litigation and insurance law.
In 2004, Dennis was appointed to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and in 2008 was reappointed to the Commission by Governor Mitch Daniels. In 2014, Dennis was elected as chairman of the Commission and served in that role for several years. In 2007, Dennis was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to serve on the Indiana Education Roundtable. Dennis also serves on the Citizens Energy Group Board of Trustees and on the executive committee of the Indiana Education Alliance.
Among his distinguished awards, he has received the President’s Medal of Distinction from Ball State, the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from DePauw University, the Distinguished Alumni Award from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Broad Ripple High School, where he graduated. In 2014, Dennis was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Indiana Wesleyan University. In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary degree from Marian University, and in 2020 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Martin University.
In 2016 Dennis was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Mike Pence.
Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from DePauw University and was awarded a juris doctorate (JD) from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. A native of Indianapolis, he is a member of Christ Temple Apostolic Church where he serves as a deacon, trustee, and eighth-grade Sunday school teacher.
Ben Lytle is a self-made serial entrepreneur-CEO known for being ahead of the curve. He launched five successful companies, including two listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The best known is Anthem, today 29th on the Fortune 500 with a market value over $100 billion.
He is a healthcare policy expert who served on state and presidential healthcare commissions, a governance leader with extensive public company experience, a senior athlete, world traveler, father of three children, and grandfather to eight grandchildren.
Ben’s devotion to individual and collective human potential through accelerated wisdom guides his writing, speaking, entrepreneurial energy and investments. He believes that people and organizations today underestimate the extent and speed with which they and the world will change. Time to prepare and adapt is being compressed, opportunities are being missed, and unnecessary suffering will result unless prompt action is taken.
He wrote “The Potential[ist], Your Future Life and Career in a New Reality” as a guide to success through wiser, timely actions and decisions in the opportunity-rich, turbulent times ahead.
Following 23 years of success working with landmark companies including Procter & Gamble Company, Union Carbide Corporation, and Donaldson Company, Inc., Tomas (Tom) Morales was inspired by his father to explore his dream of launching a business that would blend his desire to give back to the local Latino community and his pride in his Mexican heritage. With a goal to build a bridge between the Indianapolis business community and the growing Hispanic population, Tom co-founded Morales Group, Inc., a staffing & recruitment agency in 2003. Morales Group was created to build better futures, and over the last 20 years has positively impacted over 150,000 associates throughout the Midwest.
By matching those who are new to the city with job opportunities and employers, Tom has been able to promote, shape and develop the potential of the growing immigrant workforce here in Indiana. He continues to use his business for good and over the last nine years has been able to bless many families in Mexico by building 23 homes with the Morales Group team through Youth with a Mission (YWAM) Homes of Hope.
Morales Group has received national accolades and has been named one of Inc. 5000’s Fastest-Growing Companies five times, one of Inc. 5000’s Best Places to Work, and an Indianapolis Business Journal Fastest Growing Company.
In addition to growing his businesses, Tom serves on the boards of YWAM and Project Azul, a nonprofit he created in 2020 where all communities can advance and thrive in employment in Indiana. He has also served on the boards of Elevate Indianapolis, Immigrant Welcome Center, the Boy Scouts of America, the Franciscan Health Foundation and Indiana University Simon Cancer Center Development Board. Tom was also a commissioner of the Metropolitan Development Commission and was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels as a commissioner of the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana.
In 2018 Tom was recognized as a Laureate for the Junior Achievement Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame, and in 2019 was given an Honorary Doctorate in Business from Marian University. His alma mater bestowed upon him the Purdue Old Masters recognition, which is one of the university’s oldest traditions of celebrating the professional success of distinguished graduates and bringing connections with new generations.
In his private life, Morales is dedicated to God, family, and to creating and preserving a sense of community. After earning a degree in civil engineering from Purdue University, Tom married his high school sweetheart, Chris. They have been married for 48 years and are the proud parents of five children — Josh, Seth, Dori, Luke and Callie — and 15 grandchildren.
Melissa Proffitt is the Partner-in- Charge of Client Relations at the law firm of Ice Miller LLP. She is also the founder and Chair of the Food and Agribusiness Group and the founder of the Energy Group. She was the first female Managing Partner of the Firm, is a former Office Managing Partner and former chair of the Employee Benefits Group for over 20 years. In addition to practicing law, she is responsible for business development initiatives for the Firm. Melissa concentrates her practice in employee benefits and counsels regional and international clients on benefit issues.
Proffitt has received many awards and acknowledgements including being recognized in “Best Lawyers® in America,” 2006-2023, as an Indiana Super Lawyer from 2004-2022, was recognized as one of the IBJ’s Indiana 250 Most Influential Leaders in Indiana and has received the Indiana Lawyer Distinguished Barrister Award, among many other awards. She is an active participant in the Indiana Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s economic trade missions and initiatives, having attended 17 international trade missions to date. Melissa is active in politics at a community and a national level.
Melissa’s current board appointments include Chair of the Indy Chamber of Commerce, member of the Indiana Black Expo, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Star Financial Bank, Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council, Ivy Tech Foundation, The International Center, AgriNovus Board, NBA All-Star 2024 Host Committee, Indiana University Foundation, IUPUI Vision 2024 “Dream Team,” Indiana Sports Corp, and Indianapolis Dean’s Council for the Kelley School of Business, among others.
Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree, with distinction, from Indiana University. She received her juris doctor from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, cum laude. Melissa is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Eta Sigma and Alpha Lambda Delta honorary fraternities.