Chris May was early in his nearly 13-year tenure as the executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame when he received an unexpected visitor. He was downstairs, working on an upcoming project. One of the museum volunteers told him the principal from Milan was there to see him.
May, thinking it was the current principal of Milan, said he would be up to see him in a minute. “I think you are going to want to come up now,” the volunteer told May.
Cale Hudson, the principal at Milan in 1954, was upstairs waiting for May. Hudson had donated his 1954 state basketball championship ring to the Hall of Fame years earlier, when his career in education took him out of state. Hudson, who died in 2021 at age 93, was a longtime professor at the University of Nebraska.
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“There’s probably a whole book on the people I met in this job,” May said. “That one kind of cemented it for me because I hadn’t been in the job that long yet. It didn’t register to me that the principal at Milan in 1954 could be there to see me. But Cale Hudson was 26 at the time. That was one of the most unique things that happened, but there were so many of those kinds of stories that you almost can’t even start to rattle them off without forgetting something. “
After almost 13 years on the job, May, 39, made it public Friday he would resign his position as executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. The Rushville native is leaving the position on good terms and will stay on until his replacement is named and aid with the transition for the new hire.
“It was probably better than I dreamed it could have been,” May said of his tenure. “People ask all the time if it is a dream job. I never even dreamed I could have this job. It was not a goal I was working towards. It just kind of happened. I’m a huge basketball fan and in a state that reveres basketball the way we do here, it was just an unbelievable experience. I never fathomed meeting some of the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve been able to build with them. “
Since taking over as executive director from Roger Dickinson in June of 2009, May has been a part of several initiatives and improvements at the Hall of Fame during his time, including receipt of the four single largest gifts in organization history, one leading to the creation. of the “Gifts of the Game” college scholarship program and another leading to the Hall’s 2021 renovation. The Hall of Fame recently secured a commitment from the Henry County Council that paves the way for the expansion of the museum in New Castle.
Hall of Fame president Mark Baltz said the “Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame has a huge void to fill.”
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“The wonderful growth and enthusiasm that surrounds the hall can be greatly attributed to Chris’ professionalism and outstanding contribution,” Baltz said in a release. “All of us wish him good health and great success in his future endeavors. We all greatly value his tenure with this ‘Taj Mahal,’ as I like to refer to it. Our committee will eagerly and aggressively begin the task of seeking someone of Chris’ talent to lead the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame forward into our bright future. “
But it is the relationships, more than the projects, May said he will cherish most from his time as executive director. Sam Alford, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer and father of Hall of Famer Steve Alford, has become a close friend. “There’s probably not a day or two that goes by that we don’t chat about what’s going on with the Hall of Fame,” May said. When he was first hired at the Hall of Fame, he received a call from Tom Carnegie, the unmistakable voice of the Indianapolis 500 and the state basketball finals.
“That was a literal goose-bump moment,” May said. “It was like, ‘What could he possibly have to say to me?’ That was special especially because he was one of the co-founders of the Hall of Fame in the 1960s. “
May said his hope as executive director of the Hall of Fame was to “get better every single day and let the big picture take care of itself.” The Hall of Fame is at its highest annual membership and is coming off a major renovation last year with plans for expansion.
“We have a lot of momentum moving forward,” May said. “I definitely came in as a basketball guy and had a good grasp from a basketball sense of the job. But I had no museum experience. I had no idea how museums work or how they are funded. Sharon Roberts, who was the assistant director of the Hall of Fame for 26 years, helped me so much. I wouldn’t have survived if she hadn’t been here and showed me how it was done. “
The annual highlight for May was the Hall of Fame Classic at New Castle Fieldhouse. May led the selections of the top four girls teams and top four boys teams in the state to invite to the event each December.
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“With all due respect to all the people I met, the Classic was the part of the job I most enjoyed,” May said. “We inducted some really outstanding players and people, but the Classic was always what I enjoyed the most. We tried to get all of the teams into the Hall of Fame so they could see all of the history of basketball in our state. Those two days were the most fun thing I looked forward to every year. “
May said he does not have his next job lined up, but is looking forward to a little down time before becoming a “free agent.” He fully intends to be out at basketball games next winter as always.
“I’m going to take a breath and get ready for the next chapter,” he said. “So far, nobody has come to me and offered me anything. But I’m excited by the thought of being open to something different and also helping the next executive director transition into the job. I’m looking forward to seeing someone come in who has that fresh energy for the position. “
Call Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep at (317) 444-6649.