WNBA star Tamika Catchings to speak at IUPUI Commencement

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WNBA star Tamika Catchings. Photo courtesy of Tamika Catchings

Tamika Catchings, a superstar on the basketball court and an inspiration in the community, will be the featured speaker at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis' commencement May 14.

IUPUI Commencement is the university's official, campuswide commencement ceremony. It will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday, May 14, at 1 p.m. The student procession and diploma cover presentation will begin at approximately noon.

Catchings, who earned a master's degree in sports studies at the University of Tennessee, played her entire 15-year career for the Indiana Fever of the Women's National Basketball Association, cementing a legacy as one of the greatest women ever to play the game.

"Throughout her career, Tamika Catchings has been an inspiration on and off the court thanks to her performance, her attitude and her positive impact on the community," IUPUI Chancellor Nasser H. Paydar said. "I am delighted to welcome her to the IUPUI Commencement stage and look forward to all that she will add to this important ceremony in the lives of our students and our campus."

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Tamika Catchings. Photo courtesy of Tamika Catchings

Catchings led the Indiana Fever to its first championship in 2012, earning the WNBA's Most Valuable Player honors. A year earlier, she had captured her first regular-season MVP honor. She was named to the WNBA's All-Decade Team and was named a WNBA All-Star numerous times. She stepped away as a player from professional basketball at the end of the 2016 season.

She continues to empower youth to achieve their dreams through the Catch the Stars Foundation, which she launched in 2004. It provides goal-setting programs that promote literacy, fitness and mentoring.

Catchings started the Catch the Stars Foundation to help disadvantaged youths, saying, "the youth of today are the stars of tomorrow and lack of support results in many never reaching their full potential."

Her foundation has evolved to empower all youth -- not just girls -- with programs targeted to them throughout Indianapolis, with a specific emphasis on supporting and assisting youth in underserved and low- to moderate-income communities.

Among its programs, the foundation distributes books, backpacks with school supplies, and yearly college scholarships, and it conducts a mentoring program for kids ages 12 to 16.

In 2015, Catchings was awarded the first ESPN Humanitarian Award, and in 2016 she became the first woman to receive the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award.

An autobiography published last year captures Catchings' own challenges growing up. "Catch a Star: Shining Through Adversity to Become a Champion" tells her story of being set apart by her hearing loss and separation from family, living up to high expectations, and feeling the pain and discouragement of debilitating physical injuries: "She reached for the stars with hard work, perseverance, and her faith in God. Through the silence, she found the way to shine."

Other recognition for Catchings' civic engagement include:

  • She was awarded the 2016 Pathfinder Award by Indiana Sports Corp for her commitment to improving the lives of America's youth.
  • In 2016, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett declared March 22 Tamika Catchings Day, and then-Gov. Mike Pence awarded her the Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana's highest civilian honor.
  • She served in 2013 on a mentoring panel at the White House to honor Women's History Month.
  • She was named by then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to serve on the U.S. Department of State's Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports.
  • She has served as a National Ambassador for the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, honoring college women's basketball stars who do good work in their communities.
  • In 2012, she was a spokesperson for Indy's Super Cure, a community initiative of the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee to aid in research and donation of healthy breast tissue.
  • She was named an NBA/WNBA ambassador in 2012 for Sanofi's "Dribble to Stop Diabetes" campaign.
  • She was named in 2012 to serve on the board of trustees of the Women's Sports Foundation.
  • She appeared with Michelle Obama in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2012 as part of the first lady's "Let's Move Tour," geared toward solving the problem of childhood obesity.

IUPUI's Commencement is open to all. Tickets are not required.

Attend IUPUI Commencement