Written by Jared Jernagan, Editor for the Banner Graphic – Published on Wednesday, December 8, 2021
With two relatively easy wins over Clay City on Tuesday evening, there wasn’t much drama on the court for the South Putnam girls’ basketball teams.
That’s OK, though, because the real drama played out in between the JV and varsity games, as South Putnam senior Catherine Hodge was named the 2022 Putnam County Lilly Scholar.
A girls’ basketball manager, Hodge had been told she would be called to midcourt to be recognized as the school’s DAR Good Citizen, for which she had been honored during a ceremony earlier in the day.
However, as Hodge began walking back toward the Eagle bench, Yowell called her back as Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship committee member Jenna Lanham walked onto the court.
Even as Lanham began her introduction, Hodge remained momentarily dazed as the real drama of the evening played out in her mind.
“All I was really thinking was, ‘What is going on?’ Hodge admitted, noting that she heard Lanham say “Congratulations” before her nerves got going again.
“And then I heard ‘Lilly’ and I was like, ‘Oh … oh my gosh … OK,’” Hodge said. “And then I thought, ‘You really need to stop hyperventilating.’”
Given some time after the presentation, Hodge still searched for the right words to describe what she was feeling.
“I can’t even describe it,” Hodge said. “It is wonderful, and I’m so excited to put this to good use to help better the community.
Catherine is the daughter of Michale and Natalie Hodge.
Awarded to one Putnam County senior annually, the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides full tuition and fees for four years of attendance at any Indiana college or university. In addition, recipients receive a $900 annual stipend for required books and equipment.
Selection criteria for the scholarship is based on scholastic abilities and intellectual pursuits,
capacity to lead and motivate fellow students, social commitment and extracurricular involvement, and the ability to articulate career plans that demonstrate motivation and initiative.
The other three finalists for the 2022 honor were Benjamin Huff, Maieasha Rashid and Tyler Rodgers, all of Greencastle High School.
While informing Hodge of the honor, Lanham noted how quickly Hodge began to stand out in the selection process.
“We were immediately impressed with you and your commitment to excellence,” Lanham said.
This continued at the scholarship dinner to which eight local seniors were invited. While Hodge admitted that preparations were stressful, that did not seem to show to the committee members.
“Your mix of confidence, humor and humility soared above others as we genuinely enjoyed getting to know you,” Lanham said.
Hodge’s leadership in her school and community shows her desire for and pursuit of endeavors beyond the classroom. She will be a 10 year 4-H member, has served for two years as the South Putnam FFA president and the vice-president of the SPHS National Honor Society. Such experiences have informed her desires for her future.
“I want to work my way up to some leadership position,” she said. “FFA has really helped me and taught me that I love leadership, and I really want that in my future.”
A three-year member of the Putnam County Youth Philanthropy Committee, of which she is currently the secretary, Hodge said she now appreciates being on the other side of such a process.
“It feels really good to be on the other side, and I am so grateful to the Community Foundation and to the Lilly Endowment that makes the community foundations possible,” she said.
Outside of organized groups, Hodge has helped facilitate the Putnam County Special Olympics track meet, volunteers as a babysitter for the twins of a single mother and cares for the livestock of two local farms so that owners can get needed time away.
“I can feed, give medications and revive baby goats,” she noted.
“She will be a light to many in this world as she has a heart that wants to serve others,” was the final comment of a teacher in a letter of recommendation for Hodge.
In the classroom, Hodge has greatly distinguished herself by making all A’s and A+’s including five Advanced Placement (AP) courses and she has scored the highest possible score of 5 on each AP test she has taken. She continues to challenge herself as a senior by taking two more AP courses, one Advanced College Project course and three advanced curricular classes.
Pediatrics and finance are the two areas that compete for Hodge’s talent. Until the pandemic, being a pediatrician was her only career goal, but the isolation experienced in the spring of 2020 allowed her to start her own business, Sunroom Succulents.
As a budding entrepreneur, she has brightened the lives of residents of Mill Pond Health Campus by creating a propagation garden where residents can experience the rooting process of succulents. Her love of business and especially finance was further piqued when she was accepted into Purdue University’s Empowering Women in Business program this past summer.
“Dr. Charlene Sullivan taught the course and through her simple activity of writing an income statement, I knew that finance could be in my future,” Hodge said. “I have worked to keep every educational door open. I have pursued learning about medicine through being Molecular Medicine in Action seminar and the Nanosystems Development Institute at IUPUI.”
At this point, the finance side appears to have won out, as Hodge said she plans to attend Purdue University, majoring in agricultural economics and minoring in French.
After pursuing an MBA, Hodge isn’t looking to stray far from her Jefferson Township roots.
“My plans for my personal life are to settle in Belle Union where my family has resided for over 100 years,” Hodge said. “I hope to raise a family and my poodles here and provide my children with the same opportunities I’ve had growing up.”
Her care for this community has been noted by others.
Another teacher said of Hodge, “I have never met a person who cares so deeply about their education, the people around them and the community they live in than Catherine. I know with certainty that she will achieve greatness both in her collegiate career and professionally while giving back to the community that raised her.”
Applications for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship are first reviewed by the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Selection Committee from the Putnam County Community Foundation. The local selection committee was composed of eight voting members, with two members residing within each of the geographic areas served by the four county school corporations. The LECS nomination process is highly competitive. There were 18 qualified applicants for the one scholarship award.
The process included a blind review for the first three phases, followed by a dinner in which the selection committee met with eight semi-finalists. The process concluded with four finalists having individual interviews with the Committee.
Following the personal interviews, the Committee submitted their nominee and alternates to Independent Colleges of Indiana Inc. (ICI) for the final selection of the recipient. ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 30 regionally accredited degree granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state which administers the scholarship program.
The scholarships are the result of a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative to help Hoosier students reach high levels of education. The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.
Lilly Endowment Inc. has provided over $439M in grant support for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program since the program began in 1998. There have been more than 5,000 scholarships awarded statewide with Hodge becoming the 40th Putnam County student named as a Lilly Endowment Community Scholar.