For Ball State basketball fans, the NCAA first-round tournament game against UCLA in 2000 is a source of pride.

Despite losing, the Cardinals fought hard on a national stage against a much larger foe. But the Cardinals weren’t the only underdogs in the arena that night.

Another was student sportswriter Tom Gubbins, ’02. For Tom, the game has come to exemplify what can happen when you give working class kids an opportunity.

“There are a lot of kids that come from broken homes or backgrounds where living paycheck to paycheck and keeping the lights on is a real thing. That can be a generational problem. But 21st Century Scholars broke that chain in our family.”

Tom grew up in Dyer, in northwest Indiana. His parents divorced when he was young and his mom struggled to raise the family on one income.

Tom qualified for free lunches and textbook assistance. He also qualified for 21st Century Scholars. The program was relatively new when he enrolled in junior high in the early 1990s. Few knew what to expect.

Tom made the most of his time at Ball State, which included working four years at The Daily News campus newspaper.

Among the most memorable moments in his student-journalism career was the UCLA game during his sophomore year. He reported in-person in Minneapolis.

“I got to fly on the University plane from the Muncie airport with (then president) John Worthen and other dignitaries,” Tom said.

Tom excelled at Ball State, rising to editor-in-chief at The Daily News. He led the staff through coverage of Sept. 11, 2001, earning multiple national awards for their efforts.

Almost 20 years later, the former newsman has built a successful career selling software for news and public relations organizations. He lives in Crown Point with his wife and their daughter and twin sons.

Closing the Gap in Educational Achievement

Ball State University’s 21st Century Scholars have been vital to closing the achievement gap, curbing the brain drain, and more. Want to know how this program has made a difference for our students? Read more of their stories.

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