Noted for their leadership in many community efforts throughout northeast Indiana
as well as their longtime support of Trine University, Drs. Rick L. and Vicki L. James
were presented the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest award bestowed by the
governor of the state of Indiana, during the university’s annual Touchstone and Homecoming
Celebration Dinner on Friday, Sept. 30.
“Over the course of your lives you’ve been motivators to so many givers and transformers
in your community. You’ve inspired a countless number of folks to pursue their passions
with your philanthropic spirit behind it all,” Indiana Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb said
in a recorded message. “Your spirit of giving is changing lives all across the region
and the state is better off for it.”
“They are inspirational, successful, creative, caring, compassionate and so much more,”
Trine President Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., said of the couple. “They have been instrumental
in infusing new life into Northeast Indiana, especially in Auburn and Angola, and
to Trine University, Rick’s alma mater. They are significant contributors to a variety
of causes, and Indiana, especially Northeast Indiana, is fortunate that they have
selected to remain engaged, supportive and dedicated to their region and community.”
“We’ve been blessed in our lives with more than we could ever imagine,” Rick James
said in accepting the award, “and certainly our involvement with Trine University
is one of those special blessings for both of us.”
Rick James, a 1977 business administration graduate from Tri-State University, now
Trine, serves as chairman and CEO for Metal Technologies Inc. (MTI), a company he
co-founded. MTI employs 1,127 individuals, of which 378 are in in Indiana.
Rick serves on the board of directors for the Foundry Educational Foundation, which
provides scholarship support to promising individuals who desire to enter the foundry
industry, and has been named to the Board of Directors of the American Foundry Association.
Vicki serves in multiple roles at Auburn First United Methodist Church and has served
on the Board of Directors for PBS-39 TV in Fort Wayne and RISE, Inc.
Area efforts supported by the couple, either personally, or through MTI or their James
Foundation, include the DeKalb Central School District Early Childhood Program, DeKalb
High School scholarships, DeKalb YMCA, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, the Indiana
United Methodist Church camping ministry at Epworth Forest, the DeKalb County Fair
Association, the DeKalb County Horseman’s Association, Eckhart Public Library, Junior
Achievement of Northern Indiana, the Women’s Care Center pregnancy center and the
Summer Camp Program at Bridge of Grace in Fort Wayne.
They also have led and contributed to several revitalization efforts in Auburn, including
a 100-acre public park, a public arts and culture square, and acquiring and renovating
selected buildings to enhance and preserve the historical character of the downtown
area and encourage private investment by others.
The couple also supports the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania, the Fellowship of
Christian Athletes and United Theological Seminary.
Rick serves as chairman of Trine’s Board of Trustees, of which he has been a member
In 2012, Trine bestowed Rick with its highest honor, the Pillar of Success Award.
He also previously received the Distinguished Service Award. In 2014, Vicki was honored
with the university’s Woman of Distinction Award. In 2013, Rick and Vicki both received
honorary doctorates from Trine University.
Trine’s University Center was named in honor of Rick and Vicki James in May 2012.
They provide annual support to the Trine Fund and have financially supported The Metal
Technologies Inc. Health and Fitness Center in Fred Zollner Athletic Stadium, a stadium
suite in the Athletic Stadium and a flagpole near the football field, an additional
house for use by Campus Christian House, the Jim and Joan Bock Center for Innovation
and Biomedical Engineering, the T. Furth Center for Performing Arts, the Ford Hall
renovation, Reiners Residence Hall, the expansion of Best Hall, and creation of the
Books and Beyond Scholarship. They also led the way with a major gift for the recently
announced Thunder Ice Arena and MTI Center.
“There is not a corner of Trine University’s campus or a project in recent years that
has not benefited and progressed due to Rick and Vicki’s incredible leadership and
generosity,” said Brooks. “There is no way to articulate in words or ever repay Rick
and Vicki for their leadership, generosity, impact and their commitment to the successes
of Northeast Indiana, the communities of Auburn and Angola, and to Trine University.”
The Sagamore of the Wabash was created during the term of Indiana Gov. Ralph Gates.
The term “sagamore” was used by the American Indian tribes of the northeastern United
States to describe a lesser chief or a great man among the tribe to whom the true
chief would look for wisdom and advice. It is a personal tribute usually given to
those who have rendered distinguished service to the state or to the governor.