Make your home page

Indiana Historical Society celebrates new Living Legends

Melissa Proffitt, Dennis Bland, Tomas Morales, Ben Lytle, and Sonny Beck at the 2023 Living Legends gala/(provided photo Indiana Historical Society)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Five Hoosiers who have one of the state’s highest honors were inducted in a downtown, black-tie event at the Eugene and Marylin Glick Indiana History Center.

The Indiana Historical Society honored Sonny Beck, Dennis Bland, Ben Lytle, Tomas Morales, and Melissa Proffitt as “Living Legends.” The award aims to honor people during their lifetimes for extraordinary efforts in enriching the state and improving the lives of its people.

Living Legends program (Provided photo/ Indiana Historical Society)

The Living Legends honor is now well into its second decade. The first class of honorees, in 1999, set a course for other years to follow – reaching into the arts, sports, business, philanthropy, and more. The inaugural class was a powerhouse lineup of Larry Bird, Carl Erskine, Bobby Knight, David Letterman, Ruth Lilly, Sen. Richard Lugar, John Mellencamp, Jane Pauley, Oscar Robertson, Kurt Vonnegut, Herman B Wells, David Wolf, and John Wooden.

In the years since, the Historical Society has added politicians, puzzlers, judges, movie makers, clergy members, captains of industry, doctors, and many more.

This year’s class includes leaders in education, business, agriculture, and law.

Honorees accepting their awards (Provided photo by/ Indiana Historical Society)

Melissa Proffitt is a local leader in the legal world. She was the first woman to become a Managing Partner of Ice Miller, one of Indiana’s largest and most influential firms. She also frequently participates in international trade missions on behalf of the state, looking to build relationships that can lead to new business and cultural opportunities.

Dennis Bland’s achievements include a wide range of honors and appointments, perhaps none more lasting in impact than his role as president of the Center for Leadership Development. It’s a non-profit that prepares young Black Hoosiers for success in school and careers.

Tomas Morales has spent much of his life connecting people to work – and building better links between businesses in Indianapolis and the state’s Hispanic community. He founded the Morales Group, a leader in the staffing industry.

Ben Lytle is a self-described serial entrepreneur whose business ventures routinely find major success. His most notable success came through Anthem (now Elevance), the health insurance giant, which is one of the largest healthcare companies in the world.

Sonny Beck is the namesake and CEO of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, the company his family founded in 1937. It is now the largest family-owned seed company in the country. Beck has also served in leadership roles with Purdue University and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.