TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Former Indiana State University football players Tunch Ilkin and Ron Carpenter, both of whom have neurodegenerative diseases, have been honored by teammates, family and friends with an endowment to benefit ISU Football.
The Carpenter/Ilkin Football Endowment has raised more than $40,000 from more than 50 donors.
Ilkin, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, announced his retirement in June 2021 as an NFL television and radio analyst for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last October, he announced that he has ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Carpenter, a former co-captain for the Sycamores football team, served as president of the ISU Board of Trustees and the ISU Alumni Association Board.
“We are truly excited for the Carpenter/Ilkin Football Endowment that will not only help support our football program but also honor two Sycamore greats,” ISU Director of Athletics Sherard Clinkscales said. “We are thankful to the former teammates, friends and family members who came together to create this endowment and properly recognize Ron and Tunch.”
Former Sycamore quarterback David Pearre, a 1976 ISU graduate and teammate of Ilkin and Carpenter, is leading the fundraising effort. He said the endowment’s goal is to permanently name the ISU offensive line coach in their honor. Both players were offensive linemen. Carpenter played for ISU from 1974-77 and Ilkin 1975-79.
“Ron and Tunch are special teammates who have accomplished a great deal in their lives and been generous and giving along the way,” Pearre said. “They have now, at too young of age, been given the biggest challenge of their lives. I want to make sure they are part of the program in the same way they lived their lives.”
Said ISU head football coach Curt Mallory: “Our alumni have a tremendous passion for our program, and their leadership to honor Tunch Ilkin and Ron Carpenter is admirable. The vision for the endowment will forever ensure that these two Sycamores are connected to ISU Football and create critical resources to enhance our program. I am extremely grateful to the alumni, friends and family who have supported this initiative.”
Ilkin graduated from ISU in 1980 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He was a sixth-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played in five AFC championship games and two Pro Bowls. Ilkin was named to the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.
Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in 1977 and master’s degree in 1982 from ISU. He spent his career in non-profit management and served several roles at ISU, including President of the ISU Foundation from 2012-17. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU in 1998.
“I had the pleasure of knowing both Ron and Tunch during their undergraduate years and followed their professional careers after graduation,” said John Newton, Emeritus Vice President of Alumni Affairs and a donor to the Carpenter/Ilkin Endowment. “These are good men, much respected by their former teammates, their families and the communities in which they serve. The Carpenter/Ilkin Endowment is a fitting tribute to their careers, their courage and commitment to bettering society.”
An event recognizing Carpenter and Ilkin will be held in conjunction with ISU first home football game August 28.