Keating Competition

Ball State, Franklin College and Indiana University Students Take Top Prizes at Keating Competition

Ten student journalists from around the state of Indiana set out Saturday, Nov. 4, in search of a story that might earn them a top prize of $3,000 for the 37th annual Thomas R. Keating writing contest.

In five hours, they had to interview, write and file a creative, compelling and well-written story.

The assignment: Everyone has a story. This is what Tom Keating wrote about five days a week at The Indianapolis Star. He wrote about ordinary people with stories that could inspire, answer questions and share the humanity of Indianapolis.

Kyle Smedley

1st Place - Kyle Smedley

Ball State University

Kyle Smedley is a junior journalism/telecommunications major at Ball State University. Kyle is also pursuing minors in sports studies and film/screenwriting and plans to graduate in the Spring of 2025. Kyle has been the Sports Editor, News Editor and Summer Editor-in-Chief for the Ball State Daily News and was a 2023 Pulliam Intern for the Herald Bulletin.

Judges’ comment:

“The student did a great job bringing the deep connections going back decades among employees and customers at Shapiros, a 118-year-old delicatessen on the southern edge of downtown. The writing was lovely and conversational.

First Place winner:

INDIANAPOLIS – JoAnn Spears looked down the aisle at Shapiro’s Delicatessen and pointed at a man slicing meat for the customer in line.

“Sam’s been here,” Spears said. “He’s been here for like 28 years.”

Her eyes, coated with purple eyeliner and behind far-sighted glasses, darted around some more.

“Carl in the kitchen has been here like 39 years; Jennifer, the cook over there, she’s been here a long time. She’s been here 20-something years,” Spears said.

Spears has been working at Shapiro’s for more than 20 years; she can’t even remember when she started. All she knows is she needed a job and hasn’t looked back since.

The Emmerich Manual High School graduate is an Indianapolis native and has never left. Even before Spears began working at the deli, she came and ate with family.

Throughout her two-decades-plus tenure at Shapiro’s, Spears has seen many co-workers and employees come and go. There are some, however, who have been at the deli longer than she has and are continuing to work steadily.

Spears said knowing forming decades-long relationships with co-workers and customers alike is the reason she looks forward to coming to work four days a week. She said it gives her a greater appreciation for people, as she sees them during their ups and downs and everything in between.

She looked past the translucent, plastic sheet in front of the cash register and pointed at a long table in the middle of the deli. Surrounding it were a group of more than 10 older men, chatting over breakfast.

“I just lost my husband two months ago,” Spears said. “And they brought me a card. They were so, so generous to me. They got me a card with money in it and a candle.”

Spears said she and her husband, who she requested not be named, were together for 44 years prior to his death. Coming to work nine-hour shifts at Shapiro’s not only helps keep her busy, but eases her mind from the grief.

She turned around and looked at a couple sitting at a table behind her.

“Judy and Gary, they’re regulars,” Spears said. “You just have your certain people that are really, really good to you. They just treat you like family.”

And the couple said the staff at Shapiro’s feel like family. Although they never met JoAnn’s late husband, they felt like they knew JoAnn well enough that they needed to express their sympathy for her loss.

Gary peered back into the kitchen and saw Jennifer cooking eggs on the stove. He remembered her taking a leave of absence from Shapiro’s less than a decade ago because of a cancer diagnosis.

He smiled as he remembered her coming back to work after beating the disease.

“She’s a wonderful person,” Gary said. “That’s just how it is; you just connect to them.”

Gary said he got hooked on Shapiro’s as a young boy when the deli provided food for him and other workers after they unloaded his grandfather’s trucks for his wholesale furniture store on Arizona Avenue.

“It’s very much home to me,” Gary said.

As the Pierlie’s told their story about what Shapiro’s means to them, an older man wearing suspenders and a long khaki coat with a bright white beard and head of hair wandered over. Abraham Millman, the 85-year-old Indianapolis native, began to unpack his story as well.

Millman said he has come to Shapiro’s every day since he was 10 years old, with the exception of his four years at Yale University.

“I’m a retired old kook now,” Millman said. “My wife is deceased, and I don’t cook, so I come in here everyday and eat.”

Gary looked past Millman to survey the food on Abraham’s tray, featuring an assortment of spinach, bread and butter, and plenty more.

“That’s why you look so healthy, you’re eating all this good food,” Gary said, sparking laughter out of the group.

The three continued on, talking about the history of the deli, always located at 808 S. Meridian St. Millman remembered the original Shapiro’s living above the deli in the 1930s to hide their Jewish heritage from members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Pierlie’s remembered an explosion caused by a gas leak in September 1976 that destroyed a nearby Passo’s Drug Store; the same section of Shapiro’s they sat and reminisced in. That reminded the Pierlie’s of a drug store on the corner of South Meridian Street and Bluff Road, the place they met in 1965 as high schoolers at Cathedral.

More than 50 years later, the Pierlies still come every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning. The pair are 74 years old and have been married for 56 years, but Shapiro’s is more than just a date spot; they remembered bringing their two daughters, Jennifer and Jamie, to the deli as well.

“When we go out to dinner on Tuesday, I don’t feel like we’re going out to dinner,” Judy said. “You feel like you’re going to your friend’s house.”

Larry Ford, an Arlington High School graduate, said he has been coming to Shapiro’s since 1969. Despite working for IndyGo as a bus driver for the past 10-15 years, Ford still gets takeout from Shapiro’s multiple times a week.

Before his tenure at IndyGo, Ford drove a school bus and did research for IUPUI. A perspective gained from his experience, Ford said even though Indianapolis has big events like the Indianapolis 500 and houses multiple professional sports teams, he still feels like the city is one big neighborhood.

Ford said the main thing that keeps him coming back to Shapiro’s more than 50 years later is the food, but he said nothing showcases Indianapolis’ communal feel more than Shapiro’s.

“This is Indy,” Ford said. “Everybody pretty much knows everybody. They know me, I know them… it’s like a family.”

Brian Shapiro, the current owner of Shapiro’s Delicatessen, said the melting pot style of Shapiro’s is typical of jewish-owned delis.

“When you walk into Shapiro’s, you know people who have been here,” Shapiro said. “We are the anchor.”

The nephew of the original owner, Shapiro said that anchor is made up of staff like JoAnn, like Sam and like Jennifer. He called his employees the eyes and ears of the deli, none more so than Spears.

“It’s the same people that come in every week,” Spears said. “Some I see every day, some I see every couple days, because I’m right here on this line. A lot of them know my name.”

Erin Bruce

2nd Place - Erin Bruce

Franklin College

Erin Bruce, from Troy, OH, attends Franklin College where she is majoring in multimedia journalism and sports communications. In addition to her involvement with the student news, she is a member of the softball team and Zeta Tau Alpha. She plans to graduate in spring of 2026.

Judges’ comment:

“Really cool story about a woman using her love of art, community and transformation to navigate the challenging journey of sobriety. The end was very captivating and showed this young writer has a promising path ahead.”

Second Place entry:

Donnie is leaning over the man on the table.  

The shop smells like incense. “Soul Love” by David Bowie is playing over the buzzing of a  needle. Marissa is watching Donnie work.  

Marissa Chavez, 43, started tattooing professionally three months ago. She moved to  Indianapolis just a month before after Donnie Kizzee, 53, offered her a job at his shop,  Masterwork Tattoo.  

Even after stepping outside, the sweet, strong smell of the shop sticks to Marissa’s clothes. She’s  wearing a Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt, and camouflage cargo pants. Her visible tattoos cover her  neck and arms. The sun reflects off of her chin length hair, half ink black and half lime green,  which makes her long red dice earrings even more visible.  

“In 1993, I did a bunch of little doodads on my fingers,” Marissa holds out her hand, and flexes  her fingers from left to right, displaying her very first tattoos. Marissa has worked managing  tattoo shops for the last ten years.  

Her most meaningful tattoo, she says, is her mom’s name on her throat. She lifts her chin to show  the black lettering, the ink appearing fresher than surrounding tattoos. She says Donnie did that  tattoo.  

That tattoo was to celebrate ten years of sobriety.  

“I had just really been tired of that lifestyle and feeling really hopeless. It’d been about 10 years  living on the streets, I spent two years in prison, and I just really wanted something better for my  life,” she says.  

Marissa is eleven and a half years sober now. She says her older brother inspired her to work on  sobriety, as he began working in harm reduction and helping people with addictions recover after  getting sober himself. 

“To see him be able to turn his life around was really inspiring, to know that it’s possible,” she says.  

Marissa says the female tattoo community has helped her throughout her sobriety journey.  

“Anything that you can’t do on your own, you can turn to others for encouragement and  support,” says Marissa.  

“I really like the community between female tattooers because it’s such a male dominated  industry, so all the women really come together and really support each other,” she says.  

Donnie had offered her this job because he knew she had experience working in tattooing. 

“She offers a bit of variety to a pretty standard tattoo shop,” Donnie says. Donnie has owned the  shop for two and a half years.  

The shop has three stations, and the walls are painted black. Flash sheets cover most of the walls.  Bright reds, yellows, and greens. Designs with thick, hard lines. Knives, hearts, snakes, eagles, babies, panthers. Thick capital lettering. All distinct markings of the American traditional style of  tattooing, sometimes known as “Sailor Jerry”.  

Marissa says her favorite tattoos to do are cartoons, or simple linework. “My favorite thing to do  is a matching tattoo for two women. I say it all the time, if that’s all I could do forever I would be  so stoked,” Marissa says. 

“I love women,” she laughs.  

Inside of the shop, where there aren’t flash sheets, there’s religious iconography. It’s eclectic, in  all different forms, from all different religions. The Last Supper is hanging on a wall above  Donnie’s station. He says a lot of the religious art in the shop was either gifted, or he traded for  it. He says a lot of decorations in the shop are inspired by Ed Hardy, an American tattoo artist  who often displayed religious imagery in his shops. Donnie’s favorite art in the shop depicts the  Rock of Ages. It’s meaningful to him because a shop he had worked at was named after it.  

The Rock of Ages is recognized in a biblical sense as a source of strength.  

When Marissa’s friend reached nine months of sobriety, he flew to Indiana from Texas so she  could tattoo him.  

“Nine months was the longest he’d ever been sober, and it just felt really cool to be able to share  that with him,” Marissa says.  

Donnie lights a cigarette as he and Marissa stand outside of the shop, talking. It’s a warm and  bright day for Indianapolis in November.  

The flash sheets can be seen behind them through the front window of Masterwork. The sheets  contain many images of women. Women naked and smiling. Women wearing a variety of  costumes. Women with long legs and short hair. Women that smirk shyly. Women that are  bleeding. Women that are crying. Women that have been opened to reveal an animal inside.  

A woman with short black hair, made of an eagle’s wings. 

Matthew Press

3rd Place - Matthew Press

Indiana University

Matthew Press is a junior at Indiana University. Press, a native of Atlanta, GA, is a journalism major with a minor in political science and is expected to graduate in 2025. From the first semester of his freshman year, Press has worked for IU’s student newsapaper, The Indiana Daily Student. Through the fall semester of 2023, Press has worked on a variety of beats including football, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, track and field, and club sports. In the spring of 2023, Press served as one of the paper’s sports editors where he edited and published content daily and collaborated with other desks to produce the IDS’ print publication.

Judges’ comment:

“A unique look into the characters that make this downtown Indy staple a place to visit over and over again. Really appreciated this writer’s inquisitiveness and illustrative approach.”


Third Place entry:

He still remembers the overwhelming fear that came over him.  

James Caldwell stood among the last line of three rows of US Marines who awaited to hear their  deployment plans. It was in the heat of the Vietnam War, and each Marine knew what it meant  when they heard the term “WEST-PAC” — short for Western Pacific Cruise. 

“Good God,” Caldwell said, was all he could think when he received the order, knowing he  would be sent into battle. 

After roughly three-and-a-half months in the service, Caldwell, now 78, returned home, back to  the exhilarating and often haphazard life he knew. Growing up in Macon, Georgia, Caldwell  worked a number of jobs. 

He washed cars, painted water towers and eventually stumbled his way onto various movie sets  as an extra. Caldwell’s soulful brown eyes widen when he talks about his time playing a terrorist  on the 1985 film “Invasion U.S.A.” starring Chuck Norris. 

From his youth through his stint in the military, Caldwell has always shined shoes. Today, he  works at Red’s Classic Barber Shop on 22 E. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis, which  blends 20th century architecture and culture with a modern spin. 

Caldwell’s workspace is stationed directly to the left of the entrance and features a variety of  oils, soaps and a copy of the Indianapolis Star for his clients to peruse. His job might demand it,  but Caldwell derides stagnancy. 

When there aren’t shoes to clean, Caldwell saunters to the back of the shop or steps outside to  examine the shrubbery and exchange pleasantries with those passing by. Even when he’s seated  in his spinning black chair, Caldwell is moving — today he’s violently tapping his hands and feet  to the rhythm of Perry Como’s “Papa Loves Mambo.” 

He’s worked as a janitor and garbage man, and even taken up security jobs. Caldwell laughs  about his time repairing railroad tracks, an arduous task his grandfather had taken up for over  34 years. 

“Guess how long I lasted?” Caldwell inquired. “Three minutes.” 


Two customers walk in. A father and his young son, both sporting Cleveland Cavaliers hats,  check in for their haircuts and meander over to the shoeshine stand. Caldwell inspects the two,  and his crooked teeth flash a sly smile.

The father and son pair slide onto the rustic wooden bench near Caldwell to commence a game  of chess. The father, who works in finance, takes a business call and sips on his coffee while his  son carefully studies each move. 

After a few unproductive placements of the pieces, the father hangs up his phone and starts to  explain Caldwell’s job to his son.  

“This is where the customer puts his shoes. This is what he uses to clean them. Pretty neat, right?” the father says as Caldwell nods in seemingly sardonic approval. 

Caldwell, stroking his scraggly white beard, starts to gaze out onto the street. He buries his  hands under his tattered maroon apron, adjusts his black wool beanie and starts to talk about  his wife, Linda. 

Digging into his back pocket, Caldwell retrieves his wallet. He wrestles through various cards  and loose dollar bills until he reaches a small picture of Linda. Caldwell raves about her beauty,  joking she’s significantly out of his league. 

In the other room, five barbers buzz their electric shavers in unison and make conversation  about the Indiana Pacers. They offer their takes on the NBA Play-In Tournament and rave about  Indiana center Myles Turner, but Caldwell pays it no mind. 

Linda, Caldwell’s third wife, is a seamstress — Caldwell proudly sports an aged, and slightly  ripped denim shoulder bag Linda made for him. His first two marriages were ruinous. Caldwell  said his first wife cheated on him and his second wife abused drugs. 

When he first saw Linda, though, Caldwell said he was speechless. He was working at a  nightclub and ultimately stuttered his way through an introduction after summoning the  courage to talk to her. 

“It was like I couldn’t even talk!” Caldwell roared through a loud chuckle. 

Again, Caldwell slaps his hands on his knees and propels himself away from the chair, groaning  until he finally stands up. He jokes about his height and stands at no more than 5-foot-5, which  appears even shorter with his subtle hunch. 

The phone rings and reverberates through the store as Caldwell wanders into the back. Chelsea  Hugunin sits at the reception desk, burrowed near a computer illuminated by just one  functioning bulb of the three overhead lights. 

Like Caldwell and the barbers, Hugunin relishes the human interaction the job entails. Hugunin  graduated from IUPUI as a journalism student and now works freelance marketing jobs and  serves as Red’s acting General Manager. 

Hugunin glances over at Caldwell, who’s recently returned from one of his myriad mysterious  quests. He starts bobbing his head to another jazz song, and Hugunin can only grin. 

“He’s a character,” Hugunin said. “Very ornery in the best way possible.” 


Military memorabilia and relics from a “bygone era” as the Indianapolis Star put it upon the  shop’s opening in 2007, line the walls. Tyler Baker, a barber who started working at Red’s in  2017, dresses the part with his black leather Newsboy Cap. 

Baker, who was born and raised in Indianapolis, never saw himself cutting hair for a living. That  was until he saw a YouTube video of barbers in Europe, which Baker said hooked him into the  profession. 

At Red’s, Baker has seen a handful of notable names — Indianapolis mayoral candidate Jefferson  Shreve recently came in for a haircut. Former Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck has  stopped by, too. 

Baker said Luck strode by on a bicycle and walked in wearing a t-shirt and gym shorts, perhaps  unusual for a once prolific NFL signal caller. 

“He’s just like you and me,” Baker said. 

He’s burly, tall and offers a vise-like grip on his handshake. But Baker speaks softly and expresses  a genuine passion for his work. He spent three different sessions getting barbershop tools  tattooed along his left arm, which sit just below his family crest on his shoulder. 

“I wear my career on my sleeve,” Baker said. 

A customer walks in before Baker can continue his thought. His name is Shaq. The other  barbers, major basketball fans, cause an uproar at the thought of seeing NBA great Shaquille  O’Neal walk through the door. 

Just as Caldwell struts back, the commotion heightens. The barbers make jokes about the 7- foot-1 O’Neal and the comparatively short customer. 

“You not the real Shaq,” one of the barbers calls out from behind his chair. 

Again, Caldwell ignores the conversation. He strolls past the tree of fedora hats and hanging  coats and slumps back into his seat. 

“Alright, alright, alright,” Caldwell says when he returns.


Sometimes at Red’s, the talking stalls — the buzzing razors and chopping clippers are the only  discernable sounds. Caldwell won’t normally take charge in conversations. His back is typically  turned to the barbers and receptionists, and he instead opts to mindlessly peer outside. 

He doesn’t exactly delineate what he’s looking at, either. People on scooters zoom past the  store, cars whistle by and a cloud of steam rises from the road, but Caldwell doesn’t turn his  head in any direction. 

A new jazz song starts to play through the shop’s speakers. Caldwell’s especially fond of it. He  uses his full body — tapping his feet and slapping the arm rests of his chair — to match the  melodic hums of the saxophone. 

Some two minutes later, after the conclusion of the song, Caldwell stands up. This time, though,  he isn’t heading to the back. Caldwell starts toward the shop’s entrance, but not before offering  some reassurance. 

“Don’t worry,” Caldwell says. “I’ll be back.”

Other finalists were: Ashley Wilson (IUPUI), Carolyn Marshall (Indiana University), Dezaray Clawson (Purdue Fort Wayne), Eliana Alzate (DePauw University), Jakyra Green (Goshen College), Justin Haberstroh (IUPUI), Maggie Eastland (University of Notre Dame).

Ashley Wilson, IUPUI

Rick Hinton blended in amongst the crowd in a nondescript tan hat, shorts and a plain black hoodie, just another church volunteer at a food bank in downtown Indianapolis. But in his 67 years, Hinton has had many investigative encounters with the paranormal and written about his experiences, proving that appearances can be misleading.

Hinton has been a resident of Indianapolis for most of his life. He grew up on the east side and attended Warren Central High School. As a child, he had a mild interest in the paranormal, reading books such as “Chariots of the Gods,” and even having a few experiences when visiting his mother’s family in Southern Kentucky.

His interest in the paranormal simmered out as he grew, until he started seeing shows  such as “Ghost Hunters” becoming popular on television. He found a group of ghost hunters in the Indianapolis area, and after learning how to use the equipment, he left to form his own group.

For six years, Hinton wrote and published articles on, before reaching out to the Southside Times with an interest in covering the paranormal, which he wrote for from November 2015 to December 2021.

Hinton met his wife, Laura, while working with the paranormal. Laura read his articles and reached out, interested in learning about his experiences. Their first date was at the Gaslight Inn, a local paranormal hotspot located on the south side.

Before meeting Hinton, Laura had two daughters and a son, and Hinton had a son from a previous marriage. Hinton and Laura now have five grandchildren together. Hinton is thankful that him and Laura have been able to grow, through their paranormal experiences and shared religion.

Hinton’s most intense paranormal experience came when his group traveled to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky called Waverly Hills. While at the sanatorium, Hinton faced a variety of strange encounters.

At one point, he was talking and walking with what he thought was one of his group members. He then heard the same group member’s laugh from down the hall, and turned to find that she hadn’t been standing next to him.

He also had what he believed to be a spirit follow him throughout the sanatorium. Hinton could hear noises moving behind him, and would turn around to see a figure popping its head around a corner, then it would disappear.

While his mother was sick and before she died, Hinton said that his mother’s house “went crazy.” His mother was speaking to people that weren’t present, and his mother’s caregiver witnessed cups sliding across tables.

“When she died, all the darkness that was there just cleared out. It was very profound,” Hinton said.

Related to this scenario, he had mixed feelings, due to the fact that he considers there to be “evil leanings” in those encounters, but within his faith he would like to believe that his grandmother was the spirit who was with his mother in those last moments.

Eventually, the contrast between his religious beliefs and his interest in the paranormal reached a peak, and Hinton and his wife gave up their paranormal investigations, especially as they became more involved in Elevation Church.

Hinton has been going to Elevation in Greenwood for around six years, and was initially drawn to the specific community due to the “caring people” that he met. Hinton said that he had always believed in God, but strayed away from religion for various reasons.

This very quickly changed when Hinton was 23, got salmonella poisoning from a Long John Silver’s and nearly died. Throughout his stay in the hospital, he was visited by a chaplain who provided support, and he then re-discovered his faith after the experience.

“I was saying goodbye to my friends and family,” Hinton said. “I prayed to God, and I believe he helped.”

After his brush with death, Hinton’s friend Kim, who he had known since high school, and Kim’s wife Nancy, invited him to live with them in Oregon. They managed an automated lighthouse on Sauvie Island, around 15 miles outside of Portland.

During the five years he spent in Oregon, a friend led him to connect with a church community, eventually leading him to get baptized.

Now at Elevation, both Hinton and his wife are active members. They volunteer at community events, such as the food bank, and in assisted living facilities in the area.

Paul Logue, another member of Elevation, has been friends with Hinton since he joined the church. Together, Hinton and Logue work on a men’s fellowship and are part of a men’s breakfast club.

“Some of the things that we do together is to make sure we’re reaching out to community,” Logue said, related to his work with Hinton. “He participates with these other groups, not just the men’s group.”

Outside of the church, Hinton, who is slated to retire next year, has been working in the auto industry for 25 years. He initially fell into the field due to his father, who originally ran a body shop.

His father was offered a job at Cox Industries, which focuses in power and auto. After his father suffered from a stroke and died, Hinton was offered his father’s position. Hinton said that in the field, he enjoys working with people and educating others on the field.

Outside of his main career, despite giving up paranormal investigations when joining the church, Hinton continued to write for the Southside Times. He wrote about his paranormal experiences and local paranormal locations, along with articles about local history and community based events.

Hinton has also written and self published three books, and soon to be four. One of his books featured a compilation of his paranormal articles that were published in both the Southside Times and the Examiner.

Hinton said that although he misses writing, he felt that he wrote all that he had to say. So now, paranormal equipment and ghost hunting have been traded for homemade chili at food banks, and soon retirement and time spent with family.

Carolyn Marshall, Indiana University

Amongst the bleak, cold, concrete skyscrapers that surround the Soldiers and Sailors Monument roundabout, an elderly couple stands by the bed of their white Ford F-150. Flowers of peach, white, and toffee roses spill out of the sides. The husband attentively watches his wife pinch corsages together for their nephews wedding happening later that day November 4, at 4 p.m. 

28 years ago, Colleen Lee, 61, had no clue her UPS driver had fallen in love with her at first sight. Randy Lee, 54, admitted he was enamored the minute they locked eyes. 

It’s a love story you see in the movies, writers like Jane Austen wish they could make up and little kids dream of. A flower shop by the dunes, a driver who purposefully holds out boxes so that he can deliver them to his crush, a marriage that happened after a year of two people knowing each other.

Two months ago on September 14, Colleen and Randy celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary which takes place the day after Randy’s birthday. 

“Makes it easy to remember for him,” Colleen jokes. 

Colleen worked at a flower shop out of high school before opening her own called “Flowers by the Dunes”’ on a lake in Miller, IN. She retired after three years of owning it because of time and money constraints. Now, she works as a Director of Retail Sales for EDF Energy Services after going back to school for her Masters of Business Administration from Indiana Wesleyan University. 

She and Randy bought the flowers for the wedding today, spending up to $4,000 on them alone. She believes flowers are one of the most important components of a wedding, and is glad the bride and groom didn’t have to worry about a budget for their decorations. 

The excitement and nervousness of arranging the wedding flowers on time is contained by the efficient movement of her hands. Glitter speckles her face, She takes scissors to trim the wisteria, roses and sparkled ribbon to exact lengths. 

Amongst flowers, Colleen has decided that giving to others is her calling in life. 

“I just think in my everyday life, you know, I am always going to put someone before myself. It’s just how God made me to be,” she said. 

She is actively involved with the New Hope Counseling Ministry at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton, IN. There, she runs “True North Training Stables,” a horse therapy mission focused towards helping young girls, specifically those who struggle with depression, self-harm, ADHD, ADD and other mental struggles they may face. 

Randy shared his amazement at Colleen’s ability to give so easily to those around her. As he explained her giving spirit, Colleen wrapped a photo of his father on what was to be the groom’s boutonniere for that day, someone who played a large role model within his life.

She grew up on a farm in Chesterton, IN, where her parents owned a boarding barn for privately owned horses throughout the state of Indiana. Later on, she and Randy bought a farm and 4 horses, one of which helped their friend’s daughter deal with being bullied at her school. Colleen saw how much the horse helped, and decided to make a mission with it. 

Her faith plays a large role in who she feels called to be. Each day she and Randy pray for family, friends and world events, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

“I pray for comfort and peace (for) our hearts and our minds,” she said, “I think that we’re all made different, and I think that’s just the way God made me.” 

To this day she finds arranging flowers to be a creative outlet, since her mind is so often focused on math equations at her current job. Her math still applied as she bought 105 specific roses that were $20 each along with smaller arrangements for the day. As she finished her nephew’s boutonniere, she explained to Randy that she would finish up the flowers at the wedding venue.

As they packed up the flowers to drive to their destination, the sun peeked through the concrete jungle. Warm sunlight broke through the dreary gray clouds, filtering onto stone buildings. A beautiful day for a wedding.

Dezaray Clawson, Purdue Fort Wayne

“I’m not homeless, I have a home. I have my tent.” 

Ralph Franklin Jr is the kind of man we’ve all walked by. He sits on the side of the sidewalk in a worn down red lawn chair with a cardboard sign reading “I’m a veteran. Anything helps. Looking for food,  smokes and booze. In that order.” If you catch him on the right day you might even get the chance to  meet Tigger, or “Tig” as Franklin affectionately calls him, the orange tabby that’s taken a liking to him. 

“There’s a few different wild cats around here, we all sort of keep an eye on them. They’re just trying to  live, like us.” 

He sits on his spot, about halfway between Goodwood Indy and Steak n Shake on S. Illinois St., from  about 8 am to 5 pm nearly every day and has since he became homeless nearly 8 months ago. Retired  for the last 6 years, Franklin passes time watching people walk by.  

“I have a pretty good time here. I talk with the people from around here, I watch visitors explore the  city. This weekend I got to see those FFA kids running around for their conference, I tell them I hope  they have a good time.” 

He tells nearly every person who walks by to have a good day, whether they look at him or not. Most  stare straight ahead and keep walking.  

“Probably 99% of people who walk by me pretend I do not exist,” said Franklin. “And that’s okay, that’s  their choice. It doesn’t bother me. I’ll still tell them to have a good day.” 

Despite the majority ignoring his presence, Franklin has found friendly faces in employees of  neighboring businesses. Many will wave at him as they walk into work and ask how his day has been. 

“It’s part of my routine at this point, saying hi to him on my walk in and goodbye on my walk out,” said Megan Ortiz, a server at Goodwood Indy. “I can’t say I know too much about him, but I know that he’s  Ralph and he’s not hurting anybody.” 

And Franklin isn’t hurting anyone, he said, he had enough of that in the service. 

“I killed people. A lot of people. That’s what I said at my first job interview after getting home when they  asked what I did in the Marines. I told them I killed people. Well, they stopped asking questions and  hired me as a security guard instead of an office worker. But a job’s a job.” 

He never intended on entering the military, but the US government had other plans. He tried his best to  make the best of it.  

“I came home one day and my mom told me a draft letter had come in the mail. I told her I would be  right back and went and applied for the Marines. I figured if I was going to have to join the military, I  might as well do something I’m good at.”  

And Franklin was good at it. He was a general officer in the 3rd Marine Regiment at Okinawa. He proudly  wears a well-worn cap that shows he’s a Purple Heart recipient (five times, to be exact) that is decorated  with pins from his service days. Not that it means much now, it seems. 

“I gave them ten years of my life and the best of my health. They give me $800 a month to live off.” He  shook his head before taking a sip of his whiskey shooter. He raised the bottle with a wink, “It keeps me  warm.” 

Warmth is a big concern, with winter approaching fast, for both Franklin and those who enjoy his  presence. 

“On the days he isn’t out there, a part of me is always worried. He wasn’t there yesterday, and I couldn’t  help but think about how cold it was the night before,” said Ortiz. 

But Franklin isn’t new to this. He, like three out of four people experiencing homelessness, has been  through it before. 

“I’ve lived like this many times over the years. I mean I was living like this in ‘Nam. That’s how I know  how to do it.” 

This means he has a plan in place for the winter that he’s already putting into action. 

“I got my social security on the first and I went to Walmart and got us a propane camping stove. It’ll  cook our food and it’ll keep us warm. I also got some tarps I’m going to set up so we can sit outside in  the rain and stay dry.” 

The “we” Franklin is referring to is himself and his campmate Fred. Soon after losing his apartment,  Franklin met Fred on the street, and they became close. It’s important to have allies living this  “nontraditional” life, according to Franklin. 

“It makes it a lot easier when you have someone else. He’s watching our camp right now. When he  wants to go out, I’ll watch it. We take turns sleeping so there’s always an eye on our things.” 

Franklin has grown accustomed to his life. And even though he’s in the process of trying to set up a  permanent living situation through Homeless Veterans and Families of Indiana, he said he’d also be fine  continuing life how he currently is.  

“If they want to set me up with an apartment, I’ll go. But I have my tent and my camping stove and my  tarp. What else do I need?”

Eliana Alzate, DePauw University

Memory Forwalt-Chadwell took a flight to downtown Indianapolis hoping to reunite with close  relatives after several decades. Yet a series of unanswered calls led her to a cold, dark alleyway  between East Washington St. and North Scioto St., with a tall soda cup and a tattered black  backpack to keep her company. 

“There’s a world that we can’t get to, and it’s bothering me,” she says, concealing her bright red  hair under a wool jacket. 

Born in New Mexico, Forwalt-Chadwell has always been in search of a home after her parents’  divorce when she was three years old. “I was raised by a single mom and I had a part-time dad  because he was like, eight hours away,” she explains. 

As the daughter of an Oklahoma military pilot, she was fascinated by the luxurious promises of  her father such as comfortable canopy beds, pet dogs, and golden military badges.  

“He would always tell me, ‘Now come here, you can live with me,’” she explained, her eyes  carefully glimmering while reminiscing on how she used to travel between two to 36 times a  year. “But I was [my mother’s] little friend, not just her little daughter, you know.” 

After Forwalt-Chadwell frequently witnessed her mother cry about her father for several nights  throughout childhood, she yearned to have a complete family of her own. A few years later, she  decided to get married to her husband at a young age, moving out of her mother’s home in New  Mexico. 

“I was too young and so many people do this that I didn’t know the difference of what the world  had to offer. I was stuck in this familiar zone.”  

She attributes the breaking point to her husband’s sudden electrocution at work, where he failed  to use an insulated pole to protect himself from a severe electric shock at his field site.  

“He had to have CPR and everything, [I thought] he was gone,” she shares, with tears rising in  her eyes while reminiscing on the difficult recovery process. “I stuck through it, through staying  together…he was dealing with his thing and I’m dealing with what I felt I lost.” 

After 11 years of marriage, she eventually decided to leave her husband, as she spent her  remaining savings on fast food, movie tickets, and other personal luxuries.  

“If I want to get coffee, I’m gonna go get coffee. I don’t have to ask [anyone] if they want to get  dinner because now [he’s] not here.” 

Yet her enjoyment was cut short upon injuring her right eye during an accident at work, which  forced her to undergo various CT scans, ultrasounds, and other medical procedures that  affected her ability to continue her work.

“I couldn’t even seem to light a cigarette,” she says, moving away a strand of hair from her eyes  as a glimmer of sunlight crosses through the neighboring trees of the alleyway. 

She stops to smile at a man wearing a blue coat and a camouflaged beanie, lighting another  cigarette in his hands. He pushes a cart filled with garbage bags of spare clothes and leftover  snacks. 

“I only met him today. He said that he was shaking his cup [to ask] for money for the first time,  and it wasn’t working,” Forwalt-Chadwell says. She laughs at her newfound friend, Michael. 

With her quiet sense of humor and her hopeful glances into the city, Forwalt-Chadwell begins  another day with a teal blanket and her red coat keeping her warm for the winter season.

Jakyra Green, Goshen College

Kelsey Wagner walks down S. Pennsylvania St, meandering her way to a hair appointment. She’s wearing tie-dye pajama bottoms, a cozy coat and boots — an outfit that radiates comfort and confidence. 

Yet beneath this layer of contentment, Wagner’s life has been anything but a walk in the park. She carries a heavy burden — her mother’s murder. 

Wagner, now 37, lost her mother at the age of 11. 

“I lost my mother pretty tragically,” Wagner said. “That kind of formed a lot of my childhood trying to heal through that. I really clung to her and art. That was something my mom also went to college for. So, I just love art.” 

Wagner made art a significant part of her career, even attending the same school as her mother — Herron School of Art and Design at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

After completing the program at Herron, Wagner embarked on her career as a substitute teacher. It was an unexpected turn for someone who resisted the call of teaching. But now, she uses her artistic skills as a paraprofessional, incorporating art-making into her classroom. 

“Everyone always told me I should be a teacher,” Wagner said. “And, I was like, I don’t want to teach, it doesn’t make a lot of money. It’s hard work.” 

Despite that discouragement, Wagner still shapes young minds every day from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m at North Central High School. 

She says the most gratifying part in her role is not solely imparting knowledge but building deep relationships with students and incorporating art into her work. 

“The creative process, and getting lost in it, is so healthy — it’s a good way to discover yourself. I try to tell my students that because sometimes they’ll get lost in the idea that it has to be perfect.” 

Yet, as in any profession, Wagner has her own set of challenges, from being understaffed to recognizing the diverse needs of those with disabilities. 

Wagner also put it frankly that when it comes to special education, “The more students, the better.” 

“I’ve had instances where we’ve had refugees from a number of countries and they stick them in our classes because we’re the only ones who offer classes low enough for them to begin to understand.” 

The state-wide staffing shortage in special education has affected her role too. According to WFYI of Indianapolis, “There is no source of reliable statewide data on the number of special education assistant positions that are vacant in Indiana. But it is likely hundreds.”

As a result, Wagner’s school has been overwhelmed trying to deal with the current number of students, each with their own individualized educational needs based on their disability. This means more work for Wagner. 

To escape the demands of her job, Wagner loves going to the nearest salon to get her hair done. She also loves hikes and has taken up yoga in the mornings. 

“I look forward to things like that after work, especially when I feel frustrated,” she said. “I do that get me through the day.” 

Through her continual connection to art, Wagner holds onto a link with her lost mother. She harbors a dream of one day becoming an art therapist. 

“Her passing made me mature faster,” she reflects, her gaze fixed on the past. “I had to figure out a lot of things on my own.” 

One of those challenges was confronting the powerful grip of grief. 

“I went to live with my grandparents and I felt sheltered by them,” Wagner added. “The older generation sometimes shies away from conversations about depression and grief.” 

As people pass on the bustling street, they see a woman who appears at ease as she steps into the hair salon. She blends seamlessly with the crowd. But, as the saying goes, appearances can be misleading, and the enigmatic nature of life often leaves one without clear answers. 

“I tried to understand the ‘why’ and had to accept that sometimes there isn’t one,” she said.

Justin Haberstroh, IUPUI

Rachid Oulh drives his Nissan Versa everywhere. It’s not the clean black color that it used to be anymore. It’s dusty and dirty, closer to a dark gray after all of the miles he has put on it Uber driving people around Indianapolis, a testament to the hours and miles he has put into his work. 

For immigrants like Oulh, coming to the United States is a pursuit of dreams, fears, and hope of a better future for their families. 

Oulh, an immigrant from Morocco, is currently a student at Ivy Tech getting a robotics degree. Along with that Oulh is also an Uber driver in the downtown Indianapolis region. Oulh came to America with hopes of getting an education and going back to help Morocco one day. 

“I want to help develop the country of Morocco, that’s actually my dream,” Oulh said. 

Oulh decided to come to the United States back when he was in high school 11 years ago. He applied for a Diversity Visa (DV), and was one of 55,000 people chosen to enter the US through that visa program. 

Established in the Immigration Act of 1990, the Diversity Visa allows 55,000 immigrants to enter the United States in a lottery drawing. The 55,000 people chosen are selected completely at random. The program’s goal is to take immigrants from countries with low rates of US immigration in order to diversify the immigration population in the United States. 

Somehow, with more than one million immigrants coming to the US every year, Oulh entered the United States 11 years ago. He didn’t have any plans once he got to the United States, all he knew was that he wanted to get a college education. In order to help pay for that, Oulh got a job as a cook in a restaurant with other people from the DV program. 

Eventually, Oulh transitioned out from the backrooms of a kitchen into his Nissan Versa. 

While his Versa isn’t anything like it used to be, it still has its charm. With an Arabic phrase hanging off of his rearview mirror, representing his Muslim religion and a miniature converse hanging right next to it. Oulh said it symbolizes where he has been and where he is going. 

With all of his knowledge Oulh, uses his past experiences and immigrant background to his benefit, becoming quite the conversationalist and using it to his advantage to gain extra tips on Uber. After six years of driving Uber, he still has a 4.96 out of 5 rating and has 1000 five star ratings. And the reviews people have left reflect his friendliness. 

“Thank you for the lift and sushi recommendation!” said one person. 

Another said, “Thank you for driving us! Have fun with the rest of your schooling!”

With Oulh dominating the Uber driving business in Indianapolis, he always reminds himself why he is driving in the first place, to pay for school. While driving and studying, he decided to make a change and switch his major in college. 

“I originally studied HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) in college, so in that field I worked for Hospitals and we used a lot of automated programs for our computers,” Oulh said. “I really enjoyed that aspect so I did a program called automation robotics, which is actually what I loved. I was like man, let me do this.” 

Oulh’s goal in robotics is very similar to many other Indiana immigrants, with 15.3% of Indiana immigrants working in the mechanical engineering field, 30.2% work in the software developers, applications and systems software space, and 50% of immigrants have a college degree or are in the middle of getting a college degree. 

With Oulh going to Purdue in spring 2024 he will join a diverse student population on Purdue’s campus. With 20.4% of Purdue’s student body being international. He hopes to put his new degree to use, getting into the medical field and working in hospitals. 

Once Oulh gets his degree, his potential earnings skyrocket. Immigrants who acquired a bachelor’s degree are projected to get $1,362 per week compared to an immigrant with only a high school education who stands to gain, on average, $632 per week. 

But until then the Uber driving will continue. 

Oulh misses Morocco sometimes, the people were friendly like they are here but he said the community was much much stronger back home in Morocco. 

“That’s one thing I don’t see here, people coming together,” said Oulh. “For example, when raising kids everyone is involved, it’s not like here where everyone lives by themselves.” 

Many immigrants like Oulh came to the US for a better future, and many of them have found it here with three out of four immigrants saying they would come to the US again if they had to redo it. They want a chance at a better life for themselves and their kids. 

Oulh hopes the same for himself, his wife and his three kids. He still dreams of being able to go back and help Morocco one day, but until then his Versa will continue to get a little bit dirtier and the Uber driving will continue. 

Maggie Eastland, University of Notre Dame

Hiram McDonald Jr. is one of the nation’s top welders. He travels around the country melting metal, earning nearly $100 per hour. Between jobs, he spends time with his wife back home in Georgia. But for more than 30 years, McDonald was living a double life. He was addicted to drugs. 

McDonald spent thousands of dollars on methamphetamine, crack and cocaine, often working while high. Sometimes, he welded without gloves. His hands are scarred with pale streaks from the heat. 

“I was so high one time, I striked the arc with no helmet on,” he said. “I did it for a minute… I was about to die,” he said. 

Despite facing addiction, McDonald managed to keep his job and earn money to spend on more drugs. 

“I’m traveling. I’m going to other states and countries and hick towns and putting up skyscrapers. My drugs were progressing, but I was smart. I wanted this money, so I kept going to work,” he said. 

At one point, McDonald was spending $300 per day on drugs. For a month, he barely slept. While in Indianapolis this year, he stopped going to work. Back home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, his wife could track his location. To avoid suspicion, McDonald parked at hotels and smoked in his car. 

“My wife didn’t know,” he said. “I was living two lives. I was really being dirty.” After three decades, McDonald accepted that his drug addiction was going to kill him. 

“When I was out there on the streets, I accepted dying. I had some visions,” he said. “I was just going to smoke until I die.” 

But at the same time, a will to live welled up within him. McDonald turned himself in to the Salvation Army. 

“I don’t want to die. I make good money. I’m almost making $100 an hour,” he said. 

He joked that he couldn’t leave his wife all that money just to marry another man. His love for her and his four sisters motivates him. 

“I love this woman, and that’s what got me to keep going.” 

At the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center on 711 East Washington Street, a drug test revealed seven substances in McDonald’s body, including methamphetamines, “angel dust,” or fentanyl, marijuana and “angel dust,” the street name for hallucinogen phencyclidine. He also tested positive for latent tuberculosis. 

Getting clean was McDonald’s choice. His introduction to drugs was not.

McDonald started smoking marijuana at age 6, after finding several drugs in his step dad’s closet. By his early teens, he was snorting cocaine. 

Today, he is free from drugs for the first time in decades. His priorities are changing. “I feel like I got my life back,” he said. “It’s a beautiful feeling.” 

McDonald said he regrets not caring for his sisters more during his years of addiction. 

“I was stingy,” he said. “I’m doing drugs, and I didn’t want to share with nobody … I forgot about my family. I wouldn’t do nothing for them, and I’m sorry for that.” 

The sound of church bells accompanied McDonald’s footsteps as he walked across downtown Indianapolis and talked about how he wants to treat others the way he wants to be treated. McDonald’s friend, James Sentell, another man in the Salvation Army rehabilitation program, walked beside him. When the pair arrived at a White Castle restaurant, McDonald tried to buy Sentell an early lunch. 

“I can get my own, thanks,” Sentell replied. 

McDonald and Sentell have advanced far enough in the Salvation Army program to spend a day in the city without supervision. They chat about what restaurants they want to stop by before the curfew. 

Sentell started drinking before the age of 10. His drug use began soon after. He said he learned it from his father, who he called a “working alcoholic.” 

“It always starts with alcohol,” Sentell said, voice low. 

Originally from Madison, Indiana, Sentell is in the program because his lawyer gave him a choice between 9 months in jail or 6 months at the Salvation Army. 

“It’s a place where you clean yourself up,” Sentell described the Salvation Army, lips pursed. 

Sentell said he and his son were stopped by a police officer this summer after rolling through a stop sign. The officer found a bag of meth on the floor of his car. . 

Sentell, a carpenter, said he takes pride in the mansions he’s worked on. 

McDonald’s eyes light up like the flash of a welding arc when he speaks of his profession, and Sentell nods along in agreement. 

“I was doing columns and beams, girths,” he said. “I loved it. I loved it so much.” 

McDonald takes pride in the skyscrapers, homes and buildings he helped create, including one of the glass and metal pedestrian bridge in downtown Indianapolis that connects to the Circle Centre Mall.

“Today, I’m a top welder. They want me all over the United States,” he said. 

McDonald said he thanks God for everything, especially his job. 

“I’m going back [to welding]. That’s all I know. I know the lord was watching out for me because he was able to keep me in the field, even though I was doing the wrong things,” McDonald said. “If it wasn’t for that, I would really be messed up … it’s the truth and nothing but the truth.” 

But even with this motivation to stay clean, McDonald admits that rehabilitation has been difficult, especially since he’s the one used to leading the construction site. 

“I was so scared,” he said. “The kind of work I do, when I go to different sites, I’m the boss. There’s not nobody over me because I’m a welder. And I’m a good welder. They didn’t care how I looked. They didn’t care what I really did as long as I’m putting a strike on a steel because every inch is $10,000.” 

McDonald said that first time welders often don’t understand that it’s important to melt a puddle before starting to weld. For this reason, he teaches novices to start by welding circles before moving on to “J” or “X” patterns. 

“Welding is hard when you first start,” McDonald explains. “You gotta start with a circle. First, don’t do J’s. Don’t do X’s. Do circles,” he said. 

In welding, McDonald is skilled enough for advanced patterns. At the Salvation Army, he’s starting back at square one by sharing his story with others. 

“We work like we’re brothers,” McDonald said of the men in the program with him. “We actually share stories so we can receive and keep something good. The stories is from the heart.” 

Santell noted that there is one girl, a Golden Retriever named Shirley that serves as a therapy dog. At the center, the men receive housing and three meals a day. They work in the second-hand clothing store, take classes, attend therapy sessions and write journals. 

Jesse Links, the director of the Salvation Army rehabilitation center, is a graduate of the program and living proof that recovery is possible. 

In 2017, Links said he was arrested on the west side of Indianapolis and facing the rest of his life in prison for dealing methamphetamines and other charges. But the courts gave him the opportunity to enroll in a substance abuse rehabilitation program. 

Much like McDonald, Links also started using drugs around 12 years old while running away from a tense family situation. 

Years later, he reached a point of desperation.

“I had no one left to call, nowhere left to go, no one to turn to,” Links said. “I had lost all sense of purpose.” 

His own mother closed the door on him, an act he describes as “tough love.” 

Links said the remedial tasks and jobs he was assigned at Salvation Army “lit a fire” inside him. “Sorting through hangers is where I found God again and found my purpose again.” 

Over several years, Links worked his way up to director of the 711 East Washington Center and has served in the role for three years. 

He is a firsthand witness to the opioid crisis in Indiana. Over the last five years, the average age of men in the center has dropped from 53-years-old to 30-years-old, he said. 

Despite the challenges, Links keeps working and advocating for the penal system to view addiction as a disease rather than a punishable offense. 

“What gets me up every morning is that someone could die today that doesn’t have to die.” 

Dana Benbow


Dana Benbow, the 2023 Indiana SPJ Journalist of the Year and Sports Reporter at IndyStar, spoke at the Keating Awards Banquet at the Skyline Club on Saturday, November 4.

Brody Miller


Brody Miller, a former Keating Finalist and Sports Reporter at The Athletic, spoke with students ahead of their assignment with tips and advice on Friday, November 3.

Congratulations to the following Keating Contest

finalists and alternates


Ashley Wilson – IUPUI

Carolyn Marshall – Indiana University

Dezaray Clawson – Purdue Fort Wayne

Eliana Alzate – DePauw University

Erin Bruce – Franklin College

Jakyra Green – Goshen College

Justin Haberstroh – IUPUI

Kyle Smedley – Ball State University

Maggie Eastland – University of Notre Dame

Matthew Press – Indiana University


Daniel Eash-Scott – Goshen College

Grayson Joslin – Ball State University

The writing competition petition pays homage to the late Indy Star journalist Tom Keating, a beloved columnist and Lilly Endowment executive who was especially good at telling the stories of everyday people.

Thank You to Our Sponsors

Since its inception in 1986, the Keating program has awarded nearly $200,000 to Indiana college and university students.

Overview of the Competition

Thomas R. Keating


Thomas R. Keating was a popular long-time columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Known for his portraits of Hoosiers from all walks of life – from washcloth salesmen to police officers to politicians – Keating wrote five columns per week, and he did it with energy and enthusiasm, for 14 years.

Indianapolis was his hometown, and its stories were the center of his work. He was a graduate of Cathedral High School and attended both Ball State and Indiana universities. A collection of his columns, “Indiana Faces and Other Places,” was published in 1982.

Tom Keating

Keating died in 1985 at the age of 45.

The Keating competition is a daylong feature writing competition among the premier journalism students at Indiana colleges and universities. Since its inception, the program has awarded roughly $170,000 in cash prizes. The competition is named after Keating.

Each year, finalists are sent out to find interesting stories in the heart of Indianapolis. They have five hours from the beginning of the assignment to find subjects, conduct interviews and write their stories on deadline. The Indianapolis Star provides space in its newsroom for the students to work.

Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame

Archive of previous years’ contests


36th Annual Keating Competition


Everyone has a story. This is what Tom Keating wrote about five days a week at The Indianapolis Star. He wrote about ordinary people with stories. Find a compelling story within the “Mile Square” of Downtown that is bordered by North, South, East and West streets.


  • Isaac Gleitz, Franklin College
  • Maya Wilkins, Ball State University
  • Nadia Scharf, Indiana University

Other Finalists:

  • Sydney Byerly
  • Cate Charron
  • Elissa Maudlin
  • Mary Claire Molloy
  • Gabi Morando
  • Augusta Nafziger
  • Lauren Ulrich


  • Tyler Fenwick, a 2017 Keating finalist and reporter for The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper


35th Annual Keating Competition


“Indianapolis in Flux.” Students were encouraged to look at how downtown was emerging from the pandemic, ongoing race relations or weathering the large-scale construction projects.


  • Augusta Nafziger, Goshen College
  • Alexa Shrake, Franklin College
  • Taylor Wooten, Franklin College

Other Finalists:

  • Tabby Fitzgerald
  • Evan Gerike
  • Isaac Gleitz
  • Carolina Puga Mendoza
  • Mary Claire Molloy
  • Ryley Ober
  • Haley Pritchett


  • Sarah Bahr, a 2017 Keating finalist and freelance writer for The New York Times.


34th Annual Keating Competition


We were unable to gather in person during the COVID pandemic and instead asked students to submit their best published writing on the past year’s most pressing topics: the pandemic, social justice, the election or campus news.


  • Mary Claire Molloy, Indiana University
  • Jordan Smith, Purdue University
  • Erica Irish, Franklin College


33rd Annual Keating Competition

Prizes Awarded:


Downtown Indianapolis – Behind the Scenes


  • Erica Irish, Franklin College
  • Cameron Drummond, Indiana University
  • Riley Eubanks, Ball State

Other Finalists:

  • Mary Bernard, University of Notre Dame
  • Lydia Gerike, Indiana University
  • Tierra Harris, Ball State University
  • Lexi Haskell, Indiana University
  • Abigail King Goshen College
  • Gabe Miller, Goshen College
  • Kelli Smith, University of Notre Dame

Samantha Schmidt, gender and family issues reporter at the Washington Post and 2014 Keating Competition winner.




32nd Annual Keating Competition


Events at the the Indiana State Fairgrounds


  • Dana Lee, Butler University
  • Laurel Demkovich, Indiana University
  • Shelby Mullis, Franklin College

Other Finalists:

  • Lauren Fox, University of Notre Dame
  • Mary Freda, Ball State University
  • Lydia Gerike, Indiana University
  • Emma Jones, Hanover College
  • Brynn Mechem, Ball State University
  • Maria Manuela Mendez, DePauw University
  • Emily Sabens, Ball State University

Margaret Sutherlin, social media manager for Bloomberg in New York City and a 2009 Keating winner.




31st Annual Keating Competition


Veterans Day


  • Jack Evans, Indiana University
  • Madison Dudley, DePauw University
  • Taylor Telford, Indiana University

Other Finalists:

  • Sarah Bahr, IUPUI
  • Courtney Becker, University of Notre Dame
  • Austin Candor, DePauw University
  • Laurel Demkovich, Indiana University
  • Tyler Fenwick, IUPUI
  • Dana Lee, Butler University
  • Sarah Verschoor, Indiana University

Rachel Podnar, now a news editor at The Washington Post Express, is a previous Keating winner and graduated from Ball State University in 2016.




30th Annual Keating Competition


Stories involving wheels


  • Taylor Telford, Indiana University
  • Carley Lanich, Indiana University
  • Hannah Alani, Indiana University

Other Finalists:

  • Amanda Belcher, Ball State University
  • Alan Hovorka, Ball State University
  • Brody Miller, Indiana University
  • Grace Palmieri, Indiana University
  • Casey Smith, Ball State University
  • Briana Susnak, Indiana University
  • Matthew VanTryon of Butler University

Eric Bradner, a CNN Politics reporter fresh off the 2016 campaign, shared stories from the campaign trail and the night of the election.​




29th Annual Keating Competition


Circle Centre Mall


  • Grace Palmieri, Indiana University
  • Anicka Slachta, Indiana University
  • Annie Garau, Indiana University

Dakota Crawford, Ball State University
Hannah Fleace, Indiana University
Annie Garau, Indiana University
Danielle Grady, Ball State University
Alison Graham, Indiana University
Kaitlin Lange, Ball State University
Grace Palmieri, Indiana University
Anicka Slachta, Indiana University
Mary Katherine Wildeman, Indiana University

Michael J. Sanserino, a two-time Keating winner and Sports Editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.




28th Annual Keating Competition


Indianapolis’s Old Northside


  • Samantha Schmidt, Indiana University
  • Michael Majchrowicz, Indiana University
  • Ryan Howe, Ball State University

Other Finalists:

  • Hannah Fleace, Indiana University
  • Danielle Grady, Ball State University
  • Evan Hoopfer, Indiana University
  • Alexandra Kincaid, Ball State University
  • Kathryn Moody, Indiana University
  • Jacob Rund, Franklin College
  • Anicka Slachta, Indiana University



27th Annual Keating Competition


Indianapolis Cultural Trail


  • Michael Auslen, Indiana University
  • Evan Hoopfer, Indiana University
  • Jessica Contrera, Indiana University



26th Annual Keating Competition

Fountain Square Historic District


  • Katie Mettler, Indiana University
  • Victoria Ison, Ball State University
  • Claire Wiseman of Indiana University


Jeffrey H. Smulyan, chairman, president and CEO of Emmis Communications, spoke about how the media need to find new business models for their products.




25th Annual Keating Competition


  • Lauren Sedam, Indiana University
  • Michael Auslen, Indiana University
  • Danielle Paquette, Indiana University

Other Finalists:

  • Claire Aronson, Indiana University
  • Elizabeth “Biz” Carson, Indiana University
  • Margaret Ely, Indiana University
  • Lindsey Erdody, Indiana University
  • Lindsey Gelwicks, Ball State University
  • Sean Morrison, Indiana University
  • MaryJane Slaby, Indiana University



24th Annual Keating Competition


  • RachelStark, Indiana University
  • CJ Lotz, Indiana University
  • Christine DiGangi, DePauw University

Other Finalists:

  • Brittany Brownrigg, Franklin College
  • Renee Bruck, Franklin College
  • Elizabeth “Biz” Carson, Indiana University
  • Julie Crothers, Franklin College
  • Caitlin Johnston, Indiana University
  • Andrew Maddocks, DePauw University
  • Sean Morrison, Indiana University
  • Charlie Scudder Indiana University
  • Avi Zaleon, Indiana University

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tom French




23th Annual Keating Competition


  • Margaret Sutherlin, DePauw University
  • Sarah Hutchins, Indiana University
  • Lana Kunz, University of Southern Indiana

Other Finalists:

  • Natalie Avon, Indiana University
  • Travis Braun, Franklin College
  • Lauren Clason, Indiana University
  • Stephanie Doctrow, Indiana University
  • Amanda Junk, Ball State University
  • Sean Morrison, Indiana University
  • John Seasly, Indiana University

New York Times White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny