John Michael Oberhelman ’64, MS ’67 was a standout football player for Evansville Central High School when he first visited Butler University for a campus tour with his parents in the late 1950s. Legendary Butler Coach Tony Hinkle, who coached football, baseball, and men’s basketball at the time, drove the Oberhelman family around campus in his car that day. Hinkle made such an impression on the young student-athlete that Oberhelman chose to attend Butler to play football under Hinkle’s leadership despite initially receiving no scholarship money to attend.
“The fact that Coach Hinkle was willing to meet me personally on a weekend and give me a tour made a big impression—it made me feel special and that I was going to be a part of the team,” Oberhelman says. “In addition to our tour, I felt it was the right size school, the right distance from home, and I was struck by the beauty of the campus as well as the facilities.”
During his first year, Oberhelman went on to make the football team at Butler and picked up a part-time job serving meals at the sorority and fraternity houses to help pay for tuition and living expenses. He eventually was offered a scholarship beginning his sophomore year, a gift he has never forgotten.
“Having the scholarship enabled me not to have to work during the football season. More meaningfully, it signaled to me that I was an important part of the team and worth the investment,” Oberhelman says.
Now retired, Oberhelman is paying that gift forward by establishing a new endowed scholarship for Butler student-athletes through an estate commitment. The John Michael Oberhelman ’64, MS ’67 Endowed Athletics Scholarship will exist in perpetuity at Butler, providing support for student-athletes in good academic standing. Thanks to the Oberhelman gift and others like it, Butler has now raised more than $45 million toward its $55 million scholarship goal for the Butler Beyond comprehensive fundraising campaign.
“Scholarships make an enormous long-term impact on the lives of the student-athletes who receive them, as demonstrated through John Oberhelman’s successful and meaningful career and his desire to offer this gift to future generations of Butler student-athletes,” says Vice President and Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “I am grateful for scholarship donors like John who are making the Butler Athletics experience available to future students through their generous gifts.”
During his football career at Butler, Oberhelman played on both offense and defense as center and linebacker. He continued to be deeply influenced by Hinkle’s mentorship, describing him as an honorable man who rarely raised his voice to motivate and who helped advise students on their career plans.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in 1964, Oberhelman was inspired to follow in Hinkle’s footsteps by becoming a teacher and coach. After earning his graduate degree in guidance and counseling from Butler, Oberhelman began his career as a teacher and coach at Tipton High School in Tipton, Indiana. He went on to become a college admissions director and later transitioned into human resources, eventually becoming the Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Citizens National Bank, which became part of Fifth Third Bank in Evansville.
Oberhelman has supported Butler Athletics throughout his adult life, and decided to concentrate his legacy giving on providing future student-athletes with the same opportunities that were made available to him through scholarship support. Oberhelman credits his experience at Butler, and particularly his experience as a student-athlete, with preparing him for his career and life. He says he and many of his Butler teammates have remained lifelong friends. The experience was one he is pleased to be able to offer to future students through the Oberhelman Scholarship.
“My parents established a scholarship at another university, and I continue to support it. Meeting those students, knowing their stories, and gaining an awareness of college costs for young people today informed my decision to be helpful,” Oberhelman says of his decision to establish a scholarship at Butler. “The student-athlete focus reflected my experience at Butler. Enabling a scholarship can allow a student to attend who may not normally be able to afford it.”
Student Access and Success
At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.