History and Tradition

Howdy WilcoxHowdy Wilcox

Former IU Foundation President Howdy Wilcox founded the IU Student Foundation in 1950 to raise awareness of the Foundation and its mission. “The IU Foundation simply had no identity on campus, neither with the students nor the faculty,” Wilcox said. “I wrote a letter to President (Herman B) Wells recommending that we form a Student Foundation Committee and charge that committee with spreading the word.”

On a fall day in 1950, Wilcox happened upon an informal bicycle race on campus between residents of Hickory Hall. The cyclists were racing around the dorm building as fellow students cheered. This was a lightbulb moment for Wilcox, whose father was a star in the early days of car racing — even winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1919. He pitched the idea of a bicycle race to IUSF as a way to raise scholarship money for working students and to build lifelong support for IU.

Phi Delta Gamma 1956Phi Delta Gamma celebrates a first-place finish with
Herman B Wells after the 1956 Little 500.

The first Little 500 bike race was held in 1951 at the old Tenth Street Stadium. About 7,000 attended, and $6,000 was raised for student scholarships. Well over half a century later, the event is now the largest collegiate bike race in the U.S. More than 25,000 attend “Little Five” every year, and more than $1 million has been awarded to working students since that first race. The IUSF continues to spread the word about supporting IU through the IU Foundation. It sponsors campus events that build enthusiasm and leadership, raises scholarship money for working students, and works to forge an everlasting bond between students and IU.

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