(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles featuring Indiana University Kokomo’s alumni from the earliest days of the university’s athletics programs. The Kokomo Lantern thanks IU Kokomo for the opportunity to share their stories.)
When Indiana University Kokomo hosted its first-ever women’s volleyball game, Lael (Burrus) Larrick was part of that moment in history.
“Its’s wild to even think about it now,” said Larrick, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in communication. She played four years for the Cougars, helping build the foundation for a team that has now won four straight conference championships and made seven straight NAIA tournaments.
It’s a far cry from that first 9-28 season, with practices at Northwestern High School and games at Maple Crest Middle School, before IU Kokomo’s Cougar Gym opened downtown.
Larrick, who came to IU Kokomo from North Miami High School, is among hundreds of student athletes who have competed for the Cougars in the nearly 15 years since its intercollegiate athletic program began.
Join us as we highlight her story and share updates on several other former Cougar athletes who have played a role in growing the program.
Larrick there at the beginning
Larrick, who now lives near Brownsburg, returned to campus last spring for the volleyball alumni game, played in the Student Activities and Events Center, which opened several years after she graduated.
“It’s amazing to see that not only did IUK start athletic programs, but it’s also continued to grow with other teams and other sports,” she said. “I love seeing how amazing the volleyball program is, and just continues to be.”
She married Brandon Larrick, a Western High School graduate who was on IU Kokomo’s first men’s basketball team, and they have sons Banner, 4; and Boden, 1.
After completing her degree, Lael Larrick earned a master’s degree in school counseling, and worked in that field until Banner’s birth.
“I felt led to stay home with him and be with him as a baby,” she said. “That was a big shift in what we had pictured. I had always pictured myself being a working mom.”
About three months after she left her school counseling career, her grandmother passed away. A desire to do something to honor her grandmother led to a new business venture named after her, June Ellen Clothing.
“My brand mission is to show grace, give hope, and express love,” she said. “We do that through our donation commitment on one shirt for every 10 pieces sold,” she said, noting that donated clothing goes to children in foster care and in public schools.
For now, she hosts booths at area markets, with hopes of opening a storefront in the future. She has a supplier for her pieces but hopes to design her own work in the future.
“It’s just a lot of dreaming and planning and taking it one step at a time,” Larrick said. “I’m learning a lot from mistakes and gaining wisdom from those mistakes. It’s very challenging, especially being a stay-at-home mom, but it gives me the best of both worlds. I can stay home with my boys and work on this at the same time.”
Playing volleyball at IUK played a role in how she developed her brand.
“At the start of the program, I remember there was a tailgate, and people were so excited,” she said. “Not only were we the start of athletics, but we were also the first sport to start their season. There was so much excitement from everyone, campus leaders, faculty, staff, and students, and it made me feel so special.
“Then my junior year we started winning, and that was such an amazing feeling, and it made me feel like it was something I wanted to be part of,” she continued. “It made me want to encourage others and do something more. That really helped me as I was building my business. Anytime someone comes in contact with June Ellen, I want them to feel encouraged, I want them to feel loved.”
Foust was first athletic program graduate
Jacob Faust made his mark in IU Kokomo athletics, even with only one year on the men’s basketball team.
He transferred to IU Kokomo after playing a few seasons at the College of Mount St. Joseph (now Mount St. Joseph University) in Cincinnati, where he could live at home and work at a factory between classes to earn his degree at a more affordable cost.
“There were rumors that they were going to develop an athletics program,” he recalled. “I wanted to see if I might play another year before I was done. That’s what kept me at IU Kokomo.”
After playing the additional season he hoped for, Faust became the first campus athletic department graduate, earning his accounting degree in 2013.
He enjoyed the opportunity to be part of a developing team and changing the atmosphere on campus.
“What was really cool to me was the change in culture,” he said. “You heard a lot about IUK as a second choice, and then they developed athletics and student life, and it became more attractive to someone coming out of high school. To have that extra experience makes it a lot of fun.”
While his team’s practices and games were spread among a few gyms throughout Kokomo, Faust was part of meetings with Kokomo’s mayor and other representatives from IUK to develop IUK’s first gym, in the Kokomo Memorial Gym complex.
He appreciated the opportunity to be a student worker in the facilities department, which allowed him to play basketball. More importantly, it connected him with Dave Hawkins, who started as his supervisor and became a mentor and friend.
“One of the big things that got me to be able to play basketball was, there was a little bit of scholarship money, and my coach worked it out for me to get a job on campus,” he said. “Most of the time I worked with Dave. We had a pretty good friendship over those years, and we’ve stayed in touch.”
He especially recalled that Hawkins, who performs with barbershop ensembles, used to practice singing during drives to take vehicles for service or pick up furniture.
His career goal since high school had been to become a CPA, because, “I’ve always been a big math person,” and he was interested in business. After graduation, Faust took additional credits at IUPUI for his CPA exam, and completed an internship at BGBC Partners, an accounting firm in downtown Indianapolis. He accepted a full-time job with the firm after the internship, and currently is an assurance manager there.
“I enjoy the people and the clients,” he said. “There’s definitely some interesting, complex work that’s fun, and a lot of good people there. I enjoy being part of that team.”
Faust lives in Franklin Township on the south side of Indianapolis with his wife and three children, ages 8, 6, and 2, and anticipates a return to basketball next year — this time as a coach.
“My oldest is interested in playing in a league, and they need some volunteers,” he said.
These features were originally featured in the winter edition of IU Kokomo’s “Legacy: A Magazine for Alumni and Friends” publication.