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Jan 15, 2017

BRIAN PAYNE is the president and CEO of the $750 million Central Indiana Community Foundation and the founder of the internationally-recognized Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Brian was recently named an Indiana Living Legend -- not something the California native with two degrees in theater arts from UCLA ever imagined being. (42:28)




Who in their right mind moves from the beautiful, hippy-dippy seaside city of Santa Cruz to landlocked Indianapolis? I mean, what sort of self-respecting native Californian heads Midwest to live in Indiana?

That’s what I thought 23 years ago when BRIAN PAYNE told me that he’d decided to do just that – a decision that I didn’t fully understand or appreciate until my 5th and most recent trip to Indy when Brian and I sat down for a heartland heart-to-heart. HOOSIER BY CHOICE is the 17th episode of PIERSON TO PERSON, but the first episode in which I’m the one who gets a little choked up during the interview.

I met Brian when he was a graduate student at UCLA. He was my TA in a theater management class that I was taking. I had no way of knowing it then, but Brian would become one of my closest friends. The foundation of our now time-tested friendship was built while I was working for him at the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival in LA; and then again for two seasons up in Santa Cruz at what was then a wildly popular summer Shakespeare festival.

After spending 8 years as the festival’s managing director, Brian felt he had made a strategic career mistake: “I actually felt that I stayed too long, and that maybe I’d missed my chance. I should have pushed out of that arena a couple years earlier … and I desperately needed to move on.”

Moving on for Brian meant making a new life for himself in Indianapolis where he became the managing director of the Indiana Repertory Theater. Brian loved his experience at the IRT, but after 7 years he found his interests becoming less artistically oriented and more civically minded.

Then, unexpectedly, professional providence intervened and Brian was hired as the president and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, a $750 million charitable funding organization. “I knew at that moment that it was life-changing. That my world could now be bigger.”

And Brian was right. His world did get bigger. A lot bigger. In fact, the reason for my latest visit to Indianapolis was to attend a black-tie ceremony and witness his induction as an Indiana Living Legend by the Indiana Historical Society. The 5-minute introductory film that was shown before Brian was brought to the stage celebrated his many contributions to improving the quality of life in Indianapolis, including a $63 million, 8-mile bike and walking trail that connects all six of the city’s cultural districts.

Brian conceived of the project and championed it to completion, resulting in an urban pathway that has attracted considerable national and international attention making him, as the evening’s glossy program proclaimed: one of the world’s most influential Hoosiers.

“Not bad for a Californian, huh?” Not bad at all, Brian.



Many thanks to the composer of the music featured in this episode royalty free through Creative Commons licensing:

1. "Midday Dance" by Kevin MacLeod

2. "Luminous Rain" by Kevin MacLeod 

3. "Thinking Music" by Kevin MacLeod

4. "Memory Lane" by Kevin MacLeod 

5. "Easy Lemon" by Kevin MacLeod 

Visit Kevin MacLeod's website at: