George and Frances Ball Foundation Announces Election of Two New Directors

Mark Hardwick (L) and James Williams (R). Photos courtesy of First Merchants Bank and DeFur Voran.  Mark Hardwick (L) and James Williams (R). Photos courtesy of First Merchants Bank and DeFur Voran.  

By Kelsey Harrington—

MUNCIE, IN—Two community leaders, Mark Hardwick of First Merchants Corporation and James Williams of DeFur Voran, were recently elected to the George and Frances Ball Foundation’s Board of Directors. The GFBF Board oversees the Foundation’s annual grantmaking, as well as provides guidance and leadership for its Cradle to Career Muncie initiative. Hardwick and Williams were added to the Board with this in mind, bringing with them a breadth of knowledge and experience in specific, local industry needs, as well as public, early, and higher education.

Mark Hardwick joined First Merchants Bank in 1997. He currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of First Merchants Corporation. An East Central Indiana native, Hardwick is a two-time Ball State University graduate. He also serves as a trustee for the University, an inducted member of the Ball State University Athletics Hall of Fame for his notable basketball contributions, and a member of Next Muncie. As the leader of one of the area’s largest employers in the finance and professional services industry, Mark’s insight as to what is driving the local and regional economies is key to informing the latter strategies and relationship development with other industry leaders within Cradle to Career Muncie.

James ‘Jim’ Williams is a Partner at the local law offices of DeFur Voran. Jim is deeply committed to nonprofit and school board service in the greater Muncie area, currently serving as President of the Muncie Community Schools Board of Directors, President of the Muncie-Delaware County BY5 board, a member of the Ball State University Foundation board, among other roles. His comprehensive service to a number of community efforts equips him with a unique understanding and vision for the necessary alignment of community resources and efforts towards a common goal of poverty alleviation through educational attainment.

George and Frances Ball Foundation (GFBF) has served the Muncie and Delaware County community for 87 years through place-based philanthropy and thought leadership. In 2018, GFBF adopted a proactive grantmaking strategy focused on a cradle to career approach. This later blossomed into not only one of the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies, but also a collective impact initiative that brings together 70+ organizations to work collaboratively on strategies, systems change, and advocacy to ultimately improve the livability of East Central Indiana for all citizens by improving educational and career opportunities from cradle to career.

To learn more about the Foundation or to find information about 2024 grant opportunities, please visit or find the George and Frances Ball Foundation page on Facebook.


Kelsey Harrington is Program Impact Officer at the George and Frances Ball Foundation.


About the George and Frances Ball Foundation

Founded in 1937, George and Frances Ball Foundation was organized exclusively to promote charitable, scientific and educational purposes, with a strong commitment to the needs of East Central Indiana. The family is well known for their philanthropy and for numerous other accomplishments including championing education, collecting items such as rare children’s literature, and creating the Ball Jar Blue Book. Honoring the family’s interests and legacy, the Foundation reviews and funds grants across 5 different focus areas including education and youth, civic enhancement, arts and culture, wrap-around services, and nature and historic preservation. The Foundation adopted a new place-based proactive grantmaking strategy in 2018, which carries forward the education-focused legacy of George and Frances Ball with efforts to increase educational attainment through a community Cradle to Career Muncie initiative.