Job: Treasurer of Mid-States Rubber Products Inc.
Resume: Chairman of the University of Evansville Board of Trustees, 1999 to 2002; chairman of the Board of Directors of St. Mary’s Health Services; chairman of the Mayor’s Public Art Commission; recipient of the Rotary Civic Award, and the Governor’s Arts Award.
Family: Husband, Richard, two sons, Paul and Philip, and four grandchildren.A born and bred Evansville native, Rita Eykamp truly loves this city. Graduating from Mater Dei and then the University of Evansville, her name is easily recognized from the University of Evansville’s Eykamp Hall and the Eykamp Scout Center, not to mention the countless awards she, along with her husband Richard, has received for her philanthropic work. Rita has dedicated so much of her time to the causes she identifies with and feels passionately about that she has become a local icon for many women who aspire to be involved in their community. She challenges the city to live up to its full potential.
How did you get started in serving the community of Evansville?
It’s really kind of interesting. I taught for five years, and took fifth graders to the Evansville Philharmonic Youth Orchestra concerts. At that time, the Junior League of Evansville were the ushers, and I thought if I’m not teaching, it sure would be nice to be able to do what they do. After the last of my children was in nursery school, I got involved with the Evansville Philharmonic Guild, then the Junior League, and then took off from there. I had great opportunities. I’ve had a great time. It’s been fun picking out four or five different kinds of organizations that I’m passionate about and then becoming involved in every way I could.
What are you most proud of out of all your many achievements in the community?
It’s difficult to choose just one. I co-chaired the campaign for the Victory Theatre, and that’s been a real gift to the community (The Victory Theatre was opened in 1921 and was renovated in the 1990s). Then I chaired the capital campaign for the expansion of the Evansville Museum of Art, History and Science and its new planetarium. That was a $15 million campaign. It took a lot of calls and convincing people that this is something we need, since we are the main cultural institution in our community. And I’ve been very proud to be the chair of the board of trustees at the University of Evansville. And I was the first female. I was a member (of the board) for 10 years.
What advice would you give to others who want to become involved?
Find your passion. Get involved in the things you’re really interested in. Then give it all you have, and don’t do too many things at once. Stick to one thing at a time because if you do a little here, a little there, you’re not going to find your passion for the things you really enjoy. You won’t be able to build toward leadership opportunities you might have had. When you stick with an organization, you can work your way up to a leadership position, which is how you really get involved and make a difference. I think the important thing about community service and women is that you do the things you enjoy doing, but you also do your homework. Board service is really important and helpful with a volunteer career. It’s fun to have a leadership role when you help mold some things going on with organizations.
What is your vision for your community?
I think (Evansville) has changed gradually, but it’s not fast enough. We can’t seem to get our act together to promote Evansville and get people from here to promote it. We’ve done enough that we have things like the Ford Center. I think the organizations that invite people from out of town to come here makes those visitors want to be a part of our city because we have a wonderful culture in all aspects — from music, to theater, to dance.
I would like to see the Evansville community grow in the next 10 years. I think the Indiana University School of Medicine (and academic health science and research center) would have a huge impact. It’s the largest opportunity Evansville has had for growth in my lifetime. That would be a great opportunity for us. As we get more and more people coming into our community, we need to advertise what we do have because I don’t think we promote ourselves enough.