September 18, 2023
VINCENNES, Ind. - In 1976, five Vincennes University students were transforming their futures and studying law enforcement, broadcast production technology, business, and more. They were living the lives of college students: studying, living in residence halls, and hanging out with friends, but their paths never really crossed. Two were even residing on the same floor of Harrison Hall but did not know each other.
Decades later, their lives converged in unbelievable circumstances.
Denny Spinner, Harold “Huck” Lewis, Cathy Gross, Mark Senter, and Terry Seitz (pictured L-R above) are all current or former Indiana mayors who were students on the Vincennes Campus in 1976.
“Just the irony that five future community leaders were at Vincennes University together is amazing,” Senter said.
They have established a strong connection and unique bond, dating back to 2011 when Spinner '76, Senter '76, Seitz '77, and Lewis – all sitting mayors at the time - “met” at a gathering of elected officials. Gross is the most recent addition to the group. She joined this incredibly unique Trailblazers club only weeks ago.
“It was very funny when we found out we were there at the same time,” Lewis said. “We just all started talking. It was like, ‘I went to Vincennes University.’ Then, someone said, ‘So did I,’ and it just kept going on.”
The five current and former Hoosier mayors are a prime example of VU's history of educating Indiana leaders.
“It speaks to the tradition of Vincennes University providing the very best in educational opportunities following high school,” Gross said. “VU is the perfect place to acquire core credits in a residential university environment where many life lessons are also learned. What I learned at VU created a solid foundation for my future. I was not considering public service while there. However, my experiences definitely impacted my future in a positive way."
Serving Indiana communities and Hoosiers
Gross is the current mayor of Monticello, while Senter is the mayor of Plymouth.
Senter says he knew he wanted to be an Indiana state trooper since the fifth grade. While in high school at Indianapolis Northwest, he learned of VU’s law enforcement program. After graduating from VU, Senter entered the Indiana State Police Academy and enjoyed a 28-year career with the state police, including 21 as a detective. After being involved in the City of Plymouth in various aspects, he ran for mayor in 2007 and has served in that role for 16 years.
Seitz was the mayor of Jasper before becoming a senior advisor and the Indiana outreach director for U.S. Senator Mike Braun.
According to Seitz, “As I recall, none of us were majoring in anything to do with government, government affairs, etc. I believe each of us took what we learned in our various VU studies and applied it to public service in our own ways throughout our lives.”
Spinner, a former mayor of Huntingburg, was appointed as executive director of the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch in 2020. He majored in broadcast production technology at VU so did Seitz.
“It was at VU that I was challenged by my Department Chair, Mark Lange, to take a leadership role,” Spinner said. “Mark placed me in a role at the radio station that brought out a side of me that I did not know. Had it not been for that, I doubt that I would have ever considered being a leader, let alone running for mayor. Mark Lange was a mentor to me not only at VU but in the years after. He definitely sparked the flame that resulted in me wanting to lead and serve.”
Lewis is the former mayor of Lebanon. He was elected in 2009 and played an instrumental role in establishing the VU Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon. His career in government spanned 20 years, including stints as a county commissioner and a councilman. Lewis currently works closely with mayors and commissioners throughout Indiana as the head of business development for a civil engineering firm in Indianapolis.
It's Picture Time
Just weeks ago, Spinner, Senter, Lewis, Seitz, and Gross attended the 2023 Accelerate Indiana Municipalities Ideas Summit in French Lick.
“Such moments always lead to laughter and stories,” Seitz said.
Seitz, Lewis, Senter, and Spinner pose together for a photo yearly. The recent conference was the same yet different. This time, Gross joined them in the snapshot.
“We always attempt to get our photos taken at each conference we attend,” Senter said. “As the four of us were doing that this year, Cathy walked by and asked what we were doing. We told her the story. She said she was on campus at the same time we were. Pretty amazing to find a fifth!”
Added Lewis, “When we take that photo, we all start talking about things that went on when we were at Vincennes University. There are a lot of similarities.”
Spinner, Seitz, Lewis, Senter, and Gross embody the VU motto of “Learn In Order To Serve” by dedicating their lives to public service and Hoosiers throughout Indiana.
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