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Hupfer's Political Star Rises

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His path was always before him, he suspects now. It was only the mapping of its course that took some time.

Time, and some excellent cartographers at Manchester University who helped show him the way.

Twenty-one years since Kyle Hupfer ’95 was a student and basketball star for Steve Alford at MU, he’s become a star in a different realm: The political one. The chairman of the 5th District Republican Party, and former head of the Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Mitch Daniels, Hupfer was tabbed by governor-elect Eric Holcomb to replace the departing Jeff Cardwell as Indiana Republican Party Chairman.

In early February, he was unanimously selected to the job.

It’s the latest step in a political career that began at the grassroots level, and was informed by an instinct to serve that was cultivated by both Hupfer’s parents and his experiences at Manchester.

“My family always had a focus on (service),” say Hupfer, a Pendleton, Ind., native who sits on the MU Board of Trustees. “Not necessarily politics, but certainly community service, whether it be a local not-for-profit or kind of things more community-driven as opposed to politically driven. So maybe that was some of the foundation.

“But certainly I always had a view of giving back, and Manchester certainly enhanced that, seeing how they influenced lives and also seeing how people sort of … stayed involved. I certainly think it was one of the influences that guides you toward staying involved in life, whether it’s politics or something else.”

The Manchester culture of building understanding through personal relationships was also an influence. Though Hupfer admits he probably didn’t know it at the time, it’s been a cornerstone of his political life from the time he started out as a ward chairman in Marion County.

“Over time you build relationships, and different candidates become your friends,” Hupfer says. “It’s sort of a relationship-driven organization, politics. You just sort of slowly build relationships and get to know people.”

That resonated with a young man who credits Tim Ogden ’87, dean of the College of Business, with steering him toward the law when Hupfer was unsure what he wanted to do after earning his undergraduate degree in business. And it continues to resonate for Hupfer who, in the years since his time at Manchester, has come to value those sorts of relationships even more than he did then.

“I don’t know how much I saw it then in real time, because you’re kind of maybe more living in the moment,” Hupfer says. “But certainly in hindsight, and being on the Board of Trustees and maintaining relationships with people like Professor Ogden, and then seeing how other places do it and talking to other people … That personal aspect,  the professors actually cared and were invested in your success, and the success really of all their students. And they would give of their personal time to help if needed and were personally invested.

“I just think it’s neat in that respect the professors had that. And most everybody has some Professor Ogden. Whether it was him or someone else, they’re looking out for them and guiding them and helping lead them to success.”

By Benjamin Smith