This summer, Cynthia R. (Berry) Powers celebrated her 45th wedding anniversary with her husband, Mamon. She attended a family reunion in Atlanta. Then, she extended her vacation and visited other family and friends in Florida.
She was also keeping her eye on her business as president of Powers Realty Inc. of Northwest Indiana. Despite her busy agenda, Powers took the time to talk about her student years at Indiana State University and her new position on the Board of Trustees.
With such a full schedule, why does Powers agree to an interview about her college days? Because it is quickly obvious that Powers loves her husband, her family, her work and Indiana State.
“The beauty of my life at ISU is how ISU wrapped its arms around me just as my high school teachers had advised me and, with God’s divine intervention, assisted me in achieving my academic goals,” she said.
Although she graduated in the class of 1969 as an English major, Powers has kept in touch with her alma mater. “I have never stopped visiting ISU,” she said. “My sorority, nieces, nephews, mentees and friends have all drawn me back to our campus.
“I have come back to be the guest speaker at sorority special occasions, and I have come back just to visit and just to enjoy some of the homecoming activities. In recent years, I have very humbly returned to campus to serve on the alumni board and attend its meetings and events.”
Born in Gary, Ind., Powers said she always she knew she wanted to go to college. She just didn’t know where and how.
“Like many children, I fantasized about being many different kinds of adults,” she said. “I had aunts who were nurses, and I wanted to be a nurse. I had doctors who were attentive and caring, and I wanted to be a doctor. Then I had teachers who loved and nurtured my education aspirations, and I wanted to be a teacher.”
Several of Powers’ high school teachers received their degrees from Indiana State and encouraged the young girl to attend. As valedictorian of her high school class, Powers was offered free tuition and books, which enabled her to afford college.
“Because my parents were not financially able to assist me, I could see how I could achieve my education goals at ISU more so than at some of the other Indiana and out-of-state universities who accepted me,” she said.
Once at the Terre Haute campus, Powers became active in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Black Student Union. One of her happiest memories, Powers said, was the year she trained her Trike race team at Blumberg Hall.
“I had our team run the 12 stories of our staircase a few times each evening to build up the strength and endurance of our legs and bodies. It truly worked and helped us to win.”
She also enjoyed planning parties and dances in both Mills and Blumberg halls and at the student union building.
“My most fulfilling and happiest memory at ISU was the chartering of my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, on our ISU campus,” Powers said. “I pledged my sorority through the Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter in May 1966 and diligently worked with our national officers and the administrative staff at ISU and successfully obtained approval. Our chapter was chartered at ISU in May 3, 1969.”
Powers also accepted an offer that became a very rewarding experience.
“Towards the end of my freshman year while living at Blumberg Hall, I was offered the amazing opportunity to be a resident assistant. My salary was free room and board and a stipend of $50 a month. I shared the rotating responsibility, along with two other student assistants, of coordinating our front desk, opening and closing the doors and guest areas to our dorm, assisting in the planning of dorm social activities and, most importantly, monitoring the process of assuring that all of our residents were following the dorm rules, regulations and curfew hours. Needless to note, our responsibilities were vastly different from the resident assistant’s responsibilities today,” she said.
“This opportunity created and nurtured my love and passion to pursue graduate degrees in college administration,” she said. “I received my masters in college administration in May 1970 and left ISU with a goal to receive a doctorate degree within 10 years. However, my goals were soon redirected.”
What changed the direction of her life? True love.
“Immediately after graduating with my masters from ISU, I accepted a counseling position at IUNorthwest in Gary,” Powers said. “My boyfriend, who is now my husband of 45 years, had requested that I accept the position in Gary instead of the job offer that was my first choice in New York.”
Mamon Powers was graduating from Purdue with a degree in civil engineering and had accepted a position with Amoco Oil in Whiting, with the intention of joining his father’s Powers & Sons Construction Company in a few years, she said.
“I guess that the rest is our family history,” Powers said. “Immediately after we graduated, together we became licensed real estate agents and opened Powers Realty while both of us were working our full-time jobs at IUN and Amoco,” Powers said. “This fulfilled Mamon’s father’s dream of having a real estate company to service the needs of his customers who needed to sell their existing homes so that he could build them a new home.”
Within nine months, Mamon was working full time with both companies. Within 2½ years, Cynthia had joined her husband in both companies.
“A few years later, our construction company stopped building homes, and we began to specialize in commercial and residential construction,” she said. “Mamon soon began devoting all of his time and energy with the construction company and I did likewise with the real estate team. This year, our Powers & Sons Construction Company is celebrating its 50th year.”
The Powers now live in Valparaiso and have a son, Mamon Powers III (wife, Stephanie) and a daughter, Kelly Powers-Baria, plus four grandchildren: Nadia and Isaac Baria and Julian and Kai Powers.
She recommends Indiana State to everyone she can, Powers said. “To me, ISU has the most nurturing campus environment that is nurtured from the president of our university throughout his administration and staff,” she said. “I have chaired and served on many boards; however, serving on the ISU’s Trustees Board is the opportunity I consider to be my most honored appointment. I am humbly appreciative and look forward to serving ISU and the young adults of Indiana and around the world.”
To help give back to the university who gave her much, Powers and her husband established in 2016 the Cynthia R. (Berry) Powers and Mamon M. Powers Jr. Scholarship.
“Since ISU did so much to help me achieve my academic goals, I wanted to establish a scholarship to do the same for other students,” she said. “We awarded our first scholarship last year, and we look forward to endowing the scholarship for many years to come.”