Civic leader and longtime businessman P.E. MacAllister, for whom the MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts at Garfield Park is named, will serve as the grand marshal for Saturday’s Miracle Mile Parade.
The honor, which MacAllister calls highly flattering – is another feather in his cap. His most recent award came during the Republican Leadership Committee’s luncheon on Aug. 27, and he was presented the Sachem Award, the state’s highest honor, by Gov. Mike Pence last year.
“P.E. MacAllister embodies the character, industriousness and generosity that is the essence of the Sachem Award,” said Pence. “His impact on the life of our capital city, and Indiana as a whole, is incalculable. His civic involvement promoting economic development and the arts has made our economy and our cultural life more robust and enriched the lives of countless Hoosiers.
“Young people who aspire to make a difference in our state need look no further than the life and example of the creative visionary and legendary leader P.E. MacAllister.”
Previous recipients have been college basketball coaching legend John Wooden, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame, and gospel music singers and songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, P.E., which stands for Pershing Edwin, graduated from Carroll College in 1940 with a major in history and minors in speech and English.
He served five years in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a captain and later moved to Indianapolis to join his father’s Caterpillar dealership, MacAllister Machinery Co. When his dad suffered a stroke, P.E. found himself leading family business at the age of 32.
Since 1952 he has served as chairman of the board for the family company; son Chris serves as president and chief operating officer of the agricultural and heavy machinery business at 7515 E. 30th St. P.E. can be found at the office throughout the week, and he remains in contact with the staff when he’s wintering in Florida.
He still enjoys playing golf on the three big summer holidays. “There have been a foursome of us playing for about 35 years. Some of the players have passed, so I have had to recruit new ones. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels will play with us on Labor Day,” said MacAllister, who admitted his game is a little wobbly. “But it’s great exercise.”
He was elected to Carroll’s board of trustees in 1963 and served 17 years of his 46-year tenure as chairman.
He serves on the board’s Institutional Advancement Committee and has taken leadership roles in Carroll’s fundraising activities, including the largest campaign to date, the Gateway Campaign, which raised nearly $36 million. By participating in alumni gatherings, personal solicitations, student service projects, convocations and trustee meetings, MacAllister continues to be engaged as alumnus, trusted counselor, adviser and friend.
In 1990, MacAllister and his first wife, Becky, who died in 2001, established the P.E. MacAllister Endowed Chair at Carroll University, a $1 million endowment that provides full-tuition scholarships to students exhibiting academic excellence and high achievement.
When MacAllister moved to Indianapolis, he found the city to be in absolute distress. He called the place “an oval in a corn field – India-NO-place.”
Richard Lugar’s election as mayor in the late 1960s ultimately turned the city around, said MacAllister, who was the campaign treasurer. He served as campaign chairman when William Hudnut ran for mayor.
Campaign finance disclosures show MacAllister has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and initiatives during the past 20 years.
As a president of the Capital Improvement Board for 17 years, MacAllister played an instrumental role in the development of the Hoosier Dome, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana Convention Center, which he recalls as only attracting Boy Scout gatherings and rock concerts in the early years.
Some of his most significant achievements are those of volunteerism as he has helped guide many charitable causes over the years, including the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Opera. He was appointed to the advisory committee – a position he no longer holds – of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by President George W. Bush.
During a 1995 benefit to raise money for renovation projects at Garfield Park, MacAllister, the father of four children, donated $50,000.
He has been awarded honorary doctorates in law and public service from Indiana State University and Christian Theological Seminary of Indianapolis and supports the advancement of human knowledge by funding academic chairs, awards and grants for top experts in many fields.
MacAllister, who married his second wife, Fran, in 2003, fondly remembers taking his kids to the movies and to baseball games at Bush Stadium on West 16th Street, and he loved watching basketball at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
MacAllister attributes much of his success in life to the liberal arts education he was provided. He once reflected, “A fundamental principle of liberal arts education is that you learn how to learn while you are at that institution. You gain the basics upon which you can build the rest of your life. I am just somebody who’s done that.”