Greg Ponchot g77
Greg Ponchot g77 was born in Hamilton, Ohio, but moved just nine months later to Sierra Leone, West Africa, when his parents, Gene g50 and Carol (Sipp g49), returned there with their family to continue their missionary service. His father had been a fine baseball catcher, but Gene’s biggest influence on Greg, both before and even after his death in 1984 in a tragic auto accident in Nigeria, was as a spiritual leader and example. Greg also had a superb athletic role model in the person of Bill Gerig g61, the legendary point guard who had led Wheaton College to the first-ever NCAA II national championship and who was his houseparent at Rupp Memorial School in Kabala, Sierra Leone. Bill played softball and other games with the boarding school children in his care nearly every evening.
When the Ponchot family relocated to York, Pennsylvania, in 1966, where Gene was a Missionary Church pastor and the Eastern District superintendent, Greg’s natural athleticism soon became apparent. He would play tennis, basketball as a point guard, and baseball as a pitcher throughout his time at West York Area High School. He had been recruited to play varsity tennis as a freshman by physical education teacher and tennis pro Jim Schwartz and broke in almost immediately at the number five spot. By his senior year, Greg was the team’s top player, leading the team to the York County championship.
When Greg entered Fort Wayne Bible College in the fall of 1973, he continued playing tennis and basketball. This would be his only year of basketball, and the team went 20-10, winning the regular-season North Central Christian Athletic Conference (NCCAC) championship. The team also garnered the NCCAC Sportsmanship Award.
The tennis program was just getting re-started at FWBC under the leadership of Coach Kent Fishel g66. The three bare concrete courts, lacking proper surfacing, were extremely fast and often gave opponents fits, so FWBC proved especially competitive at home. With collegiate matches entailing six singles and three doubles matches, the encounters could grind on for hours.
Greg played at number one singles, Larry “Sugar Bear” Lewis g76 played at number two, and the two teamed up at the number one doubles spot. The two rarely lost in either singles or doubles, and if the team hadn’t already won by the time the doubles competition began, their doubles play often clinched the victory for the Falcons. Larry, himself a Fort Wayne Hall of Fame athlete, always considered Greg by far the best tennis player in FWBC history.
In spring 1974 the Falcons hosted an invitational for NCCAC teams as the first step toward regular conference play. FWBC won the tournament as a team and Greg won the individual title, so the Falcons swept top honors.
During the summers of his college years, Greg partnered with Rick Seaman g78, a former Fort Wayne North Side High School standout who was by then a student at Taylor University, and the two taught tennis lessons to help pay their school bills.
His sophomore season, 1974-1975, Greg went 11-1 in singles and was the obvious team MVP. The team posted a solid 9-3 record and swept the NCCAC to become conference champions.
With marriage in view to a FWBC fellow student, Brenda Knuckles g78, Greg had increased his school year work hours at Maloley Brothers Grocery Stores and had given up basketball. Then he skipped varsity athletics altogether as a newlywed junior (1975-1976), though the talented tennis team went undefeated for a second straight year in NCCAC play, with an overall record of 11-1.
His teammates, however, never forgot Greg’s amazing abilities. When Larry Lewis, the new number one player, graduated in 1976 and the Falcons struggled through the following fall season, they begged Greg to return for a final semester in the spring of 1977. He did so reluctantly, since his work schedule didn’t allow him to practice, merely to show up for some matches. Nevertheless, when Greg was able to play, he was the star of the courts. The team loss to John Wesley was the only NCCAC team loss in four years. Greg would finish with a career singles record of 29-4.
Greg soon entered the ministry, pastoring effectively in Florida (1978-1985) and Indiana (1986-2011). His Hoosier pastorates were interspersed with work for the Missionary Church Central District, where he gave leadership to church planting efforts. This latter focus led to his training, coaching, and supervising church planters throughout the United States.
Greg also helped establish mission outreaches in Guatemala (1990) and Nicaragua (2004).
While pastoring, Greg was providentially led into ministries with professional athletes. For ten years (1987-1996), he served as the chaplain for the Indiana Pacers, speaking to opposing teams as well. Then, from the 1990s on through their Super Bowl victory under Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, Greg was a Spiritual Coach and an occasional chapel speaker for the Indianapolis Colts. As a point of interest, the Colts would never lose a game immediately following one of his chapel addresses.
One reason Greg could empathize with and minister to persons is that he has known multiple tragedies. In addition to the untimely deaths of his father and his close friend, Rick Seaman, Greg’s older sister, Brenda (Ponchot) Unangst g75, died as a young mother from a brain tumor, while his older brother, Steve g75, once a basketball manager at FWBC, has struggled heroically through most of his life with the painfully debilitating effects of childhood polio.
Today Greg directs Power Consulting Inc., which he founded in 2011, providing leadership training, coaching, and consulting to nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies. One of his main clients has been the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Greg still has moments as an athlete. The very day he moved to become pastor at Grace Missionary Church in Mooresville, Indiana, before he could even unload his goods, he was pressured into pinch-hitting for his church softball team. He delivered with a base-clearing, game-winning home run. He also volunteers for the United States Golf Association and the Indiana Golf Association as a trainer and a golf course team leader. At 61, he remains a scratch handicap golfer.
Greg and Brenda, who have been married for over 40 years, have two sons and six grandchildren. Their son Shane, who played tennis and golf, is a PGA Professional and currently the Director of Golf at The Hideaway in La Quinta, California. Son Bryant, who played tennis and basketball, is a chiropractic specialist in private practice in Indianapolis.