Ernest Clay Back had a love of history while Sarah Gross had an incredibly competitive spirit.

Both died too young.

Both are remembered through scholarships awarded in their memory through the Tipp City Foundation.

This was the first year the Ernest Clay Back Scholarship for History and the Sarah Gross Scholarship for Sportsmanship Fund were awarded.

Back and his wife of 41 years, Mara Back Demers, ran the Tippecanoe Frontier Trading Company in downtown Tipp City for 30 years. He started the Old Northwest Rendezvous in the early 1980s, attracting people from all over to participate in historical camping and a return to life in the 1700s and early 1800s, including dressing for the time period, Demers said .

He had an array of interests from history to off track racing, art, carpentry, photography, mechanics and was a voracious reader.

Ernie Back died at age 64 in 2000.

“He was a very kind-hearted person. He taught his boys you give 110 percent,” Mara Back Demers said. They had two sons, Steven Back and Timothy Back. The three came together to create the scholarship to be awarded to a student interested in history.

“When people met him, he automatically was their friend,” Mara Back Demers said of Ernie.  

Gross, the daughter of Michael and Betty Gross, was a graduate of Tippecanoe High School where she played soccer, basketball and softball and held several basketball records. 

She received an undergraduate degree and an MBA from the University of Dayton where she was recognized for outstanding academic achievement.

Sarah worked as a marketing professor at Sinclair Community College and was recipient of the National Institute of Staff and Organization Development Teaching Excellent award and the 2007 Wal-Mart Teaching Excellence award by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs.

 Sarah died at age 44 in November 2017.

“She was incredibly competitive. If she was going to do something, she was going to do it with whole heart,” Betty Gross said.

Sarah was described as “the kindest soul” who always tried to help others. “If she knew how to do something, she wanted to impart it on another, if they wanted,” her mother said. “She never had a bad word to say about anyone,” she said.

An avid rock climber, Sarah continued to pursue an active lifestyle. “She never sat still,” Betty Gross said.

The scholarship was established as a way to honor Sarah’s memory, Betty Gross said.

The Tipp City Foundation has 14 scholarship funds from families committed to seeing students excel beyond high school. The scholarships are awarded to students of Tippecanoe, Bethel and Miami East high schools.

The Foundation scholarships are:

Ernest Clay Back Scholarship for History 

Lester & Cleon Bowers Family Scholarship

Jeanette C. Gaston Memorial Music Scholarship

Gilmore Family Scholarship

Sarah Gross Scholarship for Sportsmanship Fund

Life is a Journey -Don’t Stop Believing Scholarship

Katherine G. Lobo Memorial Scholarshi 

McKee Family Matthew 5:16 Scholarship

Sarah Merritt Memorial Scholarship

John and Louise Miller Memorial Scholarship

Robert E. Nessle Memorial Scholarship

Elizabeth Spano Scholarship 

Tipp City Rotary Club Scholarship

Wenzlau Family Scholarship

We’d love to stay in touch. Stay connected with the Tipp City Foundation by:

All marketing activities of the Foundation is 100% underwritten by generous sponsors. Please contact us at for information on how your business or organization can become our partner in philanthropy. 

  • Silver Sponsor – Thrivent Financial (Matt Buehrer)
  • Bronze Sponsors – Advanced Machinery Companies; Dunaway Family Foundation; Dungan & LeFevre; Ever-Green Turf & Landscape; Gibson Law Offices; Monroe Federal Savings and Loan; New Carlisle Federal Savings Bank; Pickrel, Schaeffer and Ebeling; Unity National Bank
  • Friend Sponsors – Captor Corp.; Edward Jones (Neil Nehring); Frings & Bayliff Funeral Home; Minster Bank; RSM US; Turnstone Financial; US Bank
  • Media Sponsor – Tippecanoe Gazette

Use the links below to share the TIPPing Point with friends and neighbors. Not a subscriber? Sign up here! If there is something you would like to see in future installments, please email Your input is welcome and appreciated!