In retrospect, it appears the Broad Ripple High School class of 1965 was destined for success.

Several graduates have done well locally in business.

Alan Cohen built the Finish Line stores into a major retail footwear business.

Fred Tucker III has taken a third-generation real estate business into new ventures.

David Letterman went on to television fame. He has remembered his Indiana roots with generous support for Ball State University.

In the field of journalism, Deborah Paul has been editorial director of Indianapolis Monthly magazine.

Another member of the class has found success in Southern California. Bill Hull is an accomplished author, with 15 books and 300,000 copies in total sales.

And at age 63, Hull may just be getting warmed up. Book number 16 arrives next month.

The author is one of the leading authorities in the field of Christian discipleship. Don't confuse him, however, with Jerry Falwell or the Religious Right. His practice of the Christian faith is bipartisan or nonpartisan. He doesn't think that faith in Christ requires political affiliation in any particular direction.

The discipline he learned on the basketball team at Broad Ripple carries over to the discipleship he writes about in his books.

If he has a quarrel over the current popular version of Christian faith, it wouldn't be especially political. He thinks American Christianity is too flabby and makes the call to follow Jesus too easy.

His books emphasize unpopular personal discipline such as accountability to spiritual leadership in the church; self-denial of our natural desires; and early rising for Bible study and Scripture memory. Think of it as the spiritual version of a health food diet.

His titles are not designed to market to the masses: "Building High Commitment in a Low Commitment World."

He's learned most of his lessons from his personal Bible study, as well as 20 years as a pastor at several churches in California.

He founded T-Net International, a consulting group for discipleship, and has been invited overseas to teach on the topic.

At Broad Ripple, such success for Hull would not have been readily apparent. Raised by a single mother, he struggled in academics but realized that basketball could be a college ticket. He set scoring records at Oral Roberts University and was a late bloomer academically.

He overcame the odds with the help of Broad Ripple coach Gene Ring.

"He gave me a vision of life. That I could, through basketball, make something out of my life," he said. "Ring taught me that if I worked harder and longer than others, I could succeed. The hard work brought out my gifts."

He still keeps up with several classmates, especially Cohen and Tucker.

Hull's story illustrates not only the value of hard work but also the life-changing potential of a dedicated public school teacher and coach.

(Russell B. Pulliam, journalist, book author, associate editor and columnist at The Indianapolis Star, is a syndicated columnist, whose columns focus on topics ranging from politics to social issues to family life. He may be contacted at: russell.pulliam@indystar.com.)