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Faces Behind the Places of DePauw University

This guide includes historical information about the people behind DePauw University's building names.

Washington C. DePauw

                                                                                 Washington C. DePauw
                                                                      January 4, 1822 – May 5, 1887

Washington C. DePauw

Washington Charles DePauw had a penchant for business and philanthropy throughout his illustrious life. By the age of 21, DePauw was an elected clerk of Washington County. His career quickly shifted from politics to business when he found success in saw and grist mill investments. During the Civil War, he was a leading grain distributor. Beyond agriculture, DePauw expanded into merchandising, banking and manufacturing, taking over ownership of the American Plate Glass Works in New Albany, Ind. The culmination of these undertakings led DePauw to not only be characterized as “the nerviest businessman in Indiana,” but also as the rumored “wealthiest man in Indiana.”

Throughout his personal life, DePauw suffered many tragedies, including the deaths of the first two of his three wives and the loss of five of his nine children. Despite these hardships, DePauw remained generous towards social causes, the church, and education. He donated often to Indiana Asbury University, the short-lived Indiana Asbury Female College, and Indiana University. Two of his sons, Newland and Charles, graduated from DePauw University in 1879 and 1880. DePauw’s dedication to the Methodist church even led him to serve twice as a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

DePauw’s will included provisions for funding a new university founded under his name. But after a financial crash in 1873 left Indiana Asbury University unsure of its future, the university trustees sought out fellow trustee, DePauw, as a possible benefactor. After prolonged negotiations, DePauw agreed to set aside his will, redirecting $300,000 to the needs of Indiana Asbury University. Despite DePauw’s concerns of immodesty, Indiana Asbury University was founded under his name as DePauw University in January of 1884. DePauw’s dedication to the university enlarged the campus, updated and constructed new buildings, created student housing, and aided students in need of funds. His gifts totaled to a minimum of $700,000 – over 18 million in today’s dollars.