Skip to Main Content

Faces Behind the Places of DePauw University

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

Robert R. Roberts

                                                      Bishop Robert R. Roberts
                                                      August 2, 1778 – March 26, 1843

Robert R. RobertsRegarded as the “Frontier Bishop,” Bishop Robert R. Roberts was the first Methodist bishop to reside west of the Allegheny Mountains. In his early life, he lived as a rugged pioneer man in Pennsylvania as a laborer, hunter, and farmer. Roberts declared his intention to join the church at the age of 14. But it was not until 1802 that Roberts obtained his ministry license at the encouragement of his wife, Elizabeth Oldham Roberts. Roberts traveled as a circuit-rider in the East, making connections with Methodist icon Bishop Francis Asbury and then U.S. President James Madison.

Roberts returned to Indiana in 1819. Here, Roberts presided over the Indiana Conference from 1834-36, during the time of granting the university charter for Indiana Asbury University. Roberts was a major supporter of establishing Methodist education. While still in Pennsylvania, Roberts was a trustee of Allegheny College. Once Roberts became an active supporter in the founding of a Methodist university in Indiana, these connections greatly benefited the creation of Indiana Asbury University. President Martin Ruter (his brother, Calvin, served on the education committee with Roberts) of Allegheny helped draw up Indiana Asbury’s charter and Matthew Simpson left his position as Vice President of Allegheny to become the first President of Indiana Asbury University. Throughout the latter part of his life, Roberts gave half of his annual salary of $200 to the University and named it a residuary legatee of his will.

Robert R. Roberts GraveToday, Bishop Roberts and his wife are buried in the Holton Memorial Academic Quadrangle. His gravesite monument was erected in 1859. It is the only remaining object on DePauw’s campus from before the Civil War. On October 14, 1961, the dormitory, Bishop Roberts Hall, was completed and dedicated in honor of the Bishop and his contributions.