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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.

Percy L. Julian

                                                                    Percy Lavon Julian
                                                                    April 11, 1899 – April 19, 1975

Percy JulianGraduating as valedictorian and Phi Beta Kappa with the Class of 1920, Julian began his DePauw career as a “subfreshman” in 1916. Upon his arrival to campus, Julian found a friend in Kenneth C. Hogate ’18. In exchange for room and board, he initially lived and worked in the Sigma Chi, Hogate’s fraternity. His family later relocated to Greencastle, providing Julian a home. His five siblings would also go on to graduate from DePauw.

Denied a masters education from DePauw, Julian instead earned his M.A. from Harvard in 1923. He then received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in 1931. Julian was invited back to DePauw University as a research associate in organic chemistry. Over the course of three years, he and colleague Joseph Pikl published 11 articles in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, including a drug treatment for glaucoma.

Despite Julian’s academic success, positions outside of historically black institutions were not extended his way. DePauw’s board of trustees was unwilling to grant the black chemist a regular faculty position, so Julian instructed chemistry at Fiske University, West Virginia State College, and Howard University. In 1936, Julian became director of research for the Soya Products Division of the Glidden Company in Chicago where he invented a fire-fighting foam. Julian formed his own company, Julian Laboratories, in 1953. At his laboratories, Julian accomplished the development process for the commercial production of the arthritis drug, cortisone.

Julian’s extensive honors include 19 honorary degrees, election to the National Academy of Sciences, and election to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. The member and trustee of multiple boards, Julian’s leadership included President of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Greater Chicago and Director of the Mental Health Association of Greater Chicago. He was the first recipient of DePauw’s McNaughton Medal for Public Service and the 1951 winner of the Old Gold Goblet.

Julian maintained a warm investment in DePauw, frequently returning to give guest lectures and becoming a trustee in 1967. After his death, his widow, Anna Johnson Julian, and children established a trust fund to support research programs in the chemistry department, to found an annual Percy L. Julian Memorial Lecture, and a scholarship fund for students pursuing careers related to chemistry. In 1980, DePauw rededicated the recently constructed building housing the mathematics and physical science departments as the Percy L. Julian Science and Mathematics Center.

                                                                   Julian Science and Mathematics Center