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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.

Ruth B. Lilly

Ruth B. Lilly 
August 2, 1915 – December 30, 2009

Ruth B. LillyThe last surviving great-grandchild of the pharmaceutical icon Eli Lilly, Ruth Lilly made a name for herself as a philanthropist dedicated to the education, the arts, and medicine. Her donations to higher education are an estimated $800 million. In addition to DePauw, she donated to Wabash College, Indiana University, Anderson University, and Butler University. Her long-list of over 50 supported charities includes the Methodist Hospital, Riley Hospital for Children, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Ballet Theater of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis Repertory Theater. She was a long-time trustee and benefactor of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

In addition to supporting the arts, Lilly was a poet herself who enjoyed incorporating humor into her poetry. Despite having many of her poems denied from publication in Poetry magazine, she appreciated their encouraging letters and consequently pledged a gift of $100 million to the magazine.

Lilly’s connection to DePauw begins with her father and grandfather who both attended the Indiana Asbury (now DePauw) preparatory school. The first Lilly drug store opened on Greencastle’s Indiana Street; the same street adjacent to where the Lilly Center now stands. Lilly went on to marry a DePauw alumnus, Guernsey Van Riper, Jr. Though they divorced in 1981, through her marriage, she gained the friendship of Ardath Yates Burkhart, a DePauw trustee.

In 1979, Ruth Lilly gave DePauw University more than $3 million – at the time the largest donation in the University’s history. Her donation made possible the Lilly Physical Education and Recreation Center. The center was named after three generations of the Lilly family, Eli Lilly, Josiah K. Lilly, and Josiah K. Lilly Jr., respectively, the great-grandfather, grandfather, and father of Ruth Lilly. The $7.2 million center was dedicated on April 24, 1982.