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Last modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Eli Lilly to be honored posthumously with IU's Herman B Wells Visionaries Award

Indiana University and the IU Foundation will honor Eli Lilly with the Herman B Wells Visionaries Award on Friday (Oct. 25) at IU's Bloomington campus. This award is given to individuals whose vision and entrepreneurial spirit brought them to an extraordinary level of achievement in their professional endeavors and in their service to humanity.

Eli Lilly was born in 1885, nine years after his grandfather, Col. Eli Lilly, founded the Indianapolis pharmaceutical firm bearing his name. Young Eli worked part-time and summers at the company and, after taking his degree from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1907, joined the family business.

Eli Lilly was instrumental in the development and manufacture of several essential medical drugs, including insulin for diabetes, liver extract for pernicious anemia, antibiotics and the Salk polio vaccine. He introduced modern industrial practices and helped grow the small company into an industry giant, with 23,000 employees and more than $1 billion a year in sales.

In 1937, he was the chief founder of the Lilly Endowment, which has disbursed over $300 million in charitable gifts, focusing on the areas of education, religion and community service.

Lilly's interest in Indiana and its history induced him to found Conner Prairie Museum, lead several historic preservation efforts and revitalize the Indiana Historical Society. He read widely and wrote several books on aspects of Indiana's history. A philanthropist from early on, Eli Lilly used his financial gifts and talents to support the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Children's Museum, the Indiana Historical Society, several colleges and churches, and many other organizations.

Until his death in 1977, he remained committed to the state of his birth and to the larger world of humanity.

As IU's president and then chancellor, the late Herman B Wells led the university for 63 years, shaping it into one of the world's great universities. He was known nationally and internationally as a leader in higher education and as a man devoted to the improvement of society through education.

Wells also served as chairman, vice chairman and chairman emeritus of the board of directors of the Indiana University Foundation, IU's central fund-raising, investment and funds administration organization, from 1937 until his death in March 2000.