As a child, Ruth Lilly attended Saturday School at the John Herron Art Institute. Later in life, she served as a board member and docent for Herron, which at the time included the permanent art collection that would become the basis of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Ruth Lilly died December 30, 2009. The pharmaceutical heiress’s complex estate has only recently been settled. It is a moving reaffirmation of the important role Herron played in her life that she included a gift for the school.
Herron will honor her legacy by using the gift to accelerate its emergence as one of the best art schools, public or private, in the country.
Her giving indicates that her interest was in placing the causes she cared about in a position to think strategically. With utmost respect and appreciation, Herron will reserve $1.2 million of the gift to support new initiatives and program development, for example, its planned expansion over the next few years of graduate degree offerings in art therapy, ceramics, painting and photography. Herron’s intent is to retain this portion of the gift in a quasi-endowment, using only the annual spendable part of the income to support the school’s priorities over time.
The remaining $1.5 million of the gift will be used to retire the construction debt on Herron’s main building—Eskenazi Hall. Herron will mark this occasion, which allows it to go forward with gratitude, unencumbered, by naming its administrative offices the Ruth Lilly Dean’s Suite.
Ruth Lilly’s gift will have a powerful and lasting impact on Indiana’s only professional art school. Her foresight will allow Herron to continue raising its stature at local, national and international levels.