Members of the Lilly family of Indianapolis, who founded and for many years managed Eli Lilly & Company have donated hundreds of millions of dollars for philanthropic, civic, and religious causes that range from the preservation of the Angel Mounds archeological site in southern Indiana to the provision of land for the Art Association of Indianapolis to create the Indianapolis Museum of Art, from the donation of the Lilly Library to the University of Indiana to the endowment of the American Poetry Association in Chicago. Colonel Eli Lilly (1838-1898), the pharmaceutical chemist, pharmacist, soldier, entrepreneur, industrialist, and philanthropist founded Eli Lilly & Company.
Josiah Kirby Lilly, Sr. (1861-1948), was the eldest child of Col. Lilly and the latter’s first wife Emily L. Lilly. J. K. Lilly, Sr. was born while his father was away fighting in the American Civil War. His pregnant mother died in 1866 when he and his parents were stricken with malaria while his father was running a plantation in Mississippi.
For a time, he was raised by his grandparents. In 1869, Col. Lilly married his second wife, Cynthia Sloan, and young Josiah was able to rejoin his father, who had opened a pharmacy in Paris, Illinois.
In 1873, the Lillys moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Col. Lilly founded Eli Lilly & Company. Three years later, at the age of fourteen, Josiah Lilly quit school to work in his father’s laboratory.
He attended the Philadelphia School of Pharmacy, which is now known as the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (USciences). In 1882, he graduated, married Lilly Ridgley, and his father appointed him superintendent of the laboratory. In 1890, Col. Lilly retired to focus on charity and civic interests.
Eli Lilly & Company continued to grow during the 1890s, which was no small feat considering the onset of the First Great Depression. Josiah Kirby Lilly I served as President of Eli Lilly & Company from 1898 to 1932.
Josiah K. Lilly I and Lilly Ridgely Lilly had two sons: Eli Lilly, Jr. (1885-1977) and Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. (1893-1966). Eli Lilly, Jr. served as President of Eli Lilly & Company from 1932 to 1948 and as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1948 to 1961 and from 1966 to 1969.
Under the overall leadership of J. K. Lilly, Sr., research director George Henry Alexander Clowes and Eli Lilly, Jr. began collaboration with University of Toronto research scientists John James Rickard Macleod (1876-1935), Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941), and Charles Herbert Best (1899-1978) who had discovered insulin. Eli Lilly & Company mass-produced the drug to treat diabetes under the name Iletin, which it introduced in 1923.
Dr. Banting and Dr. Macleod won the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Further, in 1934, King George V knighted Banting as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1942, the American Pharmacists Association presented J. K. Lilly, Sr. with the Remington Honor Medal.
In 1938, J. K. Lilly, Sr.; Eli Lilly, Jr.; and J. K. Lilly, Jr. founded the Lilly Endowment, Inc., which the father ran for several years. They endowed it with a gift of stock.
A private family foundation, it is one of the largest foundations in the world. It is not to be confused with the Eli Lilly & Company Foundation, a private foundation the company established in 1968.
The Lilly Endowment has a Community Development Division, an Education Division, and a Religion Division. The Community Development Division has granted funds to the United Way of Central Indiana and the Indianapolis Housing Partnership, as well as arts and cultural organizations in the state’s capital city and surrounding region.
In 1990, it began the Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative, which has granted money to community foundations in all of Indiana’s ninety-two counties. The Community Development Division has also given financial support to a program of the Indiana Association of United Ways which helps over sixty United Way organizations throughout Indiana.
The Education Division supports programs and initiatives for students ranging from grammar school to college. A matter of particular concern for the Education Division is that Indiana has a high number of adults aged twenty-five and over who lack a bachelor’s degree. That was not so important when agricultural and manufacturing jobs were plentiful, but there are fewer factories and steel plants now and the state’s economy is increasingly subject to global economic forces.
The remit of the Religion Division is to improve the lives of American Christians at the level opf the congregation through support of programs that recruit, educate, and train pastors, as well as programs that provide pastors with up-to-date information.
Insights into Religion is a Web portal with links to the Web sites of organizations for which the Religion Division has provided funding. Resources for American Christianity is a second Web site that provides an overview of the Religion Division’s five program areas.