About Butler

Biography of Ovid Butler

Ovid -ButlerOvid Butler (Feb. 7, 1801-July 12, 1881) was a lawyer, abolitionist, journalist, and founder of North West Christian University, which became Butler University. Without his vision, leadership, and financial support, Butler University may not have come into being, or survived its early years.

Butler and his family moved to Indianapolis in 1836. Ten years later, he bought farmland at the corner of what is now Park Avenue and 13th Street. The land on the northeast corner of the farm would become the first site of the University.

In 1847, Butler engaged with the Disciples of Christ to found an institution of higher learning in Indiana. In 1850, the charter he wrote to create the North Western Christian University was approved by the Indiana General Assembly. He offered 20 acres of his own property as the location. As a member of the board, he saw the school through its founding, its first years of operation, and the move to a new campus in Irvington. In 1877, the University was renamed in his honor. 

Ovid Butler is buried in the Butler family plot at Crown Hill Cemetery, another project he helped develop. On Jan. 12, 1882, the year after Butler's death, the board of directors declared that Feb. 7-his birthday-would be observed as Founder's Day. On that first observance, his son Scot presented the University with a life-sized oil painting of his father. An address given by Gen. James Coburn noted Ovid's mark on the school:

"His ambition was to make this institution as liberal, as thorough, and as beneficent as any one anywhere. …  He believed in the equal rights of men and women; that all should be free; that all should be educated alike. … He put his faith and creed in the charter of the University, and upon these stones he builded. His taste, his ambition, and his conscience acting in harmony carried him forward and over all the obstacles he met."