Founder’s Celebration 2024

Founded for Change, Amplifying Our Mission

February 6-9, 2024

Founder’s Celebration provides an opportunity for all members of the Butler community to collectively recognize our university’s history, traditions and the pursuit of change sparked by Ovid Butler’s vision to create educational opportunities for all regardless of gender, race, or circumstance. We were founded for change and continue our efforts to amplify our mission in creating an intentionally diverse, inclusive, and equitable learning and working environment.

About Ovid Butler

Ovid Butler was an Indianapolis lawyer, philanthropist, and founder of North Western Christian University (today’s Butler University). Born February 7, 1801, in Augusta, New York, Butler moved with his family to Indiana in 1817. After practicing law in Shelbyville from 1825 to 1836, Butler moved to Indianapolis where he practiced law until 1849. His law partner of eleven years, Calvin Fletcher, considered himself blessed to have such a partner, and called Butler “a man of strict integrity great diligence & integrity”(Diary of Calvin Fletcher, vol. 3, p. 198, Saturday, October 11, 1845). Although ill health led Butler to retire from his law practice in 1849, his involvement in a variety of civic causes continued.

Butler was an active supporter of the antislavery movement. In 1848 he was elected as vice president of Indiana’s Free Soil Party, and backed the Free Soil Banner, a campaign paper for the party. In addition to his efforts on behalf of the antislavery cause, Butler was a leader in education. His desire to found and maintain a university dedicated to non-sectarian Christianity was a driving force in the creation of North Western Christian University.

Following the Indiana General Assembly’s approval of the school’s charter on 15 January 1850, Butler was among those who worked to raise the $75,000 in stocks necessary for the opening of the school. Five years later North Western Christian University opened its doors, and in 1856 graduated its first class. Butler served as the president of the school’s board of directors until 1871, when he retired due to poor health and advanced age. In recognition of his service to the university, the board created the special office of chancellor for Butler, which he held until his death in 1881. In 1877 the school was renamed in his honor.

Historical Overview—Ovid and the Founding of Butler University

From the abstract: “Without Ovid Butler, there would be no Butler University today. The history of the man and the university are intimately and inextricably entwined; without Ovid Butler’s vision, leadership, and financial support, the university may not have come into being, or survived its early years.” – by Sally Childs-Helton, PhD