Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 4, 2013

Butler University celebrates Founder’s Day Thursday

Mel Fox scheduled to speak about founder

Greensburg Daily News

Indianapolis —  Butler University will celebrate Founder’s Day Thursday, Feb. 7, the anniversary of Ovid Butler’s birth, with a day of events.

At 12:15 p.m. in the Irwin Library, there will be the unveiling of an archival pigmented print of LINCOLN 200 YEARS, the Abraham Lincoln portrait that hangs in the History Department. The event will include remarks by Greg Silver, who donated the original painting in honor of his father, David Silver ’37, a longtime Butler University professor of history and government.

Melina Fox, the niece five generations removed of Butler University founder Ovid Butler, will speak about Ovid, his family and ancestors. She lives in Greensburg where the vote was taken at the Christian Church in 1847 to proceed with forming the university.

From 2 to 4 p.m. in Starbucks, Butler students will read documents that set the historical context of the era in which Butler University was founded. The readings will include the Emancipation Proclamation, a speech by Sojourner Truth, and a Frederick Douglass anti-slavery speech, several speeches by Ovid Butler opposing slavery and supporting equal rights, and a letter his daughter Demia wrote about the role of women in society.

At 6 p.m., in Irwin Library, Butler Libraries present “I Lay My Stitches Down: An Evening with Children’s Book Illustrator Michele Wood.” Wood, a children’s book illustrator based in Indianapolis, will discuss her most recent work, which uses the American folk tradition of quilting as a structural framework. In her illustrations, Wood employs African and American textile patterns and folk art motifs to create a moving witness and beautiful complement to the poetry.

At 7 p.m., during the Butler women’s basketball game against Rhode Island at Hinkle Fieldhouse, there will be a Founder’s Day recognition ceremony.

All the events are intended to recognize the work of Ovid Butler (Feb. 7, 1801 - July 12, 1881), the 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.

— Daily News