Private university in Indianapolis, established in 1855
Established as a diverse private college in Indiana, Butler University was a key location of the 1971 Conference on Cities and a proud supporter of international education.
Since 1855, Butler University has been a destination for global education—and a cornerstone of the Indianapolis community. Today, the university is best known for its exceptional business programs and world-class basketball team. But Butler has always been ahead of its time, pioneering new programs and leading the way toward greater educational equality.
The Butler University story begins back in the 1850s when Ovid Butler petitioned the Indiana General Assembly to establish a new university in Indianapolis. Ovid was a prominent Indianapolis lawyer, a newspaper publisher and a vocal advocate for abolition. He envisioned the Circle City as a great hub of learning, where people of all races and genders could come together to change the world.
After five years of construction, Butler University opened its doors on November 1, 1855. The university was officially chartered as North Western Christian University by the Disciples of Christ, calling for a “non-sectarian institution free from the taint of slavery, offering instruction in every branch of liberal and professional education.”
Only 20 students were enrolled in that first class, taught by two faculty members. But in subsequent years, Butler University expanded as a pioneer in higher education, becoming the third university in the United States to admit both men and women.
This trailblazing spirit inspired Butler University to establish the first professorship in English Literature and the first Department of English in Indiana. Then, in 1869, Ovid Butler created the Demia Butler Chair of English Literature—the first endowed position at an American university designated for a female professor.
Now, Butler University is the #1 Most Innovative School in the Midwest, nationally recognized as one of the top universities in the region. As the university grows, Butler continues to revolutionize the educational landscape across Indiana. Butler now has six distinct colleges on their campus, including the Lacy School of Business, College of Communication, College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Jordan College of the Arts.
In fact, prominent Bulldog alumni range from globetrotting botanists to conductors of international symphony orchestras to social workers with a global footprint. This worldwide impact was recognized by Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar, when he chose Clowes Memorial Hall to host the 1971 International Conference on Cities.
With so many firsts here in Indiana, Butler University set its sights on the international arena, launching the Center for Global Education. The Center has partnered with 200 affiliated universities across 60 different countries to help students gain a global perspective by studying abroad. Through the Center, Butler students can travel all across the world, including destinations like Italy, China, South Africa, Australia and more.
Then, Butler took initiative to expand their international impact, becoming a sponsoring organization of The International Center. As a sponsor, Butler helps guide The Center’s overall strategy, provides expertise and insight on community programs and fosters international connections here in Indianapolis.
“Indianapolis has a well-earned reputation for providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for people from all cultures, and The International Center contributes mightily to that effort,” said Butler University President James Danko. “We are proud to be a supporting organization that collaborates with The International Center for the global good… and we look forward to partnering with [them] for another 50 years.”