Ruth Lilly

  • Born: August 2, 1915
  • Died: December 30, 2009
  • Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center Market Street

635 E. Market St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Tel. (317) 387-7000


Ruth Lilly is pictured in this photograph.

Eli Lilly & Co. heiress dies at 94

The Associated Press


Ruth Lilly, a prolific philanthropist who was the last surviving great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, has died at age 94.

A family spokesman says Lilly died Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Over the course of her life, the Indianapolis native gave away much of her inheritance from the Eli Lilly & Co. fortune. Court documents showed in 2002 that Lilly had bequeathed nearly $500 million to charitable and arts-related groups.

That included an estimated $100 million to the influential literary magazine "Poetry," which had rejected Lilly's submissions for years. Lilly began writing poetry in the mid-1930's.

The magazine has published the works of poets William Butler Yeats and Dylan Thomas. Lilly's attorney said in 2002 she didn't take rejections from the publication personally.

Lilly also established two fellowships for graduate students in poetry and an endowed chair of poetry at Indiana University.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located on the site of Lilly's parents' estate, which she and her brother donated in 1966, along with a trust income to maintain it.

Lilly's wealth was valued at more than $1 billion in 2002. The family statement said she gave away "the vast bulk of her inheritance, largely to Indiana-based institutions."

A family statement released Thursday said that during her later years, Lilly's philanthropy widened her circle of contacts and interests and her life "became much more interesting and rewarding."

Lilly was married for more than 40 years but her marriage ended in divorce, with no children.

Her financial dealings have been handled by a court-appointed guardian since 1981, when she was declared incompetent.

Lilly battled depression for most of her life but was helped greatly by Eli Lilly & Co.'s blockbuster antidepressant Prozac, which came on the market in 1988, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Condolence & Memory Journal

I was assigned to do my fourth grade Famous Hoosier Project on Ms. Ruth Lilly. She sounds like an incredible person. Sometimes at dinner in my house, we read conversation cards with questions on them. There is one that reads, If you could have dinner with any three people, who would you choose? After this project, I am changing my answer a little. I always say I would want dinner with Jesus and Anne Frank, and now I would also like to have dinner with Ms. Lilly (instead of Niall Hoarn from One Direction). Even though I researched Ms. Lilly for my project, I would ask her more questions about her life. For all that she has done for Indiana, she deserves to be more well-known and famous.

Posted by Catherine Pettigrew - Carmel, IN - Student   March 28, 2016

It takes Jerry an hour by bus to get to Fairbanks. He volunteers during the patients open recreation time in the Ruth Lilly Gym. Jerry, a recovering addict, says he comes each day because it gives his life a purpose. Ruth Lilly, a woman with a beautiful spirit and generous heart, gave us a gift for brick and mortar. It transcends place and provides purpose. We are grateful and proud to have Mrs. Lillys name on our gymnasium and for all the assistance received through her family. Ruth Lillys spirit will always live with us. Helene Cross, President and CEO Fairbanks

Posted by Helene Cross - Indianapolis, IN   January 10, 2010

We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Ruth Lilly, a true champion of compassion and generosity. We are deeply grateful for the many ways in which she promoted educational endevours in Indianapolis and beyond.

Posted by Charlie and Elisabeth Culp - Indianapolis, IN   January 08, 2010

I would like to extend my condolences to the family of Ruth Lilly. I am deeply saddened by her passing. Her work and contributions to colleges, hospitals, and charities of Indianapolis are touching and inspirational. She is one of the last of the Old Indianapolis families who created and shaped our city into what it is today. Her generosity touched so many lives! I remember Ruth Lilly from when she was able to attend service at Christ Church. I am most aware of her affect she had on the charity my Grandmother, Sarah F. Cooper-Gavin, founded with a friend in 1936. This charity was Crossroad Rehabilitation Center. Today it is know as Easter Seals Crossroads. Ruth gave a gift to $1 Million to establish the Ruth Lilly Assistive Technology Center. That gift allowed the center to train those with special needs to be come more independent and learn skills that can give people hope and dignity. I know her support would have been appreciated by my Grandmother and is appreciated by the charity and my family. Ruth Lilly will be missed sorely by many.

Posted by Virginia Rabbitt-Jenkins - Indianapolis, IN   January 07, 2010

Like a bird singing in the rain, let grateful memories survive in time of sorrow. God Bless the Lilly Family in this difficult time.

God Bless,

Jerald Trowens

Posted by Jerald Xavier Trowens - Indianapolis, IN   January 07, 2010

On behalf of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, I would like express our deepest sympathies to the many family members and friends of Ruth Lilly. Like so many other important Indiana charities, our organization has benefited immeasureably from her generosity and her spirit of charity truly will be remembered for many years to come.

Posted by Andra Walters, Director of Development - Indianapolis, IN   January 04, 2010

My sympathy and thoughts are with the Lilly family. The world will miss Ruth, but she has left it a better place, and her generosity will continue.

Posted by Casey Cronin - Indianapolis, IN   January 03, 2010

I am deeply saddened by this amazing womans death,as I look back in time and I have read alot about Ruths life, I am truly honered to have known of her,I had always wanted to meet Ruth.The late Col. Eli Lilly was my Great Great Uncle, Corilla Lilly was my Great Grandmother which was Maternal. James Alexander Little married Corilla Lilly, and Corilla Lilly was my fathers grandmother. My fathers name was also James Alexander Little, so in respect I was related to this beautiful woman.My name is Sally and I give my respect to all of the Lilly Family, and my personal deepest thoughts, my heart is with the Lilly family.

Posted by Sally Alana Little Carroll - Indianapolis, IN   January 03, 2010

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Ruth Lilly is pictured in this photograph.