One hundred and sixty-two years ago, Butler University was founded on the principles of diversity, equality and inclusivity. We celebrate Founder’s Day (February 7) with a week of programming that seeks to celebrate and reclaim these values of Ovid Butler.
Ovid Butler

This year we are focusing on the theme of Justice and partnering with the student Diversity and Inclusion Board (DIB) to bring several events to the Butler community from February 4–11. Visit for more information.


  • Butler was chartered as North Western Christian University in 1850 by abolitionist Disciples of Christ members who wanted a university away from the “pernicious influences of slavery.”
  • Founded on the values of diversity, inclusivity, and equality, NWCU opened in 1855 at 13th and College Avenue, admitting women and people of color on an equal basis with white males, a radical stance for the time.
  • The first woman to graduate from the full four-year program was Demia Butler, daughter of founder Ovid Butler. She graduated in 1862.
  • Ovid Butler founded the Demia Butler Chair of English Literature in 1869, the first endowed chair in the country for a female professor. Catharine Merrill was its first recipient, and the second full-time female professor in the country at any university.
  • Butler’s first documented African-American graduate was Gertrude Amelia Mahorney, who graduated in 1887 on the school’s second campus in Irvington. There may have been earlier graduates of color, but the school did not keep racial statistics for many years. Mahorney taught in the Indianapolis Public Schools, specializing in German.


Media contact:
Marc Allan