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|Founder||J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli|
|Key people||Thomas M. Lofton, Chairman|
|Endowment||$7.3 billion (as of 2012)|
The endowment was founded in 1937 by J. K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J. K. Jr., with gifts of stock in the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company. While stock in the company is the Endowment's foremost asset, the Endowment is separate from the company. The Endowment, a private foundation, is in a different location, has a different board of directors, and is not linked to the company, except for the significant percentage of the company's stock it holds. The foundation has historically had three primary areas of grantmaking: community development, education and religion. Lilly Endowment is unique in that it is the largest private foundation in the United States that funds almost exclusively in its home city and state and one of few major foundations to fund religion.
One of the Endowment's most remarkable achievements has been its Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT) initiative. Since 1987, this initiative has been responsible for starting and growing Indiana community foundations. Today, Indiana has more community foundations than any other state. Total assets of these foundations are nearly $1.5 billion.
From its inception, Lilly Endowment has supported numerous religious endeavors. Among these was Eli Lilly's Christ Church, in which he was involved throughout his life, beginning as a choir boy. Upon his death, a contingency of the bequest to the church was that Christ Church would stay in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Support of a wide variety of religious endeavors was a way for Lilly to encourage character development.
Other recipients of Lilly Endowments have included the Rockefeller funded and ecumenical Association of Theological Schools and also Search Institute which lists the following dates for receiving Lilly grants:
- 1966 Lilly Endowment provides $50,000 for the Youth Ministry project;
- 1974 Two major projects are under way: Readiness for Ministry for the Association of Theological Schools, funded by the Lilly Endowment;
- 1976 Readiness for Ministry project is successfully completed. Lilly Endowment awards additional funds to introduce the program to Association of Theological Schools seminaries over a six-year period.
- 1981 Lilly Endowment awards grant of $273,000 for the Study of Early Adolescents and Their Parents.
- 1988 A landmark study begins: Effective Christian Education: A National Study of Protestant Congregations, funded by the Lilly Endowment.
- 1999 Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation. Between 1999 and 2002, 88 colleges and universities established or strengthened programs that 1) assist students in examining the relationship between faith and vocational choices, 2) provide opportunities for gifted young people to explore Christian ministry, and 3) enhance the capacity of a school's faculty and staff to teach and mentor students effectively in this arena. These schools received grants totaling $136.5 million.
- 2003 Emory University's Candler School of Theology was awarded a four-year, $2,182,200 grant by the Lilly Endowment Inc. for its Youth Theological Initiative, a 10-year-old center for research and theological education of youth that has become a model for such programs across the nation.
Search Institute is a psychology based, not-for-profit, ecumenical Youth Research organization. It is supported by grants and contracts from foundations, corporations, and government agencies, proceeds from the sales of products and services, and tax-deductible contributions from individuals and organizations.
Another recipient of the Lilly Endowment has included the ecumenical Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations, who wish to pattern their ministry after Charles E. Fuller, the father of New Evangelicalism, with one project called the Bethany Project. The Bethany Project is a pilot project in congregational revitalization funded by the Lilly Endowment, for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The Hudson Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank is also a large recipient of funds from the Lilly endowment.
In 2010, $35 million in grant money was awarded to Manchester University (formerly Manchester College) for the establishment of Manchester University College of Pharmacy which enrolled its inaugural class in the fall of 2012. Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the school became the third college of pharmacy in the state and will graduate its first class in the spring of 2016..
Over the years, the Endowment has acquired a collection of important Indiana paintings that were in danger of leaving the state. The collection includes paintings by William Merritt Chase, members of the Hoosier Group, John Elwood Bundy and others. The paintings are generally displayed at the Endowment's offices on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis but in 2003-05, an exhibition was mounted that allowed a number of the paintings to travel to several museums around Indiana.