Lilly, Ruth E., 1915-2009


Ruth E. Lilly (1915-2009) was the great-granddaughter of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly. Her grandniece, a Tufts alumni, named the Lilly Music Library after her through her donation.

History of Lilly, Ruth E.

Ruth E. Lilly (1915-2009) was the great-granddaughter of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly. She was born in 1915 in Indianapolis, Indiana to Josiah K. Lilly Jr. and Ruth Brinkmeyer. She had one sibling, J.K. Lilly III. She graduated from Tudor Hall School in Indianapolis in 1933, and briefly attended the Herron School of Art.

She married Guernsey van Riper Jr. in 1941, however bouts of depression kept her hospitalized for lengthy periods during her marriage. Lilly and van Riper divorced in 1981 and had no children.

Lilly was an aspiring poet for a long time and a major supporter of the arts. She generated a lot of controversy in 2002, when she donated $100 million (mostly in stock) to the small office of Poetry magazine. In addition, she supported a wide variety of education and medicine-related organizations and numerous colleges and universities. She eventually gifted more than $800 million to such organizations. Because of her support and love of the fine arts, her great-nieces, Rebecca Lilly Brooks and Elizabeth Noyes, who both attended Tufts University, used their donation to create a music library in her name. The Lilly Music Library, which was a collection part of the Tisch Library, is housed in the Perry and Marty Granoff Music Center on the Medford, MA campus. She died in 2009 of heart failure while in Indianapolis.

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