Skip to main content

Indiana University’s commitment to Indianapolis spans more than 100 years

Jun 14, 2023

Indiana University’s contributions and influence in Indianapolis date back to the late 19th century.

IU began offering classes in the city in 1891, establishing a presence before any other public higher education institution.

While the campus has expanded and evolved in many ways since planting roots more than 100 years ago, its core mission has remained the same: helping elevate the quality of life of those in Indiana and beyond.

The next chapter, realigning from IUPUI to IU Indianapolis, will strengthen that mission.

“Innovating in response to the needs of our city and state is a hallmark of Indiana University’s rich history on the Indianapolis campus,” IU President Pamela Whitten said.

That includes addressing pressing workforce needs and capitalizing on new opportunities, specifically in emerging technologies and the health sciences sector.

“Our efforts to expand the reach and impact of IU Indianapolis are well underway with the addition of new degree programs, robust research initiatives and enhanced collaboration with partners,” Whitten said. “With leading faculty across disciplines — from the sciences and the arts to medicine, business, law, nursing, social work and more — IU’s Indianapolis campus will be an increasingly crucial source of Hoosier talent while offering expanding contributions to the vitality of our city, state and nation.”

The IU School of Nursing was founded in 1914 as the Indiana University Training School for Nurses. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana U... The IU School of Nursing was founded in 1914 as the Indiana University Training School for Nurses. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University The School of Nursing is one of the oldest schools on the Indianapolis campus. It was founded in 1914 as the Indiana University Training School for Nurses, in conjunction with the opening of Long Hospital.

Such partnerships have become a defining aspect of IU’s service to the Indianapolis community.

“Riley Hospital, which opened in 1924, is another early and enduring example of the university working with philanthropists to fill a major need: a pediatric hospital in Indianapolis,” university archivist Stephen Towne said. “And for decades, the IU School of Medicine essentially ran the Marion County hospital and the VA hospital — government clearly aiming to use the expertise of the medical faculty, nursing staff, social workers, etc.”

The beginning of what is now the IU School of Medicine formed in 1903, when the Board of Trustees approved the creation of a new medical department. Today the school partners with IU Health, the largest network of physicians in the state.

They work together to train physicians, translate breakthrough research into practice and invest in the future. IU Health contributed $145 million to the School of Medicine’s new medical education and research building, which will be co-located with the health care system’s expanded downtown medical campus.

Black and white photo from 1927 of students in white coats sitting below the Indiana University School of Dentistry building. The Indiana University School of Dentistry Class of 1927. Photo courtesy of Indiana UniversityThe IU School of Dentistry, established in 1925, is another major part of the Indianapolis campus’s legacy of innovation and impact.

Researchers there played a key role in one of the most significant health advancements in history: the development of fluoride toothpaste.

In the 1950s, Dr. Joseph Muhler led a team that patented a formula that became Crest toothpaste. The discovery continues to help foster innovation at the School of Dentistry, as the Oral Health Research Institute was established using royalties from the sale of Crest. The center is internationally recognized for its research and product testing.

The IU School of Dentistry in Indianapolis is the only dental school in Indiana; 80% of the state’s dentists train there.

IU expanded its Indianapolis campus over the decades, adding several buildings and schools, including Ball Residence Hall, which opened in 1928; the Normal College of the American Gymnastic Union, the oldest physical education program in the nation, which joined IU in 1941 and evolved to become the School of Health & Human Sciences; and the Herron School of Art, now the Herron School of Art & Design, which became affiliated with IU in 1967.

Black and white aerial view of the IUPUI campus in 1969. Aerial view of the IUPUI campus in 1969. Photo courtesy of Indiana UniversityThe campus’s next major evolution happened in 1969.

Formed on the foundation built by IU, Indiana University and Purdue University merged their many programs and schools in the city to create IUPUI.

Progress happened quickly, with the opening of Cavanaugh Hall, Lecture Hall and University Library in 1971.

Just one year later, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Liberal Arts and School of Science were established.

As the campus steadily grew throughout the decades, so did IU’s partnerships with business and civic stakeholders.

In 1987, the Center on Philanthropy was established with a $4 million grant from Lilly Endowment. This paved the way for the establishment of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy in 2012 — the world’s first school dedicated solely to the study and teaching of philanthropy.

The Indianapolis campus’s standing in the health sciences sector was further strengthened with the completion of IU Hospital and Outpatient Center in 1992; the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center receiving a national research designation in 1999 and the National Cancer Institute’s Comprehensive Cancer Center designation in 2019; and the establishment of the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health in 2013.

Looking ahead to the future, IU Indianapolis will be guided by the university’s strategic plan pillars of student success, research and creative activity, and service to the state.

“The welfare of this state is dependent, really, on the people who come out of this institution,” Towne said. “Chancellors talk about this all the time: Graduates of this institution stay in Indiana.

“They are the lawyers, the physicians, the nurses, the social workers, the educators. They’re the ones who are taking care of people and teaching children. The business graduates of this institution populate all the businesses in the state. This campus has produced great scholars and important inventors and people who heal the sick and cure cancer. There’s a lot to be proud of.”


IU Newsroom

Tia Broz

Communications Consultant, Strategic Communications

More stories

News at IU  
News at IU