Friday, January 1, 2010

Ruth Lilly Dies at 94

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."

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.

Full Article and Source:
Eli Lilly & Co. Heiress Ruth Lilly Dies at 94

See Also:
Investigative Series: Guarding the Guardians

Excerpt: The name "Lilly" evokes all kinds of images in Indianapolis. The international pharmaceutical company. And the endowment that helped build the city is the largest in the country.

But there's another Lilly story you probably don't know that has nothing to do with those well-known institutions. It's about Ruth Lilly, the sole surviving great-grandchild of the company founder - one of the world's richest women whose own philanthropy has left its mark. And it's about others controlling her fortune.

The Eyewitness News Investigators spent six months talking to sources and examining the extensive documents in Lilly's court-ordered guardianship. They found a story about questionable spending by her guardians, a story that reaches into the city's corridors of power - politicians, doctors, judges, a major bank, a prominent law firm.

The stories were reported by Amanda Rosseter and Jeremy Rogalski, photographed and edited by Bill Ditton, and produced by Kathleen Johnston and Gerry Lanosga. The series originally aired Nov. 23-25, 1998.

Two days after this report began airing, Probate Judge Charles Deiter appointed local attorney Greg Fehribach as guardian ad litem to independently review Ruth Lilly's guardianship. His 16-month review resulted in a public acknowledgement of lax oversight by the bank - and reductions in bank and legal fees totaling more than $600,000.

See Also:
Ruth Lilly's Niece and Nephew Become Her Guardians


Betty said...

I am sorry for her passing. I venture to think that her final years haven't been happy for her. I think people often wonder what life would be like if we just had the money to be able to do whatever we wanted, but the truth is there's a terrible price to pay for that: guardianship.

Barbara said...

You're right, Betty. Ruth Lilly was probably in the guardianship precisely because she was extremely wealthy.

The vultures smell the money and circle.

Anonymous said...

I think Ruth Lilly will be remembered for the positive things her money bought as listed in the main story here.

Brooke Astor, on the other hand, will be remembered as a poster for elder abuse, which is not what she would have wanted.

Anonymous said...

I remember the investigative series when it ran. Everyone was up in arms. But, it didn't last long. People have short memories.

jerri said...

question: is it EVER possible to avoid guardianship if one has assets?

Thelma said...

I was about to say that the lawyers must have been pretty honest - until I read the second story!

Thanks to the Eyewitness Investigators for opening the case.

Chuck said...

Exactly, Thelma. At a glance and to those who aren't familiar with the history, it all looks fine.

But, it wasn't.