Long-time chairman of Lilly Endowment dies at age 86

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Lilly Endowment Inc. announced Saturday that its long-time chairman, Thomas M. Lofton, has died at the age of 86.

Lofton, who died Friday, was an attorney at the Indianapolis law firm Baker & Daniels for more than three decades, a role in which he worked closely with many of the city’s largest not-for-profits, including the endowment.

In 1970, Lofton became chief legal counsel to the endowment. And after retiring from the law firm in 1991, he became vice chairman. In 1993, he became chairman and served briefly as president from 1993 to 1994.

“The Lilly Endowment is saddened beyond words by the death of its long-time chairman,” endowment CEO N. Clay Robbins said in a statement Saturday. “The impact of his more than 45 years of service to the endowment is incalculable. “

Robbins noted that during Lofton’s 22 years as chairman, the private foundation paid more than $7 billion in grants to support education, community development and religion.

He added: “A man of deep Christian faith, it was important to [Lofton] that each year a significant portion of the endowment’s grants supported people in need, and he personally mentored and helped countless individuals facing challenges in their lives.“ 

Lofton was a graduate of Howe High School in Indianapolis. He attended Butler University before completing his undergraduate degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. He later received his law degree from IU.

In a statement Saturday, the endowment said Lofton personally knew J.K. Lilly Jr. and Eli Lilly, two of the three Lilly family members who founded the endowment in 1937.

The endowment is one of the largest private foundations in the country, with $10.1 billion in assets at the end of 2014. Its principal holding is shares of Eli Lilly and Co.

Lofton is survived by his wife, Betty; two daughters, Stephanie Lees of Indianapolis and Melissa Guinn of Bloomington, six grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and a brother, John.

Funeral arrangements are pending with Leppert Mortuary.

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