Updated on 1/4/23

Ball State University is named in honor of the five Ball brothers who founded the institution in 1918: Lucius, William, Edmund, Frank, and George.

The brothers were industrialists and philanthropists who started what eventually became the Ball Corporation, the manufacturer of the Ball canning jar, among other glass and canning products.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, the Ball Brothers moved their company to Muncie, Indiana in 1886 during the state’s natural gas boom. As their business grew, so did their involvement in Muncie. This included buying the land and buildings for the University, which was later renamed in their honor.

A brief history of Ball State (and its names)

  • 1899Eastern Indiana Normal School opens as a private university.
  • 1901 – Eastern Indiana Normal School closes.
  • 1902 – The school reopens as Palmer University.
  • 1905 – The school changes its name to Indiana Normal College.
  • 1908 – Indiana Normal College closes.
  • 1912 – The school reopens as the Indiana Normal Institute.
  • 1917 – The Indiana Normal Institute closes. The Ball brothers purchase the land.
  • 1918 – The state legislature formally accepts a land gift from the Ball brothers and places it under the management of the Indiana State Normal School in Terre Haute. Classes at the Muncie campus begin again as the Indiana State Normal School – Eastern Division. This marks the official founding of the University as it stands today.
  • 1922 – The legislature changes the name of the school to Ball Teachers College.
  • 1929 – The school is renamed Ball State Teachers College.
  • 1961 – The school becomes fully independent from Indiana State University and is renamed Ball State College.
  • 1965 – The school officially becomes Ball State University.

From Normal to Extraordinary: Ball State’s First Century

To celebrate the Ball State’s Centennial in 2018, a team of students produced a documentary about the University’s first 100 years.

About the Ball Brothers

The Ball brothers were all born in Ohio to Lucius Styles Ball, a farmer and inventor, and Maria Polly Bingham Ball, a schoolteacher. Mr. and Mrs. Ball had eight children total.

The family eventually moved to upstate New York. There, the brothers started their enterprise in 1880 after borrowing $200 from an uncle to buy the Wooden Jacket Can Co.

The business started by making tin cans and grew into glass manufacturing. Natural gas was an important fuel for glass production, and Indiana’s boom in the late 1800s caught the brothers’ attention. They decided to move their company to Muncie in 1887 so they could take advantage of the state’s natural gas reserves.

Ball Brothers’ Community Involvement and Philanthropy

Along with supporting Ball State University, the Ball family:

  • founded Ball Memorial Hospital in 1929.
  • acquired—then later donated—the land for what is now Minnetrista, a 40-acre campus that is home to gardens, a nature area, a museum, historic homes, children’s play areas, and part of a paved trail system
  • established, through estate gifts, the Ball Brothers Foundation, a nonprofit that provides about $7 million in grants every year to support arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services, and public affairs

Their philanthropy also included contributions to hospitals, schools, and nonprofits around Indiana.

Ball State has a more than century-old legacy driven by an unwavering belief in education that’s rooted in creativity, values, and intellectual curiosity.

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