Adapted from Butler University Named Spaces
The Irwin family has figured prominently in the life of Butler University for more than a century. The charter granted to the University in 1850 lists Benjamin Irwin (1759-1857) as an organizer. He served as a chancellor and director until 1855. Benjamin’s nephew, Joseph I. Irwin (1824-1910), served as a chancellor and director from 1868 to 1910. William G. Irwin (1867-1943), Joseph’s son, served as a director from 1910 to 1943. Linnie Irwin Sweeney (1859-1944), daughter of Joseph Irwin, served for many years as a Butler director. Her husband Zachary Taylor Sweeney (1849-1926) also served as a Butler director. Their son Joseph Irwin Sweeney (1880-1900) attended Butler, and their daughter Nettie Sweeney Miller (1876-1960) and her husband, Hugh Thomas Miller (1867-1947), graduated from Butler and served as directors.
Miller’s father, John Chapman Miller (1831-1901), served as a professor and a director for the University. J. Irwin Miller (1909-2004) and his sister Elizabeth Clementine Miller Tangeman (1905-1996), the children of Nettie and Hugh Thomas Miller, and Elsie I. Sweeney (1888-1972), the daughter of Linnie and Zachary Sweeney, continued the family’s association with Butler, helping to make the Irwin Library possible. Mrs. Tangeman served as a Butler trustee, and Elsie Sweeney served as president of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation.
J. Irwin Miller, chairman of the board of Cummins Engine, a Fortune 500 company founded in 1919 in Columbus, Indiana, built his company into an international success. Cummins Engine Company grow rapidly. J. Irwin Miller became general manager in 1934, and went on to lead the company to international prominence over the next four decades. Within three years, the company had earned its first profit; in three more, it offered the industry’s first 100,000-mile warranty.
In 1954, Miller established the Cummins Foundation, and three years later told the city of Columbus that the foundation would pay all architect’s fees for new construction—as a result, buildings by leading architects from around the world now grace the streets of the Midwestern city.
His interest in cutting-edge architecture helped establish Columbus as a city known for its architectural beauty. The Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation, created in 1952, supported projects throughout Bartholomew County. With ties to Butler University dating back to the 1850, the Irwin family continues to support the university. Two gifts totaling over $1,500,000 from the Foundation enabled Butler to complete Irwin Library.
J. Irwin Miller and his extended family have embodied a hard-working, community-minded spirit that Indianans and Butler University have benefited from for nearly 200 years. Their legacy continues in Indiana today.
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