Thomas M. Lofton earned a national reputation for legal expertise involving tax-exempt organizations but also dedicated time to training younger lawyers during his law career at Faegre Baker Daniels from 1955-91.
After retiring as a senior partner from the firm, Lofton later became the longtime chairman of the Lilly Endowment, one of the nation’s largest private foundations.
On June 19, 2015, Lofton passed away at the age of 86. A visitation will be held on Saturday, July 25, 2015, at Second Presbyterian Church, 7700 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, beginning at 10 a.m., with a memorial service following at 11:30 a.m. His family requests that donations be made to the Indiana University Foundation or the donor’s favorite charity.
“(Tom) just leaves a remarkable list of people who he trained,” Tom Froehle, chief operating partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, told the Indianapolis Star. “He was incredibly kind, incredibly respectful and professional — a true gentleman.”
An Indianapolis native, Lofton graduated from Howe High School in 1947, Indiana University in 1951 and then the IU Maurer School of Law. In 1955, he joined what was then Baker & Daniels.
Lofton became vice chairman of the Lilly Endowment. He was named chairman in 1993, including serving briefly as its president from 1993 to 1994. During his 22 years as chairman, he oversaw the distribution of more than $7 billion in grants for education, community development and religion — mostly in Indiana.
"The impact of his more than 45 years of service to the Endowment is incalculable," N. Clay Robbins, Lilly Endowment president and CEO, said in a statement. "His unrivaled intellect, wisdom and profound sense of loyalty to the values of the Endowment's founders at all times were evident in his guidance of the Endowment's affairs.
“A man of deep Christian faith, it was important to him 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,” Robbins’ statement continued. “He is irreplaceable, and he will be greatly missed."
The Lilly Endowment has more than $10 billion in assets. Founded in 1937 with stock grants from the founding family of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, the endowment awarded more than $328 million in grants last year. In February, it provided $40 million to Purdue University, one of the largest donations in the school's history.
Indiana University presented Lofton with many awards over the years, including an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, the Distinguished Alumni Service Award and the Thomas Hart Benton Medallion. In 2011, IU President Michael A. McRobbie presented the University Medal to Lilly Endowment, Inc., in recognition of its impact on education at IU and elsewhere.
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.