Editor's note: In honor of the university's centennial year, The Daily News is counting down 100 days to the university's celebration Sept. 6 with 100 of Ball State's most famous traditions and figures. Check back each day to read about Cardinal history.
After working as a politician and a school administrator, Benjamin Burris became Ball State’s third president.
While Burris worked a variety of jobs — including county attorney and assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction — he was only 42 when became president in 1924, according to Ball State’s website.
Burris set two goals he hoped to accomplish during his presidency, “achieving the highest accreditation of the college and building a laboratory school for teacher training,” and while he died before either were accomplished, the university saw numerous other improvements.
In Burris’ second year as president, 1925, Ball State Teachers College saw enrollment increase to 1,016 students. The number of faculty members and departments at the university also increased.
Construction projects such as Ball Gymnasium, the Library and Assembly Hall and Lucina Hall were completed during Burris’ tenure.
His time as president, however, was cut short in 1927 when he unexpectedly died.
“You members of the graduating class of 1927 are especially fortunate in having as an example the life of such a great man as Benjamin J. Burris,” a letter to the class of 1927 said in the June 10, 1927, issue of The Easterner. “With the inspiration of his great accomplishments constantly before you, and with the thought that his spirit is watching over your work, you should never in any sense be a failure. To become great as President Burris did, necessitates patience, love of fellowmen, unceasing effort, unselfishness, and a true interest in the welfare of education.”
An article from the same issue reviewing the school year also discussed Burris’ death, saying of the things that happened from 1926-27, “the thing which will probably linger longest in the minds of all … is the great blow that was struck to the hopes of the college with the sudden death of President Burris."
“It hardly seems possible yet, that Mr. Burris is no longer one of us,” the article said. “‘Friend’ seems to be the word that best describes our lost leader, because he was a friend to everyone.”
The year after Burris died, construction was completed on a school Burris had hoped to create during his time as president and was named after him: Burris Laboratory School.
Read more centennial content here.
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