Leonard Betley


Honorary Degree (2005)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Adam Herbert


It's likely you've never heard of Leonard Betley, and that's probably just as well with him. Despite his impact on many areas of Indianapolis that contribute directly to the city's quality of life, including health care, education, the arts, and the environment, the distinguished lawyer and community leader is content to stay out of the limelight. Friends and colleagues describe Betley as a quiet yet determined leader whose primary focus is on bettering his community, not bolstering his resume.

"He has never taken, nor sought, personal credit for his achievements," says his former law partner and close friend Jack Snyder. "His satisfaction is from making progress on the matters in which he is involved. That is his recognition."

Considering his long list of accomplishments and the relationships he's built with the people and organizations he's touched, it's a wonder that Betley has managed to fly under the radar for so long. His leadership efforts have resonated loudly within the Indiana University community. The university has benefited immensely from Betley's wisdom, friendship, and commitment to improving the quality of research at the institution, most notably at its School of Medicine.

An attorney for many years at the Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller Donadio and Ryan, he has stewarded two of Indiana's leading medical research institutes with close affiliations to the medical school: the Regenstrief Institute, an internationally recognized informatics and health care research organization dedicated to enhancing the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care, and the Walther Cancer Institute, which seeks to eliminate cancer as a cause of death and suffering. He also serves as president of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, which provides financial support to health profession training institutions and area hospitals.

When distinguished IU alumnus Dr. Joseph E. Walther retired from the cancer institute's board of directors, Betley was asked to succeed him. Since 1985, the institute has invested approximately $60 million in cancer research, about 70 percent of which is attributable to programs at IU, according to Joseph Dawson, chair of the institute's board of directors. Says Dean D. Craig Brater of the School of Medicine, "It is not an overstatement that the IU School of Medicine has no better friend than Leonard Betley."

Betley's interests extend beyond medicine into the arts, education, and the environment. He has served as president of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, president of the Park Tudor Foundation, and chair of the Indiana Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. For nearly four decades, Betley has used his talents and energy to heighten these organizations' impact on the quality of life in Indianapolis. He has also demonstrated a willingness to take on difficult tasks that others might find unglamorous.

"He regularly volunteers to do the substantive and often difficult jobs that need to be done," says Thomas King, who recently retired from the post of president of the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, and who served with Betley on the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. "He does them not for the accolades, but because he understands what is fundamentally needed to improve an institution or a community. He also believes that you can get a lot done if you do not care who gets the credit."

Betley may not seek recognition, but his colleagues aren't shy about speaking up for him. They agree that his refusal to grandstand, combined with his hard work, honesty, and integrity, has made him the optimal leader and truest friend of the community.

"I have found him to be a person of absolute integrity, quick and perceptive, but endowed with patience and the ability to listen carefully and thoughtfully to all points of view. He is unfailingly courteous, even to those with whom he strongly disagrees," says Bret Waller, director emeritus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. "At the same time, he is decisive and firm when the time comes for action. And he is blessed with a quiet sense of humor that facilitates his interaction with others." Says Lori Efroymson, fund chair of the Efroymson Fund, "The breadth of Len's involvement is amazing, but he keeps a humble profile. I believe it is this attitude of humility, along with his intellect, that has made him so successful."