Thomas W. Binford


Honorary Degree (1997)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Myles Brand
IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (1993)


Thomas Binford has an extraordinary record of service to the diverse communities of the state of Indiana. As an activist in civic affairs and race relations, a respected business leader, and a philanthropist for many worthy causes, Binford has provided Indiana with leadership that addresses some of the most vital, challenging, and sensitive areas of out culture.

Born in Indianapolis in 1924, Binford served in the US Army Military Intelligence from 1942 to 1946. He attended Princeton University, where he earned an AB in 1948. Returning to his hometown after graduation, Binford embarked on a half-century long project of investing in his community. He has served on a number of governor's and mayor's task forces concerning mental health and mental retardation, women's issues, youth projects, and housing. He has been director of Goodwill Industries of Southern Indiana, of the Indiana Repertory Theatre, and of the Indiana State Commission of the US Civil Rights Commission. Binford currently directs the Board of the Eiteljorg Museum.

Binford's ability to work creatively, honestly, and productively within the business community, as well as in civic affairs, is evidenced in the list of over two dozen corporations that have asked him to serve as their board chairman, president, or CEO. He has been director of the Indianapolis Water Company, of the Ransbury Corporation, and of the Continental Steel Corporation. In 1976, during a precarious time in this corporation's history, Binford was elected CEO and chairman of the Board of Indiana National Bank and Indiana National Corporation. Buoyed by Binford's leadership, the organization survived and prospered.

Since 1956, Binford has been actively involved in the sport that put Indianapolis on the map. As director of USAC and chief steward of the Indianapolis 500, Binford introduced safety measures that reduce the level of injuries suffered by drivers. He consistently officiates the race with a sense of fair play and concern for participating individuals that has earned him the respect of everyone associated with the world of auto racing.

Binford has a long and productive relationship with Indiana's institutions of higher learning. He has served as a trustee of four of our state's colleges and universities and has been both acting and interim president of DePauw University. His life has intertwined with that of Indiana University for more than four decades. In addition to teaching as a visiting professor in Indiana University's School of Business, Binford is a member of the Dean's Advisory Council and of the Strategic Directions Task Force on Minority Attainment/Under-representation. As a teacher, benefactor, consultant, and successful businessman, Binford has endowed Indiana's educational institutions with the varied benefits of his energy and experience. He is the recipient of six other honorary doctorates from colleges and universities in Indiana.

Throughout his long career, Binford- known to many as "Mr. Volunteer"- has exhibited the highest standards of excellence in his service to so many communities, organizations, and schools. NBD president and chief executive officer Andrew Paine notes that Binford is "successful because he is the consummate leader. He is able to energize people to forget a shared vision and then surrender authority and empower others to attain that vision. He values integrity, honesty, openness, diversity, community, caring, and change! These values cause him to advocate for what is right rather than for that which is politically expedient or the conventional wisdom." Praising Binford's energy, intelligence, and integrity, former Governor Evan Bayh says, "the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis would be poorer without his efforts."