1 Vote That Made All the Difference

A blue drawing of a simple, two-story building labeled "First Seminary Building, Indiana University.”
Source: IU Archives

The very existence of Indiana University all came down to a tiebreaker.

The state of Indiana’s first constitution, in 1816, called for “a general system of education, ascending in a regular gradation, from township schools to a state university, wherein tuition shall be gratis, and equally open to all.”

But there were several hoops to jump through before Indiana’s state university would become a reality.

A plot of land had to be found. That land had to be approved by President James Madison. Then everything was put on hold, as the sale of lands for a school was prohibited until 1820.

When at long last the bill to establish the state seminary came before the Indiana Senate for a vote, there were five yeas and five nays. It was up to Lt. Gov. Ratliff Boon, president of the Senate, to cast the deciding vote.

Boon gave a yea, and on January 20, 1820, the governor signed the bill into law.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of IMAGINE magazine.

Written By
Andrea Alumbaugh
A native Hoosier, Andrea Alumbaugh is a graduate of IU (BAJ’08) and a senior writer at the IU Foundation.