John Wesley Burkhart
John Wesley Burkhart Birth : 25 Jul 1908 Tipton, Tipton, Indiana Death : 25 Aug 1999
Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana buried: AUg. 28, 1999 Washington Park North Cemetery
Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana son of John W. Burkhart & Edna Clark
John W.Burkhart, 91, Indianapolis, died August 25 at 7:30 a.m.
Mr.Burkhart was actively involved in the community in such noted positions as:
Past president of the Indianapolis Chamber of CommerceFormer Director of the
United States Chamber of Commerce Life Director of the Indiana Chamber of
Commerce, Chairman of the Capital Improvements Board Chairman of the
Republican Partys Action CommitteeOrganized and Chaired the United Student
Aid Fund Chairman: Design For A Decade Campaign; DePauw University Honorary doctorate
degrees from DePauw, University of Indianapolis and Bates College Sagamore of the Wabash
Calling hours: 10:00 a.m - 2:00 p.m. at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Fellowship Hall,
Saturday August 28, 1999.
Services: 3:00 p.m. Saturday, August 28, 1999, St. Luke's United Methodist Church ,
Sanctuary, 100 W. 86th St.
Entombment will be in Washington Park North Cemetery.
Donations: In lieu of flowers, please send to the Scholarship Funds of Vincennes University,
DePauw University and University of Indianapolis.
John Burkhart was born In Tipton, Indiana on July 25, 1908. Due to his father's battle with
tuberculosis, the family moved to Sweetwater, Texas when John was only three years old.
The family moved again, to Colorado,Texas. During this time, his mother kept the family
solvent by selling Wearever Aluminum and Hurlbut's Story of the Bible.
When John's father's health failed, the family was taken by his grandfather who had a farm
near Tipton, Indiana. His father, a minister died when John was 14. John's earliest jobs
were simple tasks on the farm such as milking the cows and feeding the pigs.
Upon his graduation from Tipton High School at the age of 15, Burkhart was awarded a four
year scholarship to DePauw University. While at DePauw John spent his summers helping his
grandfather on the farm showing his true love of his family.
After graduating from DePauw, John concluded that he should return to Tipton to help his
grandfather. About a year later, he was approached by the Editor of the Tipton Daily Tnbune,
who had served with the American forces during World War I and had married a woman from
France. The couple had not been back to France, but decided they would do so that summer.
The editor asked John if he would serve as Editor during his absence, thus starting John's first
entry into the newspaper business.
During the course of that first summer after graduation, John was approached by a high school
classmate who had learned of a franchise to sell Skelgas, a bottled gas used primarily by farmers
with no access to gas utility services in cities and towns. They agreed to begin this business.
Before they got started (in October 1929, the month of the great Wall Street Crash and the
beginning of the worst depression this country has ever encountered) the partner-to-be backed
out. But John, with his ever present persistence, decided to go ahead.
It did not take long to discover that the market was not big enough to sustain the business.
The entrepreneurial John Burkhart then expanded Skelgas to a full line of appliances including
electric refrigerators, washing machines, radios and the like. John rented the First National Bank
building, which was vacant since the bank had failed, and called his store the Wife Saving Service.
About two years later, John was hopelessly in debt.
Available jobs were paying less than the interest on his bank loan so he needed to get a commission
job. He decided on life insurance and his keen business sense told him to enter a bigger market.
Hence he moved to Indianapolis and joined New York Life.
As Johns good luck would have it, it turned out that Frank Moore, a DePauw classmate of John's, was
with the same agency and sold insurance to seniors at Purdue. John was fascinated by that corner of
the marker and suggested the two of them establish a General Agency selling this product nationwide.
New York Life turned down the idea of selling insurance to college students but they did win the
approval of Lincoln National.
By the time the United States became involved in World War II, Burkhart's partnership had Lincoln's largest
agency. However, they were soon out of business because all of their agents were reserve officers and
were called up for active duty.
John applied to the Navy for entrance into Officers Training School, but his vision did not meet their
requirements. He was asked to go to Milwaukee and manage a factory maying sextants for the Navy.
John accepted, showing his steadfast loyalty to the country he loved so much.
John had always wanted his own company and the close of the war seemed to be the right time to try it out.
Thus came about the College Life Insurance Company Of America with its headquarters in Indianapolis.
Later, a second company was organized, University Life Insurance Company of Amenca.
Perhaps the most spectacular part of the adventure was building the Pyramids which are regarded as the
greatest landmark in Indianapolis,one of John Burkhart's many legacies. In 1979, the insurance companies were
A few months later with an old friend from DePauw who lived in St. Louis, John founded the Indianapolis
Business Journal , a weekly business newspaper. It turned out to be a needed publication and so, over a period
of time, similar papers were launched in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Dallas.
Ultimately, the chain was sold.
Mr. Burkhart is survived by his wife, Lorene Burkhart; daughters, Gay Burkhart and Lisa Peterson; sons William
and Scott Burkhart; stepsons Mark and Stewart Shunk; sister Anna Beckman; ten grandchildren; five step
grandchildren. Flanner & Buchanan Washington Park North Mortuary is handling arrangements.
INDIANAPOLIS -- John W. Burkhart, a powerful Republican in Indiana politics for more than half a century
and co-founder of the Indianapolis Business Journal, died Wednesday at the age of 91.
Burkhart, a one-time director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, assisted in the rise of a group of young
Indiana Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Richard G. Lugar.
He once said of his community and political involvement: ''I had hoped I could help people understand
better the political and economic systems and the threats to them.''
Burkhart was a graduate of DePauw University. He moved to Indianapolis in 1931, where he co-founded
the College Life Insurance Co. of America and University Life Insurance Co. of America.
He sold both in 1979 and a year later launched the Indianapolis Business Journal, which he owned until 1986.
He is survived by his mother, Lorraine, and three sisters.
Introduced Second Regular Session 111th General Assembly (2000)
HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION No. ________
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION memorializing John W. Burkhart.
Whereas, John W. Burkhart was born in Tipton, Indiana, and graduated from Depauw University,
and then moved to Indianapolis to begin his business careers;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart lived a full life of 91 years devoted to a life of service in business and
community affairs until his death on August 25, 1999;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart founded College Life Insurance Company of America and University Life
Insurance Company of America;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart co-founded the Indianapolis Business Journal;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart continued his engagement as publisher, with his wife Lorene, of the
Whereas, John W. Burkhart was a Republican political leader who was influential in the creation of
Uni-Gov for the city of Indianapolis;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart was instrumental in thedevelopment and construction of the Pyramid
office complex in northwest Marion County;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart served as president of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, life director
of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and as a board
member of the National Association of Manufacturers;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart served as chairman of the Capital Improvement Board for the City of
Indianapolis during the time of the construction of the Indiana Convention Center;
Whereas, John W. Burkhart was inducted into the Indiana Academy in 1991 for his contributions to the
state, and in that year he was also inducted into the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame for his
contributions in business; and
Whereas, John W. Burkhart is survived by his wife Lorene Burkhart; children Lisa Peterson, Gay Burkhart,
William Burkhart and Scott Burkhart; stepsons Mark Shunk and Stewart Shunk; and his sister Anna Beckman;
and ten grandchildren and five stepgrandchildren; Therefore:
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the Senate
SECTION 1. That the Indiana General Assembly recognizes the achievements and service and contributions to
his community of John W. Burkhart.
SECTION 2. That the Principal Clerk of the House of Representatives shall transmit a copy of this resolution to
the family of John W. Burkhart.
In 1960--five years before the Federal student loan program was established as part of the Federal Higher Education
Act -- John Burkhart organized USA Funds to privately guarantee student loans. USA Funds later became USA Group,
which is now the nation's largest student loan guarantor and administrator.
|married 1st Ardath Yates
Birth: 2 Sep 1905 - Vincennes Indiana Death: 8 Dec 1983 - Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana
Burial: 9 Dec 1983 Washington Park North Cemetery Indianapolis Marion County Indiana daughter of
Bert Yates & Fava Tolbert
John Wesley Burkhart, III (Jr.) Birth: 24 Mar 1936 - Tipton, Tipton, Indiana Death: 19 Sep 1973 -
Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana Burial: Washington Park North Cemetery Indianapolis Marion County
Indiana Marriage 2 Sep 1957 Marion, Indiana Constance Conner
Ardath Gay Burkhart married 1st Robert W. Evans s/o P. G. Evans ; marriage 2nd A. Y. Brown Jr.
Marriage 3rd: Frederick David Harbridge ,
married 2nd: 24 Dec 1974 Indianapolis Marion county Indiana Suzanne Cornuelle Bates married John A. Mann & unknown
Lisa Burkhart narried ---- Peterson
|married 3rd: 23 Mar 1985 Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana Lorene Joan McCormick daugher of Clarence McCormick & Emma Bobe marrie 1st George Lewis Shunk Jr
son of George Lewis Shunk & Mary Elizabeth Metheny;
married 3rd 24 Mar 2001 Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana Edward F Steinmetz son of
George Steinmetz & Josephine Lane
Lorene was born and raised in Vincennes, Indiana with her three brothers. Her
father was an undersecretary of agriculture under President Truman, and her mother was
active in the Vincennes community. Lorene attended Purdue University and graduated
with a bachelor’s degree in home economics in 1956. Before she became the director of
consumer services for Ruben, Montgomery, and Associates (an advertising agency) in
1972, Lorene, then known as Lorene Shunk, frequently appeared on local radio and
television programs and received national recognition for promoting home economics.
(She has two adult sons named Mark Shunk and Stewart Shunk, so it would appear that
Shunk was the last name of her first husband.) From 1975 to 1978 she served as the
director of consumer services for JennAir Corporation, and in 1978 she became the
director of new product development at Borden Inc. Lorene also founded the Women’s
Investment Network in 1983.
Lorene retired from Borden in 1985 and turned to attention to full-time volunteer
fundraising. Among the groups for which Lorene has organized major fundraising
events: Indianapolis Opera, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Museum of
Art, and Methodist Hospital. In January 1990 the Indianapolis Weekly Update selected
Lorene as the Woman of the Year, citing her “humanitarianism, philanthropy, and
dedication to the city of Indianapolis.” In the fall of that same year, she also received the
Volunteer of the Year Award from the Indiana chapter of the National Society of Fund
Raising Executives. In December 1993, the Indianapolis Star observed that Lorene was
“recognized as one of the city’s most professional unpaid fund-raisers, “ and in August
1994 Paula Parker-Sawyers, the director of the Leadership Program for the Indiana
University Center on Philanthropy told the Indianapolis News that Lorene was one of a
handful of women that can be counted on to put together a successful charity event.
Lorene was named a Sagamore of the Wabash in 1992, and in 1996 the Indianapolis
Business Journal named her a Most Influential Woman.
In 1992 Burkhart began publishing the Indianapolis Register, a monthly
newspaper that reported on philanthropy in Indianapolis. Some sources say that she
created the newspaper, while a 31 March 1994 article in the Indianapolis Star notes that
it was a 20-page newspaper with a circulation of 5,000 when Burkhart took it over. (At
the time of the article, Burkhart was printing 23,000 copies of an 88-page issue.)
In September 1997, Lorene and her husband John became the sole owners of
Metropolitan C.E.O. Inc. by buying their co-owners, Jim and Nancy Cotterill.
Metropolitan C.E.O. published Issues IN Business and Indianapolis C.E.O magazines,
although it appears that Indianapolis C.E.O was already defunct by the time of the
buyout. After assuming ownership of the company, the Burkharts changed its name to
Metro Magazines Inc. and merged the staff of Issues IN Business and Indianapolis
Register. John became the chairman of the new company, while Lorene served as the
publisher of both publications. In June 1998 Curtis Magazine Group, the publisher of
Indiana Business Magazine, bought and closed down Issues IN Business. Eric SerVaas,
the publisher of Indiana Business Magazine told the Indianapolis Star that he thought that
the Metro Magazines would to continue to publish the Indianapolis Register. The last
issue that I could locate of that publication was the July 1997, and Metro Magazines no
longer appears in the phone book.
Burkhart continues to contribute to her alma mater. In 1994 Lorene donated $1
million to Purdue to assist in establishing the Center for Families, which was created to
“get the word out that Purdue is a leader in family studies and to serve as a catalyst for
linking outreach, research, and teaching activities that support families (Purdue Alumnus,
October 1994).” She served as the chairwoman of Purdue’s President’s Council in 1995.
In November 1996, the President’s Council named Lorene “Ambassador of the Year,” a
designation awarded to the individual who recruits the most new members during the
One of the founders of Meal on Wheels, Inc. in 1970, Lorene initiated the
organization’s van delivery program and served as the board’s president in 1990. She has
also served as trustee of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), vice president of the
national board of Girls Inc., vice president of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, and a
member of the boards of the national Girls Clubs of America, Girl Scouts, the YWCA,
and the Eiteljorg. She has also been actively involved with the Indianapolis Symphony
Orchestra, and the Children’s Museum.
Active supporters of the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre (IRT), the Burkharts also
supported the campaign to renovate the Grand Lobby and add women’s restrooms at the
IRT, which recognized their contribution by renaming the mezzanine to the John and
Lorene Burkhart Gallery. Already a trustee of the Indiana Historical Society, Burkhart
became the co-chairwoman of the Society’s Heritage Campaign fund-raising drive as the
Society prepared to move into its new building, and she also co-chaired Musical Heritage
Committee of IHS. Lorene also became was elected to board of trustees of the University
of Indianapolis in the fall of 1990.
Lorene’s husband John, who passed away in August 1999, played a key role in
the development of Uni-Gov (which was supposedly planned in his living room) and
founded the Indianapolis Business Journal. He made his fortune in the insurance
business, founding the two insurance companies for which the Pyramids were built in
College Park. He also was an organizer and chairman of United Student Aid Funds, Inc.
(now USA Group). Lorene was his third wife. *Note: I have not found any articles
mentioning Lorene in 2000. - Prepared by Sarah Wagner June 2000
Author of An Accidental Pioneer: A Farm Girl's Drive to the Finish (Hawthorne Publishing), about 2011