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Benjamin J. Burris: A Daviess County Educator

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Benjamin J. Burris was born in Daviess County, Indiana on March 19, 1882, the son of Tobias Burris and Flora (Cole) Burris. He attended primary school in Reeve Township and graduated in 1906 from Central Normal School in Danville, Indiana. He began his education career as a teacher at Plainville High School. In 1907 he was elected Superintendent of the Daviess County Schools, one of the youngest school superintendents in Indiana. Burris resigned in 1911 and enrolled at the Harrison Law School in Indianapolis. After graduating he joined the Indianapolis law firm of Padgett & Lewis. In 1917 he began working for the Indiana Department of Public Instruction as chief assistant to the superintendent. He became the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1921.

Benjamin J. Burris (1882-1927)

Burris was named in 1924 the first President of the newly created Ball State Teachers College (now Ball State University) in Muncie, Indiana. On April 26, 1927 Burris collapsed and died of a heart attack after giving a high school commencement address in Hope, Indiana. Ball State built a kindergarten through 12th grade school on campus so education majors could gain actual classroom experience. The building was dedicated in 1929 and named the Burris Laboratory School in honor of Benjamin J. Burris. The school continues today and is operated by Ball State University.

Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana

Additional information about Mr. Burris’ distinguished education career can be found at and at the Daviess County Museum’s online site,*

*This article was compiled by Bruce A. Smith on September 16, 2023. Smith is a retired lawyer, a volunteer at the Daviess County Museum, and a member of the Daviess County Historian Team.

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