A Gathering and Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

Melvin "Mel" Perelman

October 12, 1930March 26, 2021

Melvin (Mel) Perelman, PhD

Melvin (Mel) Perelman, 90, of Indianapolis passed away at his home on March 26, 2021. Mel was born October 12, 1930 in Omaha, Nebraska to Benjamin and Sarah Fox Perelman.

Mel received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Northwestern University in 1952. In 1956, he earned his doctorate in organic chemistry from Rice University, followed by a year of postdoctoral research at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Dr. Perelman joined the Eli Lilly and Company as an organic chemist in 1957. He was elected president of Lilly International in 1976 and was a member of the board of directors of Lilly International. Dr. Perelman was named an executive vice president of Eli Lilly and Company and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, a division of Lilly, on December 1, 1986. He was a member of the company’s board of directors from April of 1976 to December 1993 when he retired.

Both a respected scientist and business leader, Dr. Perelman was a member of the board of directors of PSI Resources, Inc., and PSI Energy, Inc., electrical utilities. He was also a member of Alpha Chi Sigma, professional chemistry fraternity; Beta Gamma Sigma, business scholastic honor society; Delta Mu Delta, business administration honor society; Phi Beta Kappa, scholastic honor society; and Sigma XI, scientific research society.

Dr. Perelman was recognized as a Viking of Distinction by North High School in Omaha, Nebraska, as a Distinguished Alumnus by Rice University and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree and the President’s Medal by Indiana University. He received the Good Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America and in June 2018 was made a Sagamore of the Wabash.

Always willing to serve his adopted city in volunteer positions of leadership, Dr. Perelman was active in the arts, education and cultural communities. He served as chairman of the founding board of the Indianapolis Zoological Society, and he was instrumental in moving the Indianapolis Zoo to its current home in White River State Park. He also served on the Humane Society of Indianapolis advisory board; the advisory council of the Conner Prairie Pioneer Settlement and Museum; Indiana University president’s council; Indiana University School of Medicine board of advisors; University of California at San Diego, department of chemistry Industrial board; and Institute for Science in Society (ISIS) board of directors; Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau; steering committee for the Hoosiers for Economic Development Commission; general campaign chairman for a major Indiana University School of Medicine capital campaign, and , in addition, he served on eight corporate boards and five not-for -profit boards.

Mel was an avid art collector and, inspired by and in partnership with his wife Joan, assembled a nationally regarded collection of Native American and Western art. Their collection will reside in the permanent collection of the Eiteljorg Museum where Mel was a board member for 20 years, and where he co-chaired a major capital campaign that allowed the Museum to double in size by adding the Mel and Joan Perelman Wing.

Mel is survived by his loving wife, Joan Bugbee Perelman; two children, Steven Perelman and Wendy Fels (Dan); eight grandchildren and one great granddaughter. He was preceded in death by his youngest son, Kent Perelman.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts may be made to the Eiteljorg Museum, 500 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202; the Indianapolis Zoo, 1200 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222; or charity of the donor’s choice.

Leppert Mortuary – Nora Chapel assisting with arrangements.

To share a memory or condolence, please visit www.leppertmortuary.com.


  • Celebration of Life


Melvin "Mel" Perelman

have a memory or condolence to add?

Bobbi Bosch

April 6, 2021

Mel Perelman was one of the most gracious, kind and intelligent men I ever met. He made me laugh each time we talked and his love for Joan was palpable. Rest in peace, Dr. Perelman - you will be missed.

Diane Kostyshyn

April 5, 2021

What a wonderful life of multiple contributions, both while working at Lilly and his contributions at the Eiteljorg Museum. Science and art, what a fantastic combination! A life well lived. Condolences to the entire family.

Patt Norton

April 5, 2021

Dr. Perelman was so very kind and considerate. He always had a smile on his face.
I was fortunate enough to get to know he and Joan better while working at the Eiteljorg Museum where he is much beloved. He will be greatly missed.

Lisa Bayne

April 5, 2021

I have such fond memories of Dr. Perelman. I never saw him that he didn't have a smile for me. I have a photo of us together at his retirement reception. One of the finest gentleman with whom I've ever worked. My prayers go out to his family.

Noel Dolman

April 5, 2021

Very sad to hear of Mel’s passing.
Feel very privileged to have known and worked with him.
A fine gentleman.

Noel Dolman, South Africa

Rex Souter

April 5, 2021

I'm very saddened to hear that Mel passed away. I did not know him well but I did work with him on several occasions during my Eli Lilly and Company career. I recall greeting him the day he retired in 1993. I remember Mel as a nice, level-headed leader. My prayers are with his wife and family.


April 4, 2021

Dr. Perelman was one of my favorite, most admired people at Lilly. I knew him from when I was a dishwasher to one of the management team. He continually treated every single person with dignity, honor, and respect. Was one of the most perfect problem solvers I've ever met - quickly focusing on the essence of the issue.

He is missed. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Erv Jacobs

April 1, 2021

To you Wendy and your children my wife and I are so sorry for your loss. Please accept our condolences. Erv and Teri Jacobs and family

Dennis Brust

April 1, 2021

Dennis enjoyed working for Mel when he was in international and we enjoyed the friendship as neighbors. He did so much good for so many. He will be missed! Dennis & Theresa Brust

Richard and Judy Strain

April 1, 2021

We were so sad to hear of Mel’s passing.
Our sympathies are with Joan and the family.
Many happy memories of Mel’s love of Eli Lilly and Company and of his kind and gentle counsel in the many areas he served for the company and the community.