Gift Planning

A Legacy of Natural History Beauty

grey-chested bird of paradiseJoel Rynning, a retired Coca-Cola executive in Atlanta, and his wife Ardath, known as Ardie, were passionate collectors of ornithological prints. They were especially interested in the way the art form of bird lithographs evolved from the mid-1700s through the era of James John Audubon and into the 20th century.

In the mid 1990s, the Rynnings heard about the extensive collection of natural history prints at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture.

“They contacted us,” says McClung Museum director, Jeff Chapman. “They saw that we had a good program here, and they liked what we were doing.”

The Rynnings became McClung Museum members and, in 1996, they donated 292 hand-colored lithographs and engravings. In 1997, McClung installed Birds of the World: 250 Years of Color Plate Folios, the first of many exhibits mounted over the years featuring the Rynnings’ prints.

“We developed a meaningful relationship,” says Jeff.

In the early 2000s, the Rynnings gave another 75 prints. After Ardie’s death in 2005, Joel married Patti Larson. In 2008, the couple gave another 40 prints and set up a planned gift to ensure that future generations could enjoy the colorful plumage so well depicted by Audubon, John Gould, Rex Brasher, and many others.

When Joel died in 2010, the Rynnings left McClung Museum another 114 prints and $250,000 to create two Ardath and Joel E. Rynning quasi endowments—one for acquisitions and one to provide general operating funds. Since the endowments were created, they have helped McClung grow its collection of natural history prints and support many temporary exhibitions.

“The Rynnings loved what everyone loves about these works,” says Jeff. “They loved the sheer beauty and the artistic craftsmanship and technique that made it all possible. That’s what we continue to make available to our visitors, and they are never disappointed.”

Support for UT can come in many forms, as the Rynnings’ generosity shows. If you would like to learn more about how you can give for the future of UT with a planned gift, please contact the Office of Gift Planning at 865-974-2370 or giftplanning@utk.edu.