At the University of Georgia, the Terry name is synonymous with UGA’s business school, but the influence of C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry extends far beyond that, including to the Georgia Museum of Art. Also on the campus of the university, the museum is the recipient of 14 paintings and works on paper from the Terrys’ collection that will be on view May 12 through Aug. 5 in the exhibition “A Legacy of Giving: C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry.”
Throughout her life, Mary Virginia Terry focused her philanthropy on three areas: education, children’s charities and the arts. She has been a trustee of Jacksonville University and served on the boards of the Wolfson Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Home Society, the Salvation Army, the Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless and the Jacksonville Symphony. C. Herman Terry graduated from what was then UGA’s School of Commerce in 1939, then became president of Dependable Insurance Co., which he built into a major corporation in Jacksonville, Florida, where the couple made their home. He passed away in 1998, but Mary Virginia Terry has continued the legacy of giving that they began together. She received an honorary doctoral degree from UGA in 2009 and served recently as honorary chair of the Building Terry campaign at UGA’s Terry College of Business.
A native of Quitman, Georgia, and a graduate of Valdosta State University, Mary Virginia Terry understands the impact that art can make on children’s lives and the way that it can provide UGA students with a well-rounded experience. She and her husband built their collection of art together, and these 14 works greatly increase the museum’s holdings by the major artists who created them.
It would be rare and marvelous to receive a gift of a single work by Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Maurice Prendergast, Andrew Wyeth, Ernest Lawson, Winslow Homer, Gifford Beal or John Singer Sargent. To receive works by all of these artists at once, in a single gift, is extraordinary, said William U. Eiland, director of the museum. “Until Mrs. Terry made her gift, the museum did not own a painting by Sargent, only a drawing. These works also fill some gaps in the museum’s collection, allowing UGA students and the wider Athens-area community to benefit from seeing them in person.”
“My reaction at hearing from Mrs. Terry that she was making this gift to the museum? Joy. Unaffected, pure joy. And gratefulness, on behalf of generations of students yet to enroll at the university,” said Eiland.
“My husband and I just felt we wanted to give back because we had such good fortune,” Terry said. “We felt [arts, hospitals, education and children’s concerns] were important both for the future and for the needs we saw now.”
Terry hopes that her giving will serve as an example to others. For more than half a century, she has provided support to UGA that has helped it strengthen academic and research programs.
“The museum is proud and grateful to be among the beneficiaries of their kindness,” Eiland said.
The exhibition is sponsored by the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art.