In March of 2009, the Swope Art Museum and Terre Haute community lost an ardent supporter and tireless cultural advocate, Marilyn Wheeler Pendergast. Among her numerous awards, accomplishments and affiliations, Mrs. Pendergast was the President of the Swope’s Board of Managers for thirty years, leading the volunteer board established by the will of Sheldon Swope that had provided for the creation of the Museum upon his death in 1929. She saw the Swope through numerous exhibitions, programs and acquisitions; was head of the organization during its expansion and renovation in the late 1990s; and worked with five of the ten executive directors who have led the Swope since it opened in 1942.
The Swope’s Board of Managers and Board of Overseers established an ad hoc committee to recommend a memorial that would honor the historic tenure of Mrs. Pendergast. This committee was led by Mrs. Barbara Vogel, who also serves as the chair of the Swope’s Collection Committee, and made three recommendations to the Boards: that the Swope’s Annual Spring Dinner & Auction be renamed to honor Mrs. Pendergast as it was her favorite event hosted by the Swope; that an award named for her be given to an outstanding volunteer or supporter of the Swope to recognize the amazing contributions made to the organization; and that a space within the Swope be named as a memorial to her contribution to the institution because of her great interest in art and the Swope’s collection.
Both the Boards approved the recommendation of the committee and have renamed the Swope’s Spring Dinner and Silent Auction the Marilyn Pendergast Spring Dinner and made arrangement for a space dedicated to new work acquired by the Museum to be called the Marilyn Wheeler Pendergast New Acquisition Gallery. Likewise, the Boards have also approved an annual award to be given at the dinner that will recognize, according to the criteria established by the ad hoc committee, “an individual, group, foundation or organization that has generously contributed years of commitment, dedicated services or financial resources instrumental to the success of the Swope Art Museum.”
After nominations were entertained, a committee decided the inaugural recipient of the Marilyn Wheeler Pendergast for Outstanding Dedication would be given to the Alliance of the Swope Art Museum. The Alliance is an auxiliary group of the Swope that has supported the Museum in a multitude of ways since its creation in 1951. This group holds educational programs, raises money for the Swope, contributes volunteer hours, gives tours to area children and guests of the Museum, makes hors d’oeuvres and desserts for Swope events, entertains the community, donates scholarships for the Summer Youth Art Program and sponsors the top award of the annual Wabash Valley Juried Exhibition. The work of this group is made up of the many contributions of individuals and the Swope and its Boards presents this recognition to the Alliance and its members for all they have done for the Museum through almost sixty years of service.
The Marilyn Pendergast Spring Dinner will be held at 5 p.m. on May 2, 2010 at the Country Club of Terre Haute. The Swope will present the Marilyn Wheeler Pendergast Award for Outstanding Dedication to the Alliance of the Swope Art Museum at that time. The Award will be accepted on behalf of the Alliance by its current president, Mrs. Roberta Marietta. Tickets, which are $65 per person including a $25 tax-deductible contribution, or an invitation to the dinner can be obtained by calling (812) 238-1676.