Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley have been advocates for and gracious donors to the Museum of Art since its conception. Drawing upon their love of art and their experience with construction, the Wheatley’s traveled across the country examining various art institutions finding inspiration for the Museum and working with the designers. The Museum of Art is grateful for their generous patronage, their periodic service, and their financial sacrifice, which has continuously improved the Museum. Their legacy will be felt at the Museum of Art for generations to come.

The couple first met in New York while Jack was studying engineering at West Point Academy. Mary Lois Sharp was studying art at the Student Arts League. After he served a tour in Korea, Mary Lois and Jack were married and sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on April 11, 1952. Of Mary Lois, Jack said, “To me, she represents everything: personality, natural beauty, a gift for motherhood, and an appreciation for art. She comes from an artistic line of ancestors, and I came from one where we were lucky to have the wall, without considering the painting on the wall.”[1] The couple had six children: John, Victoria, Elizabeth, Robert, Charles, and Mary Margaret.

After serving in the Military Corps of Engineers, Jack retired from the service and moved his family to Palo Alto, California, where he began a construction company using the skills he developed while in the military. He was interested in commercial projects and eventually helped in the construction of the Oakland Temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also did extensive work for Stanford University including the Stanford Industrial Park. Known for the quality of his work, he won a national landscaping award from President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Mary Lois raised their children and was active in the community, especially in fulfilling her Church assignments. In 1980, Jack terminated his construction business, but continued to maintain a real estate company.

Eventually, Jack and Mary Lois served two missions for the Church, first as Mission President and Wife in the Denver Colorado Mission from 1989 to 1991 and second, as a couple in Lisbon, Portugal. Unfortunately, on their last day in Portugal, Mary Lois suffered a stroke that inhibited her physical abilities for the rest of her life. Jack cut back on his work responsibilities in order to care for and spend more time with his beloved wife in her remaining years. On January 4, 2013, Mary Lois passed away in her sleep at their home in Salt Lake City.

Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley were integral in the creation of the Museum of Art on Brigham Young University campus. According to Jeffrey R. Holland, the University’s president at the time of the MOA’s conception, he was standing outside the President’s home when Jack approached him and offered to help the university in any way he could. President Holland suggested that the university needed a museum to house its growing collection of art and other considerable holdings. The idea clicked. Jack responded that it was a perfect fit, especially with Mary Lois’ love of art. The Wheatleys were active in the building and planning process. As President Holland observed, “It was the perfect couple at the right time.”[2]

In addition to being involved with the Museum’s creation, the Wheatleys have generously been involved with the Museum’s collection, providing the funds for works to be acquired like the monumental and iconic Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda by Carl Heinrich Bloch. What a fitting donation for a couple that sought to lift others’ burdens through philanthropic means constantly throughout their lives. The Wheatley’s donations have also enabled the Museum to obtain other acquisitions, including the painting Mrs. Edward Goetz by the renowned portraitist John Singer Sargent, two pieces by the American Realist painter Daniel Ridgeway Knight, and a collection of photographs depicting communities in Utah by Dorothea Lange.

To see some of the pieces generously acquired through funds provided by the Wheatleys, please scroll down.

[1] The Roots of Generosity by Charlene Renberg Winters in the Winter 2013 Issue of BYU Magazine, pg. 39. https://magazine.byu.edu/article/the-roots-of-generosity/

[2] The Roots of Generosity by Charlene Renberg Winters in the Winter 2013 Issue of BYU Magazine, pg. 41. https://magazine.byu.edu/article/the-roots-of-generosity/

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