Stark Foundation dedicate new Education Center, Library, Archives

Published 5:42 pm Saturday, February 24, 2018

From staff reports


The Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation Board of Trustees and Staff dedicated the new Walter G. Riedel III Education Center and Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive at the Stark Museum of Art on Thursday, with a program commemorating the event followed by tours through the new building.

The new two-story addition is approximately 15,000 square-foot, built primarily from concrete and steel, making it virtually fireproof. The new building is also designed to withstand a category 5 hurricane.

The first floor of the new education building has added much needed office and prep space for the Museum’s growing education programs, including space used for student and educator programming, adult studio art workshops, family programs and workshops, lectures and community art such as the annual Juried Student Art Exhibition. A new kiln area has also been added, which will allow for firing ceramic and glass projects onsite.

“We see the new facility as a community space where people will want to come regularly and do art as families and in groups,” Trina Nelson Thomas, Director, Stark Art & History venues, said.

The second floor, housing the Eunice R. Benckenstein Library & Archive, provides a controlled environment to preserve the Foundation’s collection of historic documents and library collections for future generations. The Archive holds many records of the early Stark and Lutcher families, and their business concerns, including the Lutcher Moore Lumber Company and the records of the Stark Foundation. The new space includes compact shelving, a research room, a small exhibition and display area, library collections storage, secure archival storage, a workroom and staff offices.

The new education building is named after Walter G. Riedel III, former President and CEO of the Stark Foundation, who had 40 years of service to the organization. Riedel originally began his career with the Stark Family in 1977 as Nelda C. Stark’s private accountant and, also, as a Stark Foundation staff member. In 1986, Riedel became Controller of the Foundation and was also named to the Board of Directors upon his advancement. He continued to work primarily in an accounting capacity until the death of Mrs. Stark on December 13, 1999, at which time the Board of Directors named Riedel as Stark Foundation President and CEO.

During Riedel’s tenure as the Foundation’s President and CEO for over 17 years, he guided the organization through a significant expansion in vision, operation, and programming, including the construction of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, the conversion in legal status of the organization from a private grant making foundation to a private operating foundation, and most recently, the addition of the Museum annex building for education, library and archival operations.

The new library and archive is named after Eunice R. Benckenstein. She worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for H.J. Lutcher Stark and the Vinton Petroleum Company. By 1939, she joined other businesswomen and chartered the Orange Pilot Club. Benckenstein served on numerous Boards, including the Stark Foundation, and also led the restoration of the historic W.H. Stark House. Through her business acumen, commitment to education, and her dedication to the vision of Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark, Eunice R. Benckenstein’s legacy continues to serve our community.

Members of Benckenstein’s family were present for the dedication.

“Eunice had a tremendous passion for education, learning and books,” Maggie, Eunice’s granddaughter said. “She wanted everyone to have the opportunity for education. So this library, what a tribute to her.”

Maggie added, nature nurtured Benckenstein.

“She knew the scientific and common names of Egrets, trees, orchids, and other birds in Shangri La. She was a walking encyclopedia and more fun than a barrel of monkeys,” Maggie said. “To tribute a library to her, fits her to a ‘T’.”