D&E dedicates Reckling Collection
ELKINS — Although the late Jerry Reckling worked and resided in Baltimore, Maryland, he considered Elkins his home where he enjoyed friendships for decades and ties to the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College. Fittingly, a part of Reckling lives on in The Stirrup Gallery through a display of pre-historic animal fossils he collected.
The Reckling Collection opened to the public this spring and was officially dedicated September 30 as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend at D&E. Included among the more than 300 fossils are mastodon and wooly mammoth jawbones, teeth and vertebrae, wooly rhinoceros femur and teeth, Irish elk skull caps and antlers and extinct stingray spines. Although many of these animal species lived in North America, the fossils on exhibit were recovered in the Siberian permafrost and the Doggerland, an area beneath the North Sea.
“Please, everyone come in and enjoy Jerry’s passion,” said Davis & Elkins College Coordinator of Special Collections Mark Lanham as he welcomed guests to the room specially designed to resemble a cave setting. The walls are painted with artwork similar to that found in the Lascaux Cave in France, while directional lighting shines on the fossils held in glass display cases.
Lanham says he came to know Reckling through the Augusta Heritage Center. Each year when Reckling would attend the summer sessions, he made a point to visit The Stirrup Gallery bringing with him a large plastic tote containing fossils he had recently acquired.
“It was something we looked forward to,” Lanham said. “The students (who work in the Gallery) would have me text them as soon as he got here. They couldn’t wait to see what he brought, and he would always tell us a story about the newest addition to his collection. Jerry loved to get people interested in his hobby.”
When Reckling died earlier this year, he left his collection of fossils dating to the Pleistocene epoch to D&E in his will.
The dedication was planned for a time that could bring together alumni, families, Reckling’s friends and D&E Trustees, including Chair Emeriti Paul Stirrup, and his wife, Karen, for whom the Gallery was named.
In leading the ceremony, Davis & Elkins College President Chris A. Wood emphasized the educational value the Reckling Collection adds to The Stirrup Gallery.
“We are standing in the middle of a pretty incredible place,” Wood said. “We encourage local students to come and experience all that is here. To actually put in your hand a wooly mammoth tooth is something our students need to experience.”
Among Reckling’s many friends attending the dedication were John and Shelia Marshall, with whom he made his Elkins home. Both agree that Reckling would be pleased knowing his collection is on display and serving to educate others.
“He was an exceptional man,” Shelia Marshall said. “He loved Elkins — the rivers, looking for arrowheads — and his close friends.”
Shelia Marshall first met Reckling when she worked for Augusta several years ago and he came to take a class. Augusta had such a special meaning to Reckling that not only did he attend all five weeks every summer, he came early and stayed late — an extra week on each side.
“He attended all the Augusta concerts,” Shelia Marshall said. “When my daughter took a class, he stayed up here with her in the evenings so she could practice dance.”
Reckling’s love of all forms of art is likely what led to his vast collection of paintings and carvings in addition to fossils, Shelia Marshall said.
With the addition of the Reckling Collection, artifacts in The Stirrup Gallery now span 1.2 million years. Additional collections are: The Darby Collection, Howard-Sudbrink Collection, Foster Collection, Senator Davis Collection, Swezy Collection, Gary North Collection and J. Richard and Dotty S. Kendig Collection.