William and Mary Law School

Wolf Law Library Benefits from Honenberger Gift

  • Sally '78 and Chris '77 Honenberger
    Sally '78 and Chris '77 Honenberger
    The Honenbergers' generosity made possible the acquisition of several dozen new works for the President's College of Art that now have a home at the Wolf Law Library.
    Photo by Gretchen Bedell
  • The Wolf Law Library
    The Wolf Law Library
    The stained glass window on the first floor Reading Room, custom designed and installed by Architectural Glass Art, Inc. Among the quotes highlighted on the window: "The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation" - Jeremy Bentham.
  • The Wolf Law Library
    The Wolf Law Library
    The stained glass window found on the second floor Reading Room, custom designed and installed by Architectural Glass Art, Inc. Among the quotes highlighted on the window: "Truth when not sought after, rarely comes to light." - Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  • The Wolf Law Library
    The Wolf Law Library
    "Blue Oak," Professor Brian Kreydatus, Department of Art and Art History, oil on canvas, President's Collection of Art
  • Wolf Law Library
    Wolf Law Library
    "With Arms Like the Land, 2008," Jason Lanka, charcoal on paper, President's Collection of Art

New additions to the President's Collection of Art have a home in the Wolf Law Library thanks to the generosity of law alumni Christopher J. '77 and Sarah Collins Honenberger '78, who wanted to make a gift to William & Mary Law School that would have an impact on their alma mater for years to come.

Professor of Law and Law Library Director Jim Heller had seen how a collection of fine art could add to the beauty of a building when he viewed the Hyder Collection at the University of Texas Law Library several years ago. The Austin collection consists of about 4,000 pieces of art, displayed in rotation. Heller thought mixed media art selections would be a wonderful highlight in the Law School's new library, and would unite the interior of the building with the surrounding scenery. The Honenbergers liked the idea that their donation of art could enhance that synthesis, and, more specifically, might showcase artwork from William & Mary alumni, students, and faculty. Their gift to the President's Collection of Art encompassed paintings, wall sculptures, and the custom-designed stained glass windows for each of the Law Library's Reading Rooms.

"We can't thank Sally and Chris Honenberger enough for their generous donation," Jim Heller said. "Last April the staff of the Wolf Law Library sponsored a conference attended by nearly 200 law librarians from the southeastern United States, which included tours of our facility. I can't count how many people said that it was the most beautiful law library they had ever seen. They weren't just being polite. The Wolf Law Library includes great architecture, beautiful furnishings, and an art collection that doesn't just complement, but adds to the beauty of the facility and its surroundings."

Aaron De Groft, Director of William & Mary's Muscarelle Museum, made it happen for everyone, arranging for a solicitation of site-specific submissions to nearly 900 alumni who had been art majors or minors, to current art students, and to faculty members from the College's Art and Art History Department. The e-mail call for a juried selection included photographs of the new library spaces and their views to the outside. Most of the works submitted for review were created especially for the Law Library based on those photographs.

In response to De Groft's solicitation, 30 artists submitted more than 100 works for consideration by the selection jury committee, which included De Groft, Barbara Watkinson and Bill Barnes from the Art and Art History Department, and Heller and Shelley Dowling from the Law Library. 

"It is important and particularly gratifying that the President's Collection was able to collaborate with the Law Library in seeing the Honenberger's dream become a reality," De Groft said. "Funds from the President's Collection endowment augmented the Honenberger's gift in acquiring works intended for a very specific location on campus. Because this project was so successful and fulfilling to both the donors and our campus colleagues, the President's Collection is now working with the Mason School of Business to acquire art for their public spaces."

De Groft was helped in the effort by Christina Carroll '10, then a third-year law student. During her 2L and 3L years, she served as a Director's Fellow at the Muscarelle Museum before sitting for the Virginia Bar exam this past summer. Carroll contacted all of the selected winners, and arranged transportation to the Law Library for their works with the accompanying artists' statements. After composing the labels for the works, she was on hand during the installation process, along with Heller, De Groft,  Curator Melissa Parris, Exhibitions Manager Kevin Gilliam, and Special Projects Administrator Ursula McLaughlin-Miller.

Facilitating the transportation, securing and installing the works, some of which are quite large, and tracking a collection of this size was quite a serious professional endeavor, Carroll said.

In addition to her work on the Wolf Law Library installation, Carroll completed a 90-page self-study for the museum and helped it gain accreditation from the American Association of Museums. Carroll recently joined the Muscarelle staff as Manager of Institutional Advancement.

"The experiences I had at the Muscarelle Museum and the Law School have been invaluable," Carroll said, "and will set me on the path toward my goal of working at a museum as a legal counselor. It combines my love of art history and law."

The Honenbergers, each successful in many areas, have brought their skills, time, and vision to many projects at the Law School for several decades.

Sally is an attorney who left a group practice where she focused on family law for 23 years for a solo career in real estate law. This move gave her the time she wanted to devote to writing fiction. She is the author of White Lies (2006) and Waltzing Cowboys (2009), which were both nominated for the Library of Virginia Fiction Award. Waltzing Cowboys won a Virginia Press Women Novel Award in April 2010. Her third novel, Catcher, Caught, is scheduled for release in late 2010 from AmazonEncore. She currently serves on the Law School's Foundation Board.

"While Chris was the concept person behind this gift for artwork," Sally said, "the inspiration for the gift comes from my mother, Barbara Collins, who is in her 80's, a watercolorist of regional note in Virginia, and an artist member of the Virginia Watercolor Society."

"Our ties to William & Mary began while we were in school there," Sally said, "but have continued through the years, and developed into longtime friendships with students, classmates and professors, as well as former Law School Deans Timothy Sullivan and Taylor Reveley. Our commitments have deepened, too, because our three children, our daughter-in-law and our son-in-law are all William & Mary graduates. The Law School relationships have so enriched our lives, it is hard to say how much."

Chris, who also received his undergraduate degree in business administration from the College in 1974, began his service to the Law School in 1986 by serving on the Association Board. He is a member and Past President of the Order of the White Jacket, and also served as Vice President and President of the Law School Foundation Board. After practicing law in Orange County, Va., for 22 years, including several years as Commonwealth's Attorney, he served for seven years as President and CEO of Second Bank & Trust in Culpeper, now Stellar One.

He is currently President and CEO of Clearpoint Financial, a nonprofit corporation devoted to credit counseling and credit education. In between his CEO stints, Chris practiced corporate law with Lenhart Obenshain in Charlottesville, and was named by Virginia Business as one of the legal elite for his banking law expertise. He received the Law School Association's Citizen Lawyer Award in 2007.

"While we have been very involved throughout the years with William & Mary Law School," Chris said, "there are particular professors who have had a lasting impression on my wife and me."

Col. Richard Walck, now deceased, was a friend and mentor of the Honenbergers during law school, and Professor Emeritus John Donaldson '63 and his wife, Sue, are among their closest friends.

"I think I learned as much about the discipline of the law from John as anyone," Chris added. "The school has been blessed with wonderful leadership through the years, but it can't flourish without outside assistance. While our gift was quite modest, it provided assistance in an area that state and alumni funds could not touch. I hope other alumni and friends will make similar efforts to match their unique interests, as we have with art, with the unique needs of our fine institution."