Lynda Dunnigan donated a bronze bald eagle sculpture to the College. Now on display at the Historic Triangle campus library, it could one day be placed outside on a pedestal as Dunnigan hopes.
Lynda Dunnigan and her late husband shared a love for wildlife and art that led them to collecting hundreds of pieces of work. They also shared a love for education; she as a longtime teacher in James City County and he as a biology professor at Radford College before entering the business world.
Those passions are the reasons she recently donated a bronze bald eagle by Turner Sculpture, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, to Thomas Nelson.
“An eagle is a wonderful bird to have in terms of the concept of a college campus. Somewhere (that shows) the tenants of who and what we are, the importance and value of an education,” she said. “With the Historic campus here, it seemed like a logical connection.”
Shortly after Lynda and Patrick Dunnigan were married in 1966, they began collecting, at first it was two-dimensional art prints. In the early 1970s, Patrick left the world of education for business. The couple moved to Williamsburg, and his work would take him on trips to the Eastern Shore, where he came across the work of the father-and-son team of William and David Turner.
“Each time he was over there on business, he would come back with another piece of sculpture,” Lynda said of her husband, who passed away in 2013.
In the course of more than 30 years, their collection of work by the Turners totals 76 pieces.
“Collectors are a special bred of hoarders,” she said with a laugh.
But it is about more than the sculpture or the artwork.
“Each piece has a history,” she said. “The geology for me, the chemistry from my husband’s perspective because his background was biology and chemistry. Then how did the artist transform it? How does the artist take something as soft as a feather and give it a realistic appearance?”
The donated piece, which was created in 1996, is 34 inches by 16 inches and stands 26 inches tall. It weighs about 100 pounds. The Dunnigans first placed the sculpture in their bedroom, then moved it to the top of their steps.
“This piece needs to not be at the top of my steps,” she said. “This piece needs to be displayed.”
She wanted a place that could make the eagle a centerpiece. As an educator, she was familiar with Thomas Nelson. And after retiring, she took some continuing education classes at the Historic Triangle campus. However, she said the gift of the eagle “is just an outgrowth of knowing the importance and the significance of what education is.” She’s been impressed by the affordability of the programs and the quality of instructors at the College.
“This place is an opportunity to begin your education and to do it well, with qualified individuals, equally adept in their background as anyone … anywhere else,” she said.
Just as she has appreciation for the College and its mission, she wants others to appreciate the bald eagle and all it represents. She relayed a story of how she was driving recently on a road parallel to Interstate 64 when she was escorted by a group of those majestic birds her entire trip.
“The eagles are wonderful,” she said. “They are a natural part and an important significance of both geology and geography, just everything.”
She knows her eagle has found its place at the Historic Triangle campus.
“I’m glad it has a home where it can be appreciated,” she said.