$5 million bequest bolsters the Mint

The Mint Museum Thursday received a $5 million donation, the largest bequest of its kind in the museum's history, from the estate of a longtime Charlotte philanthropist.

Nancy Akers Wallace's gift will benefit the museum for quite a long time, Executive Director Phil Kline said.

“We're very excited. The only restriction on the gift was that it was to become part of the endowment,” he said. “A gift of this magnitude enables us to continue providing services to the community and strengthen the collections we hold in the public trust.”

The atrium at the Randolph Road facility will be renamed the Nancy A. and J. Mason Wallace Atrium in honor of the donor and her husband.Born in Charlotte in 1919, Wallace graduated from Duke University and worked as an inspector at the Navy shell plant in Charlotte during World War II. She married J. Mason Wallace in 1946.

She was committed to quiet philanthropy through the Junior League of Charlotte, Sardis Presbyterian Church, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and the Mint Museum.

Wallace died in 2006, and was survived by her four children, eight grandchildren and husband.

Her estate released the gift to the Mint Museum after her husband's death earlier this year.

“Nancy and Mason Wallace were caring citizens of our community,” Stacy Sumner Jesso, Mint Museum director of development said in a release. “This endowment gift comes at a critical time and will make an enormous difference in allowing us to exhibit more of our collections and offer new educational resources.”

Wallace's donation comes on the heels of a $5 million grant awarded to the museum in September by the Robert Haywood Morrison Foundation.

Both the gift and the grant strengthen the group's plan to open a new facility uptown in 2010, expected to cost at least $57 million.

Designed by Machado and Silvetti Associates of Boston, the 145,000-square-foot museum now under construction on South Tryon will house collections of contemporary art, American art, and contemporary craft and design.