Under Rebecca Nagy’s watchful eye, the Harn Museum was transformed into a beautiful work of art. Now, the former director and her husband are helping to turn it into a masterpiece.
Rebecca Nagy watched over UF’s Harn Museum of Art for 16 years as its director. Now retired and living in Tampa — where her husband is vice president for strategic planning and analysis at Hillsborough Community College — she and Paul Nagy are still looking after the campus treasure. The couple recently committed $1 million toward the museum’s planned expansion, which will be designed by globally renowned architects Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners.
The Nagys are the first donors to the museum’s exciting expansion project. Their gift will help fund construction of an approximately 20,000-square-foot multi-purpose wing that will permanently display selections from the 1,200 Florida-themed works of art donated to UF last winter by Jacksonville couple Samuel and Roberta Vickers. Additional areas will include a print study room providing UF students and faculty a place to closely analyze selected works of art that connect with class curriculum, a conservation studio for art care specialists to evaluate and conserve works of art, and specialized art storage for the museum’s growing collection.
“Having Rebecca, as the director emerita, step forward to be the first to invest in the future of a museum she worked so hard to build is an excellent example of philanthropic leadership.”
— Lee Anne Chesterfield, director of the Harn Museum of Art —
“We have always hoped and dreamed that the University of Florida would become home to the extraordinary Florida art collection of Sam and Robbie Vickers. After hearing of their momentous gift, we were thrilled to learn that the Harn was building a new wing to house the collection, renowned architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien were chosen for the project, and the capital campaign committee would be chaired by former UF President and First Lady Bernie and Chris Machen,” said Nagy, the museum’s director emerita.
“All this inspired us to make a lead gift to the construction fund for the new wing. We are excited to partner with those who will join us in supporting this transformative project for the Harn and the university,” she said.
The new wing is the museum’s third expansion since it opened in 1990. While the Harn’s director, Nagy twice oversaw expansions of the original museum building: 18,000-square-feet in 2005 for the Harn’s contemporary art collection and 26,000-square-feet in 2012 specifically for Asian art. The newest addition is expected to be completed in 2024. The expansion — with gallery spaces, a print study room, conservation studio and storage space — is a cornerstone of the museum’s five-year strategic plan.
“Rebecca and Paul are such generous supporters of the museum and have continued to be advocates for the Harn since I came to UF,” said Lee Anne Chesterfield, who was appointed the Harn Museum’s director in 2018. “Having Rebecca, as the director emerita, step forward to be the first to invest in the future of a museum she worked so hard to build is an excellent example of philanthropic leadership. There is no better endorsement than that of the Nagys’ support. They truly understand what we are working to build at the Harn — a place to serve all generations of art museum visitors from the state of Florida and beyond.”
Nagy, director from 2002-2018, is widely credited for the Harn’s continued rise as a nationally respected museum. Under her leadership, works of art in UF’s collections grew from approximately 4,700 to 11,100, and visitations climbed to 100,000 patrons each year. Likewise, endowments supporting acquisitions and programs jumped to $19.2 million.
While UF’s president, Machen worked with Nagy during much of her tenure as the museum’s director.
“Ever a museum professional, Rebecca’s love for art and for our campus museum is a big reason the Harn is one of the best museums in all of academia,” he said. “Even in her retirement, she and Paul are providing the care and investment to ensure the Harn can take the next step to continue enriching the lives of Gators, the Gainesville community and the citizens of the state of Florida.”