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Historic Support for UM Museum

Elizabeth and Will Galtney have adorned the walls of their home with Mississippi-created art, including the oil painting behind them by Randy Hayes of Holly Springs. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

Elizabeth Galtney fits right in among the painters, photographers, woodworkers, sculptors and other artists who live in the eclectic town of Taylor, an increasingly bohemian community just 10 miles south of Oxford. She is both a creator of oil paintings and a longtime collector.

Her love of art is evident with the first step inside the home she shares with husband Will Galtney, a Jackson native who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi in 1974 and a master’s degree in 1976.

“We started amassing this collection about eight or nine years ago when we bought the property,” said Elizabeth Galtney, who earned a bachelor’s degree in art history and painting from the University of Texas. “We wanted all the art in the house to be from Mississippi artists.”

Just as opening the door to their home exposes guests to art, the couple hopes their most recent gift to Ole Miss will expose campus visitors to historic pieces that Will Galtney calls “hidden treasure.”

Their $275,000 gift establishes the Elizabeth and Will Galtney University Museum Greek and Roman Antiquities Fund, which supports the reinstallation and reinterpretation of the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. The gift will be recognized with the naming of the permanent Elizabeth and Will Galtney Wing, in which the collection will be exhibited.

“The University Museum owns this fantastic collection, one of the best in the United States, and it’s just in a vault,” Will Galtney said, adding that he also hopes this gift will expand the museum’s significance for scholarly purposes. “We want to showcase this great collection; it’s kind of a hidden treasure, really.”

Besides the collection, the Galtneys’ gift will support the development and implementation of a Scholars’ Symposium – featuring prominent scholars, antiquities specialists, conservators and faculty – when the reinstallation is complete, tentatively in 2020.

 “I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming acquainted with the Galtneys, as their appreciation of art and its importance to the world is evident,” said Robert Saarnio, director of the University Museum and Historic Houses. “We are profoundly grateful to Will and Elizabeth for such an extraordinary and gracious gift.”

A longtime supporter of the university – both to academics and athletics – Will Galtney’s first major gift of $4 million in 2010 established the Galtney Academic Computing Center in Weir Hall. In 2011, his $1 million gift fueled Ole Miss tennis and was recognized with the naming of the courts at Palmer-Salloum Tennis Center in his honor.

The Galtneys’ support also has been directed across campus to the Alumni Association, College of Liberal Arts and the Forward Together Campaign for Ole Miss Athletics, which included a 2018 gift of $750,000 to help build the Rebels’ indoor tennis facility, subsequently named in Will Galtney’s honor.

Regarding their gift to the museum, Elizabeth Galtney says it was “just a natural next frontier” for her husband, who has joined her in appreciating the arts.

“Once we get the scholars and visitors in the door to see this collection – which is surpassed only by Harvard’s collection and is donated by the same collector – they can also be exposed to the local Mississippi art, which is very robust,” she said.

“In essence, it may be awareness that allows visitors to become patrons of the current arts, which can only help the city, state and region. I don’t see it just as a gift for the physical enhancement of the museum, but I think it sets off multiple beneficial ripples.”

At UM, Will Galtney was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and a Rebel letter winner in tennis.

After graduating, Galtney first worked in public administration for the city of Starkville before moving to Louisville, where he found his niche in the insurance business. In 1979, he moved to Houston, Texas, where his career skyrocketed.

There, he started the Galtney Group, specializing in brokering and underwriting medical malpractice insurance for health care providers. A GGI subsidiary, Healthcare Insurance Services grew to become the nation’s 21st-largest insurance brokerage company. HIS was sold to Arthur J. Gallagher in 2001 and for four years, Galtney ran Gallagher’s health care practice nationwide. GGI also owned 50 percent of HMO Texas.

GGI’s insurance company, Western Indemnity Insurance, grew to become one of the top 20 U.S. underwriters of medical malpractice before being sold to Frontier Insurance Group in 1997. In 2000, Galtney began underwriting medical malpractice insurance again through various owned reinsurance companies in partnership with Transatlantic Reinsurance Co. and the Everest Indemnity/Everest National Insurance companies.

It was a period when certain large physician groups and hospitals throughout the country were unable to purchase affordable coverage. From 2000 to ’06, the partnership wrote more than $550 million in premiums and generated substantial underwriting profits. Since 2006, Galtney has been an investor in multiple insurance and health care companies.

Will Galtney is a founding director of NYSE Everest Reinsurance Co., the sixth-largest reinsurer in the world. He has served or is serving as a director/trustee of the Greater Houston Community Foundation, Greater Houston Partnership, Memorial Hermann Hospital System, Houston Baseball Partners LLC, UM Alumni Association and the UM Foundation, as well as past chairman of the Houston Chapter of the Young Presidents Organization and Episcopal High School.

In 2007 Will Galtney was inducted into the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame.

Elizabeth Galtney is active in the Houston community and in her church, St. John the Divine, where she was recently nominated to the vestry.

“I’m the president of the women’s board at that same church, so it’s like you open the door to serve in one area and then God opens up another one and it just keeps building. I’m enjoying that,” she said.

In the community, Elizabeth Galtney is a former board member of the Houston Ballet, Museum of Fine Arts, Glassell School of Arts and White Star Ranch of Aspen, Colorado. She also is a member of the board of directors for River Oaks Property Owners, River Oaks Foundation and the Texas Commission of the Arts, for which she was appointed to serve the state of Texas in selecting state artists.

Of the Galtneys’ seven children – Rob, Ben, John, Drew, William, Ella Rose and Ruby Arnold – only Drew attended Ole Miss, where he, like his father, lettered in tennis.

“But there’s still hope for Ruby,” Elizabeth Galtney said.

The Elizabeth and Will Galtney University Museum Greek and Roman Antiquities Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks, with the endowment noted in the memo line, can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at https://give.olemiss.edu.

For more information, contact Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development, at 662-915-6678 or nlneely@olemiss.edu.


By Bill Dabney

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