Skip to:Main Content

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

A Passion for Art

Dr. John Poyner '62

from The Bridge: Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue

Dr. John Poynor '62In 1975, soon after leaving the Air Force, Dr. John Poynor '62 had a revelation. "I was sitting at the table, writing checks to pay my mortgage and utility bills. I realized that I wouldn't be able to pay those bills if not for my education," he says. "So since that time, I have been writing monthly checks to both Washington and Lee and my medical school."

Poyner went on to establish the John W. Poynor M.D. Fund at W&L to provide assistance for the College, particularly to help the Department of Art and Art History to purchase contemporary works of art, which have been displayed in Wilson Hall and other venues around campus. "I have always had a passion for art, which began with my education at W&L," he says.

"I well remember taking an art history survey course, as well as studio art, in duPont Hall. My mother even kept one of my paintings. Later, when I tried to throw it out, my wife insisted we keep it," Poynor remembers. "That is what is truly wonderful about W&L's liberal arts education. I was pre-med, but I got to take electives like these."

While at W&L, he purchased his first Warhol print. While he was in medical school, he bought his first Josef Albers painting. "W&L was great to me and really opened my mind. Every time my wife and I travel, we always visit galleries and museums."

Poynor has assisted the University in acquiring numerous Frank Stella pieces. "We helped purchase a Stella wall sculpture for the opening of Wilson Hall, and to celebrate our 50th reunion this last year, we helped the University acquire a second," he says. He gave four Stella prints between 2008 and 2010. The Poynor Fund also brought the artist William Christenberry to campus to lecture and serve as a visiting artist in the studio classes. "We also helped the University acquire one of his fabulous houses, which rivals the one in my own collection," Poynor says.

"It is important that W&L students be exposed to works like these," he continues. "W&L already has the Friends of the Library. I would love to see the Friends of the Arts at W&L. I would like to plant that seed. It would be just another way to give to W&L and expose young people to art."

Poynor encourages all alumni to consider that their education is what has helped them have the ability to pay their bills. "If you give the money away quickly, then you don't have time to think about spending it," he says. "Give what you can on a monthly basis, even if it is just $10. Once you get in the habit of giving, when it comes time for the Annual Fund or class gifts, it is easy to increase that amount."