History of the Rinard Orchid Greenhouse

Ball State founded the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank in 1970 after a donation from W.O. and Goldie Wheeler of Indianapolis. In 1982, another large donation of nearly 600 orchids was given by Al Thanhauser of Connecticut.

As a designated plant rescue center, we also receive occasional shipments of orchids that have been imported illegally and later confiscated.

In 2008, an additional donation of over 1,000 orchids was made by Charles Bracker, retired Purdue University professor of botany and plant pathology. The donation significantly increased the diversity of the collection.

Dr. Bracker also donated 30,000 digital images of his orchids to Ball State in 2009; many of these actual orchids can be viewed in the Wheeler-Thanhauser Collection. These images are currently housed within the University Libraries Special Collections under the directorship of John Straw.

On May 30, 2014, the new Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse was dedicated. Both Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard are alums of Ball State University. Dr. Rinard gifted funds for the greenhouse to honor his wife, Alice, who loved all things nature and beautiful. The Conservatory is an especially important aspect in this regard, and is full of plants and many objects for discovery, education and visual enjoyment.

On February 14, 2016, The Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Species Orchid Collection was established to celebrate local centenarian, Betty Kendall, who is a high-heeled lady, lover of learning, with a legacy of growing friendships. It seemed fitting that her friends established a "Living Tribute" The Betty Kendall Ladyslipper Orchid Collection. This Special Collection is a part of the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank housed in the new (2014) Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse.

In May, 2020, the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank celebrated 50 years at Ball State University.