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Joseph L. (Jack) May

Jack May pictured with wife, Lynn May.

Joseph L. ( Jack ) May

Jack May was born in 1929 to a venerable Nashvillian family whose local roots go back to the 1830s. He attended elementary and high school across the street from Vanderbilt at the University School of Nashville, then known as the Peabody Demonstration School. After earning a BA in History from Yale University in 1951, he declined admission to Harvard Law School in order to serve in the Korean War and later received honorable discharges from both the US Navy and the US Army. Initially, he worked as the president of Nuweave Socks, Inc. (1955-1959), while earning a JD from New York University in 1958. Then, he continued a long-standing tradition of working in the family business, the May Hosiery Mills, in Nashville until the company was sold in 1983. He has served as president of several non-profit boards, including Nashville Downtown Rotary, Nashville Jewish Community Center, Tennessee Historical Society, Room in the Inn, and Guardianship and Trust Corp, as a board member of both the Church of Christ Foundation and The Temple, and as chairman for the Jewish Federation of Nashville campaign. Jack has been a member of several corporate boards, including Merrill Lynch Asset Management, and in 2003 he and Lynn May helped establish Truxton Trust bank. He also serves as the secretary of the Yale Class of 1951.

Since taking a college class from Professor Theodore Sizer, Jack has been an avid student of the history of prints. He has shared his passion for collecting prints with his family. His father, Dan May (Vanderbilt Class of 1919), acquired some important American etchings in the 1920s. His wife, Lynn May (Vanderbilt Class of 1960), has also contributed a major print to this exhibition. His sister, Betsy May Stern, has also aided and abetted him through the years. All of Jack and Lynn’s children—Ben, Andy, Josh, Maria, Tom, and Rob—have enjoyed learning about prints under Jack’s witty tutelage.

The exhibition has its origins in a dinner conversation early in the friendship of Jack May and David Price, when they arranged for Jack to visit the first incarnation of Professor Price’s History of Prints course. It was clear that the session with Jack and Lynn May—and Jack’s story—had a strong appeal to undergraduates. Was history repeating itself? Would this class on the history of prints inspire a new generation of collectors or connoisseurs of print art? Jack generously made his collection available for immersion projects or research papers and the die was cast.

Curators Cainie Brown (Class of 2022), Chloe Davis (Class of 2020), Peter Stidman (Class of 2023), and Sarah Treadway (Class of 2021) developed this exhibition with Professor Price, either as their Immersion Project or as an extension of their work in HART 2775 (History of Prints). Meeting weekly throughout the summer and fall of 2020, they were often joined by Jack May and the curators of the Fine Arts Gallery, Emily Weiner and Kali Mason. For all of them, this exhibition has been a labor of love.