“An institution represents a brave attempt to extend the life of an inspiration,” wrote Patricia (Rusty) Young, a founding member and the first president of Society of the Arts (SOTA), in 1998. “Extending that life inevitably involves thinking ahead: planning, budgeting, accounting and building structure—the non-artistic aspects of the life of an arts organization.”

Rusty, who passed away July 12, personified that brave attempt, championing the Museum and ensuring our long-term success. Her leadership, diplomacy and good humor played a key role over many decades, particularly during major projects, as AAM moved into new and uncharted territory.

In 1959, Rusty became a Museum member and, shortly thereafter, a stand-out volunteer for our first membership drive. She became part of a steering committee determined to create a dedicated, well-disciplined volunteer service group. When SOTA was officially launched in September 1964, Rusty agreed to be its first president, a position she held until 1968.

Rusty oversaw the creation of the SOTA Print Collection in 1966. This important endeavor meant profits from SOTA fundraisers would now be used by the Museum to acquire and build a collection of fine original prints.

After her presidency ended, Rusty remained very active in SOTA, joining various committees. Later, she became a docent and joined the Troupers Committee, which provided art education to children in the community who were unable to travel to AAM.

When the Museum completed a major expansion in 1975, tripling the size of the facility, Rusty and fellow SOTA member Sue Barr organized a weeklong celebration to inaugurate the new wing. In 1994 and 1995, she was recruited to head up both the major and general gifts segments of a new capital campaign, helping make it possible for the Museum to raise over $6 million in gifts and pledges. Rusty and her husband also established the William J. and Patricia W. Young Endowment Fund at that time.

SOTA continues as a vital and vibrant organization, with 200 members. “Rusty was instrumental in the creation of our organization, and the strong foundation she helped lay is still part of the reason for our long term success, says current SOTA President Nancy Ordorski. “Initially our main goal was service but, within a few years, the role expanded to include fundraising, something we still do today. Our mission remains the same and we have volunteers in the museum almost every single day, helping in every department.”

Rusty’s many years of extraordinary service to the AAM were recognized in 1997. Citing her diligence, selflessness and warmth as well as her outstanding ability to motivate others, she was named that year’s Museum Gala Honoree.