Conner Prairie receives pledge of $500,000 gift from founders of Indiana-based Ricker Oil Co.
Director of Public Relations
FISHERS, Ind. (Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017/Conner Prairie) – The founders of a thriving Indiana fuel and convenience store chain pledged a major financial gift to Conner Prairie tonight that will help restore a historic venue on museum property.
Jay and Nancy Ricker, founders of Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker Oil Co., announced their commitment to donate $500,000 to the museum at Conner Prairie’s 2017 Annual Meeting tonight.
The gift will help restore the museum’s Chinese House, located near 126th Street and Allisonville Road and used as a venue for private events, including weddings and corporate outings. The house, bought by museum founder Eli Lilly in 1949 and decorated with Chinese art and architectural elements, will undergo a $1.4 million restoration in 2018.
“We are very grateful for this tremendous gift which honors the Lilly legacy of history and hospitality,” said Conner Prairie President and CEO Norman Burns. “The Rickers’ generosity will no doubt inspire others to help the museum begin to renovate, restore and expand the Chinese House to preserve Eli Lilly’s interest in Asian art and culture and preserve the structure as a special gathering place for community and corporate events.”
Jay Ricker is chairman of Ricker Oil Co., which was created in 1979 and today operates 56 convenience stores and employs 850 people throughout Indiana. A Purdue University alumnus, he also serves as chairman of the Fuel Institute in Alexandria, Va. He is past chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores and the BP Amoco Marketers Association.
With Conner Prairie, he is currently in his second year as chairman of the board of directors. He joined the board in 2011, has served as chairman of the development committee and has been a member on various board committees. He also serves on the museum’s foundation board.
Ricker Oil Co. was presenting sponsor of the museum’s 1859 Balloon Voyage experience when the 170-foot, helium-filled tethered balloon flight first debuted in 2009. The company continued its exclusive sponsorship of the exhibit through 2014.
“We feel it's very important to give back to the communities that have have supported our business,” said Jay and Nancy Ricker in a statement. “It has been our pleasure to give our time and financial resources to Conner Prairie. We have witnessed how the museum has touched the lives of our five grandchildren. They can't wait for summer day camps and they thoroughly enjoy exploring everything from Animal Encounters to Treetop Outpost. We are pleased to be part of the legacy to keep Conner Prairie vibrant and ongoing.”
Originally from Middletown, Ind., the Rickers were high school sweethearts at Clinton Central High School before heading to Purdue. After college, they founded their company; Jay drove delivery routes while Nancy managed finances. The couple opened the company’s first convenience store in 1989.
The Rickers reside in Pendleton, Ind., and have two adult children.
Spanning 800 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes nearly 390,000 visitors of all ages annually. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.
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Conner Prairie's mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call (800) 966-1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate and volunteer. Conner Prairie is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.