Ball State founded the Wheeler-Thanhauser Orchid Collection and Species Bank in 1971 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 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 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.