On the morning of July 20, members of the Bestor Society and the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society hustled to fill the auditorium of Smith Wilkes Hall. Speaking for the next three days was the 2016 Scholar in Residence, Charles C. Mann, sponsored by the Edward L. Anderson Jr. Foundation.
Started in 1991, the annual Scholar in Residence program, presented by the Chautauqua Foundation, is a limited-audience seminar that recognizes members of the Bestor Society and the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society who have contributed an annual gift of $3,500 or more to the Chautauqua Fund or have designated a planned gift to Chautauqua, respectively.
The Edward L. Anderson Jr. Foundation, formed by the late Edward Anderson, who passed away in 2012, has sponsored the Scholar in Residence program since 2010. Edward’s two sons, Dave, a new member of the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors, and Steve, a financial adviser at Navion Financial Advisors, have continued their father’s legacy.
“We thank Dave and Steve Anderson for picking up the torch,” said Geof Follansbee, CEO of Chautauqua Foundation and vice president of Chautauqua Institution. “We hope this is a long association.”
He also underscored his deep gratitude to those assembled for their philanthropy to Chautauqua.
The seed that planted the initial motivation to sponsor the Scholar in Residence, Steve said, was his father’s love of lifelong learning.
“My dad was the type to always be reading something, always learning something new, always diving into a new direction, always brushing up on things,” Steve said. “Immersion in knowledge and sharing it with world, that was the main thing.”
Steve was unable to attend this year’s event. Dave, however, was present to hear Mann, along with his wife, Deirdre.
Mann, a journalist and author, has written such works as 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. As Chautauqua poured its first coffee, Mann opened his presentation on “Empires and Ecology: How the Environment Shapes History.”
Mann, who also delivered the morning lecture July 19, segmented his three-day discussion into separate prodigious “exchanges”: the Columbian Exchange, assessing how germs redefined the livelihood and functions of the Americas; the Magellan Exchange, investigating the movement of American crops and American silver across the Pacific; and the Wright Brothers Exchange, analyzing the swift advents that flight would introduce in global ecological relations.
To begin, Mann discussed the caustic effects of biological interactions in the early American colonies. He noted how in the first successful colony of Jamestown, the population suffered a mortality rate of 80 percent, a figure veiled by the London financial backers. To settle in Jamestown, Mann said, you’d have to be of the “craziest and most deceived” individuals.
Mann described how the native populations of the Americas defined the word “wilderness” as “cemetery.” Whereas today one imagines vast forests and prolonged hills of dense verdure as “wilderness,” to the natives it was open and flat landscapes with significant sections of North America pockmarked in exposed plains. That knocked the romantic conception of a squirrel traversing the old wooded continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific by jumping branch to branch.
Mann also touched upon the advantages and disadvantages of disease during the American Revolution and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. He noted the efficacy in warfare of the malaria-infected mosquito and the immunity acquired by native Africans, thereby making them lucrative targets for imperial developments. He also implored the audience to open their eyes to the immense historical feats taken for granted today, much of which was constructed by those Africans and their descendants.
Although Edward Anderson hasn’t been present at Chautauqua or a Scholar in Residence for several years, he accumulated nearly 40 years of 10-week summers on the grounds, and his family has continued to come to the Institution every year since that first visit in 1972.
“Dad was the anchor of all that,” Steve said. “He was a cultural sponge. He needed Chautauqua all the time. It’s just great to carry on his tradition and his legacy. We love to do it and help everybody enjoy their experience.”
Those interested in learning more about the Scholar in Residence program or in making a leadership gift to Chautauqua may contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund (716-357-6404 or firstname.lastname@example.org), or Dusty Nelson, director of gift planning (716-357-6409 or email@example.com).