Chautauqua Fans Support & Celebrate U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team



For a moment, no one breathed. The Hall of Christ was filled to the brim with soccer fans on the edge of their seats, eyes glued to the projector screen. People squeezed their hands together, as if in prayer, and murmured comments of confidence to their team.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe stood ready for the penalty kick, eyes on the goal. It was the 61st minute of the game — the final chance for the United States Women’s national soccer team to hold the world championship title for the second World Cup in a row, or for the Netherlands to take the title for themselves.

Every four years, soccer fans all over the world watch the most suspenseful match of the FIFA World Cup — the final. The tournament enraptures the world, exhibiting the strength and passion from each country. At 11 a.m. on Sunday, Chautauquans gathered in the lobby and sun room of the Athenaeum Hotel and the Hall of Christ to view the U.S. Women’s Team fight for the championship title.

The whistle blew, Rapinoe kicked and the ball flew straight into the right side of the goal. The U.S. Women’s Team scored the first goal of the game. And the fans went wild — standing, jumping and cheering, almost on the brink of joyful tears.

The game began as all soccer games must, with the national anthems of each team and then, the kick off. In the Hall of Christ, soccer fan, coach and referee Lito Gutierrez sat in an aisle seat so he could get an unobstructed view of the game. He didn’t look away from the screen, cheering in support of all the players as they sprinted down the field.

For Gutierrez, women’s soccer isn’t an afterthought. He spoke of his daughter and said women’s soccer is an important way for women to show strength.

“The fact is that now, all over the world, women’s soccer is coming through,” Gutierrez said. “And it’s coming through just gloriously.”

He said as a man who grew up with men’s soccer in Argentina, the women’s game is much stronger than the men’s.

“The women’s game is much cleaner and much more fluid than the men’s game,” Gutierrez said. “There’s very little drama; if they get hurt, they get up and move on.”

Half-time rolled around with no goals scored by either team. The Netherlands just missed a penalty kick, letting U.S. soccer fans everywhere breathe a sigh of relief. The fans in the viewing party in the Hall of Christ had to get up and stretch the stress out of their joints.

From left, Sarah Raffinan and Mary Raffinan cheer after the United States women’s soccer team wins the FIFA Women’s World Cup being showed at the Hall of Christ Sunday July 7, 2019. SARAH YENESEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The game was intense as more shots on goal were taken, but the Netherlands’ goalie, Sari Van Veenendaa, was a force to reckon with for the U.S. Women’s Team. In the Athenaeum Hotel sun room, soccer fan Maggie Bauman dressed in the U.S. Women’s team jersey. For her and her family, watching soccer is a favorite pastime. She said it’s amazing to watch.

“I love seeing the work ethic that they all have in this team,” Bauman said. “They’re representing our country and they are also just working really hard for this — I think it would be awesome if they could pull out this win today.”

The second half quickly brought people to their feet as Rapinoe scored the first goal for the team. Soon after, midfielder Samantha Mewis sought out midfielder Rose Lavelle and passed the ball. Lavelle had nothing but space in front of her when she drove the ball straight into the goal.

The crowds in the viewing parties and on the screen cheered triumphantly. Gutierrez jumped in pure joy and put his hands in the air, clapping. He said the game was amazing and that each player communicates with others on the field, which is a product of good coaching.

“You have a player like Crystal Dunn who is playing from a defensive position — she’s all over the field,” Gutierrez said. “She’s up there playing with Rapinoe in the front area, and that’s superb.”

He said the communication on the field shows that the players are comfortable with each other, and that they have an incredible connection.

And there was a passion and  connection among the people at the viewing parties. Whether or not fans knew each other, there was a relationship, based on each person’s passion for their team.

Marsha Opalk, who was watching in the Hall of Christ, has been coming to Chautauqua for many years. She said the viewing parties are something she hasn’t seen before at the Institution, and it was exciting to watch with other fans.

“This is just one great added feature for Chautauqua,” Opalk said. “I mean, look at all the people that were cheering and yelling — it was great.”

In the last minutes of the game, Netherlands ran tirelessly to score a goal, but the U.S. tightened up their defense. Even as both teams substituted key players, the U.S. didn’t budge — they were intent to win. Rapinoe ran off the field and was replaced by Christen Press; everyone cheered in the Hall of Christ and on screen, giving Rapinoe a standing ovation.

The final whistle sounded. The U.S. Women’s team won the World Cup title for the fourth time in its history. Each viewing party erupted with the sounds of cheers, excitement and whistles. In the stadium in France, American fans chanted “equal pay.”

The U.S. Women’s Team brings more revenue and wins more games than the U.S. Men’s Team, but the U.S. Women’s Team is paid much less than men in all areas. Particularly, in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the total prize money was $30 million, and champions walk away with $4 million. In the 2018 Men’s World Cup, champions won $38 million from a total of $400 million.

Sunday’s win was about more than a trophy; it was a showcase of strength and passion in women’s soccer.

“(The U.S. Women’s Team) played together very well — the passion is just incredible,” Gutierrez said. “I love it, I just love it.”

Laura Currie Talks Strategic Planning Working Group’s Processes and Results

Laura Currie

Laura Currie has served Chautauqua Institution for over a decade; first on the board of trustees, then the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors and, most recently, as an instrumental part in the making of the 150 Forward strategic plan.

The strategic plan is a series of objectives and cross-cutting imperatives synthesized by a 13-member Strategic Planning Working Group, which Currie chaired.

The process took 18 months of data collection, deliberation and presentation. Now, the plan is on full display at weekly Strategic Plan Information Sessions at 3:30 p.m. Thursdays in the Hall of Christ. Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the strategic plan through the online forum at

Can you talk about your time at Chautauqua and the various leadership positions you’ve held?

I actually grew up here. I am a native — I went to Chautauqua High School. So my parents brought me (to the Institution) as an infant. We lived across the lake in the winter and here in the summer until I was in fourth grade, and then in fourth grade they sold the cottage … and the house across the lake and bought a house on the grounds.

We have come back every year, … and then 10 years ago I was asked to go on the board. I served two four-year terms on the board of trustees, and six of those eight years I also was a trustee director, so I was on the Foundation board as well.

I had been off (the board) a few months when Chair Jim Pardo and President Michael E. Hill called and asked me if I would chair the Strategic Planning Working Group, which is a great committee. It was really neat — it was half staff and half volunteers made up of current board directors and former board directors.

What was the working group’s process? How did you gather and consolidate data to create what would become the strategic plan?

We really wanted to hear from Chautauquans, so Michael started listening tours in January 2018, when he did his off-season traveling. … We hired a consulting firm that helped us design a survey that went out to all the primary addresses in Chautauqua’s database. We got 1,300 to 1,700 responses, which our consultants were just amazed by — that’s a huge response.

The consultants also did for us a series of small group listening sessions that were really categorized; we had people who had small children, … people who were first-time Chautauquans, people who were longtime Chautauquans, people who were renters, people who are owners. We tried to get a group together with our consultants within each of those segments to really drill down deep into some issues that they felt we should be thinking about.

There were 51 individual one-on-one interviews that the consultants did on our behalf. And then Michael, Jim and I did listening sessions last summer every week at the Hall of Philosophy, and then the two trustee open forums on Saturday mornings were turned into listening sessions.

So we really got all that input before the committee did really much work at all. We met and went over what the consultants were going to help us with and the process of what we were looking at. Then we pulled all of that data together as well as all of the things Michael and the administration were doing with IDEA and the campus master plan. We took all of that and began our deliberations over everything and shifting through what came out.

What were the overarching themes that came out of the data collection?

The lake, diversity and the grounds.

People are interested in their experiences here, but there is a lot of interest in, “If I can’t be here the whole nine weeks, how can I still feel connected while (the season is) going on,” or “How can we all be connected outside of the nine weeks?”

How much of the plan is administrative goals versus community input?

The actual goals themselves came from the community; the measures of success, … those came from the administration. So how it will be operationalized is coming more from the administration with the oversight of the board, but really what we’re doing and what needs to happen came from the community.

For someone who has not read the full plan, how would you concisely sum up 150 Forward?

We have four main goals and then four — what we finally ended up terming — cross-cutting imperatives. … (These) are imperative; we have to bring those four things into our DNA. IDEA — inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility — has to become part of our DNA in a bigger way.

Technology — we’re just behind, and we need to catch up. … Labor and talent — huge — for during the season and then the off-season, and strategic partnerships. We’ve been really good at partnerships in the past, but I think that’s going to be the key to a lot of different things.

Goal-wise, the lake stood alone because it’s imperative that the lake be saved. Even though we have a small footprint on the lake, … we have a unique ability to be able to convene all the voices around the county and hopefully have a concerted scientific effort toward solving its problem.

That came from the community; IDEA came from the community, not “messing this place up” — that’s what we heard all the time; “don’t mess this place up” — came from the community … and taking us outside the grounds and making sure we are financially stable way into the future.

Through this whole process, what was your role in chairing the working group?

Really just being that lead person, but then bringing the diverse voices together with the committee and being the liaison between the administration, the consultants and the committee.

We had several in-person meetings in D.C. — just the committee did — and then we came up for the board meetings as well, and then we had — I can’t even remember how many — video conference meetings.

It’s a fabulous committee; they were just great. And then Shannon Rozner, the new vice president of strategic initiatives, joined us …  and has just been fabulous to work with.

One of my big things I want to get out is that this is a plan for all of us — it’s not just the board, or this committee or the administration — this is all of Chautauqua. Our voices are in it, and we also have to be a part of it to make it work.

Now that the working group’s job has wrapped up, what’s your role?

There is a new committee formed with just board members, chaired by Candy Maxwell, the new incoming board chair, that’s looking at the actual details of the goals and working with Shannon, Michael and the administration on how they are going to prioritize and (oversee) it.

I’m not in that process since I’m no longer on the board. So my part is wrapping up, and they are taking what we did and moving it to the next step.

How have Chautauquans responded to the plan?

It has been very positive at the two Strategic Plan Information Sessions we’ve had so far and just in my everyday conservations with people. … People have been really pleased from what I’ve heard.

Ideally, what does Chautauqua look like to you when it reaches its sesquicentennial?

I hope that we really have a more diverse audience. … I hope we have reached out more to the Chautauqua community. I would love to know the lake is on its way, by that time, to being saved.

Hopefully maybe even tucking away a few of those cross-cutting imperatives.

What’s next for you?

I’m just going to enjoy being here, going to a little more programming this year.

I’m just happy to have been a part of what I have been.

Week Three Letter From the President

Michael Hill
President Michael Hill

Welcome to the third week of our 146th Assembly! I am writing this column on the Fourth of July, one of my favorite times here at Chautauqua. From the Children’s School parade, where our youngest Chautauquans participate in earnest in a time-honored tradition, to the sounds of the Chautauqua Community Band playing patriotic favorites, it’s a slice of Americana that lifts the soul. Equally dynamic, however, was the morning lecture by Risa Goluboff, dean of the University of Virginia School of Law, who walked us through issues of free speech after the Charlottesville riots, where white supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with protesters. It’s one of the best examples of what Chautauqua does at its finest: Rather than duck the issues, respectfully tackle them in dialogue, across difference, seeking solutions. I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting way to celebrate our nation’s birthday.

A similar moment happened at a reception at the President’s Cottage this week. Someone asked a question about how we might diversify Chautauqua, and one guest’s response elicited a counter-response from someone of another race, questioning the assumptions made. Instead of screaming or ducking the question, they publicly and respectfully challenged the premises and afterward sat with one another to find a deeper sense of shared meaning. This is the Chautauqua we hope to most lift up.

Which brings us to Week Three of our assembly, one that celebrates one of our most dynamic partnerships, that with National Geographic. This week we join our friends at NatGeo in exploring “A Planet in Balance.” In response to a rapidly changing planet, National Geographic is leveraging its legacy of exploration, innovation and vibrant storytelling to further solutions. From funding cutting-edge technologies to leading advancements in science communication, we’ll uncover how NatGeo is using 21st-century tools to shape the future of exploration and to address the greatest challenge our world has ever faced. Together we’ll look at:

  • The status of the planet, and how the most advanced conservation technology is being deployed to show how nature and culture are changing in real time;
  • How exploration and the communication of science work in tandem to protect the environment so that all species have a shot at survival;
  • Earth’s last wild places, to learn about the efforts to protect and restore those habitats before it’s too late;
  • The planet’s extreme environments, and seek clues offered there for surviving the impact of the changes we are facing; and
  • our own choices, discovering how we can reduce our human footprint.

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we honor the practice of exploration by examining “What Archaeology Tells Us about Biblical Times.” Christians and all peoples of the world are drawn to Biblical sites in Israel, tracking the historical Jesus. These sites are not only vibrant centers of pilgrimage and faith, but monuments of archeological significance as well. Through recent work in Israel titled “The Search for the Real Jesus,” National Geographic, for example, has discovered a way to help us see that the scientific and the spiritual can and do coexist. We look forward to a week of walking between those two ways of seeing the world.

Speaking of exploring the impacts of faith and the journey of discovery, Peter and I had a chance to see Chautauqua Theater Company’s production of The Christians this past week. If you haven’t done so, it’s a thought-provoking piece and worthy of a look.

As always, there is so much in any given week to hold up as something “not to miss.” What has become an annual favorite tradition during my tenure is the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s performance alongside a Harry Potter film, this one “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Peter and I are so excited to take our nephews and have them fall in love with the symphony through this vehicle. And then there’s also the CHQ Olympics. So much fun is packed into a week that includes the incredible work of our artistic companies, preachers, teachers and speakers. Whether you’re with us for the first time this week, or continuing your own Chautauqua journey from the week prior, I hope that you allow your spirit to be filled with the many offerings that this magical place provides.

And even more so, I hope what we have discovered on platforms, stages and porches so far this summer — the notion of engaging across difference — gives you hope for our society. As Dean Goluboff said Thursday, if you want to know how to engage with someone who thinks differently than you, start with a question of understanding, versus a statement to be heard. Imagine if we could all do this here, and then take it out across the country. Then, perhaps, there is hope.

Enjoy Week Three and one another,

Michael E. Hill

Trustee Nancy Gibbs Shares Hopes and Excitement for First Season on Board of Trustees

Nancy Gibbs is serving her first season as a member of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. Gibbs was previously the editor-in-chief of “Time” and is a lifelong Chautauquan.

Nancy Gibbs wears many hats: journalist, educator, wife and mother, lifelong Chautauquan and now, trustee.

The former editor-in-chief of Time — and the magazine’s first female editor-in-chief — is one of two newly appointed Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustee members who will serve four-year terms.

In the off-season, Gibbs directs Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and is the Edward R. Murrow professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has co-authored two best-selling books: The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity and The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House.

The Presidents Club was a finalist for The Chautauqua Prize in 2013.

But before her nearly 40-year career as an author and journalist, Gibbs found her love for writing in the Daily newsroom, she said, covering everything from the Children’s School to the morning lectures.

What was it like growing up at Chautauqua Institution?

This is the one place where I have friends I literally have known since birth, and we remain friends and we still see each other every summer.

I think that’s one of the truly remarkable things about Chautauqua; whatever directions our lives took us since coming here, this is where we come back to. This is ground-zero for our families, our professional lives in many cases — in my case, in journalism, and in my brother’s in music — all had its roots here. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s been so important in my life and our families’ lives.

How would you explain the Institution to someone who has never been here or never heard of it?

College, summer camp, mental health retreat, nature preserve — it’s all of those things. It’s like a gymnasium for your heart and your head and your soul.

Can you explain what a trustee and what the board of trustees does?

I’m still learning because I am a new trustee. … My older brother was a trustee, my father chaired the board of trustees, and so I’ve been watching the Chautauqua (Institution) Board of Trustees for as long as I can remember. It’s a fascinating experience now to get to join it and understand where its influence begins and ends.

I think it’s important the board draw from both the experience and the expertise of its members, inside Chautauqua and outside Chautauqua — what we do when we’re here, what we do the rest of the year — and bring that experience to the challenges and opportunities here.

So what I love about the board is it is such an interesting mixture of people and skill sets, and I think that’s what makes it a successful resource for the administration here.

You’re on the marketing & brand strategy committee. How do you think your professional expertise will translate into that committee?

Well, to the extent that my professional life has always been about storytelling, which is the heart of journalism and in some ways the heart of politics and essential to successful leadership for Chautauqua — to figure out how to tell its story to people who might want to be part of this place, and how to understand its mission both here in this place during the summer, but also outside of the summer and outside of the gates.

I think that aligns fairly obviously with my life as a journalist and my life trying to see patterns and understand what people are curious about, what they want to know more about. I’m hoping I can help Chautauqua where it needs to tell a story for the 21st century that fully draws on values it has held since the 19th (century).

What’s your biggest hope for your first season as a trustee?

Just to keep learning. I think new trustees obviously bring fresh eyes to the challenges, but there is so much we don’t know about the immense amount of work that goes into making this place seem natural and organic and effortless, as though it all just magically happens, as though these grounds just take care of themselves, as though that program just appears on the Amphitheater stage and a million other places around the grounds.

So much work goes into making this happen that I’m still learning an enormous amount about how it operates and how Chautauquans — trustees and not — can help make the place as healthy and successful as possible. 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Once a reporter always a reporter; I get up to find out what happened overnight. I’m horribly attached to my devices, so unfortunately about the first thing I do is look in my inbox and read the papers, read 50 newsletters that have appeared. That’s always been true to some extent; it’s particularly true now when we’re in such a fateful political season.

Do you miss being a reporter or being in the thick of the news?

I’m still writing. … And what I’m teaching is so directly connected to — not just what’s happening in journalism — politics and the health of democracy itself. While I’m not responsible for making real-time coverage decisions — and I don’t miss that — I don’t feel like I’ve stepped out of the conversations happening in newsrooms.

What are you most excited about this season?

This feels like a moment when Chautauqua’s almost 150-year mission is needed more than ever, and not only needed, but people are aware it’s needed — of a place where people actually physically come together, actually put down their phones and talk face-to-face or listen to a lecturer or an artistic presentation that challenges them.

I think there’s a mindfulness now that there’s something that has really disrupted the way we talk to each other and think about each other. … The fact that this is a place where people can come and have an actually civilized disagreement — it’s not that everyone comes here and agrees with each other, hopefully people come here and disagree with each other — but in a way that reminds them that it’s okay and that you can still get along and solve problems together.

I think there’s a hunger for that — for modeling that, for experiencing that, for taking some of that back into the rest of our lives — that’s actually new, even though that’s been a mission of this Institution since 1874. I’m excited about the ways in which this place is urgently adapting to the need right now and seeing where that takes us going forward.

Massey Mini-Concert to Salute American Organists and Composers

Organist And Coordinator Of Worship And Sacred Music, Jared Jacobsen, directs the Chautauqua Choir during the inaugural Sacred Song Service Sunday, June 23, 2019, in the Amphitheater. VISHAKHA GUPTA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

According to Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, some of the most interesting music in America was written by the modernist composer Charles Ives.

“Ives had a very unique way of looking at music,” Jacobsen said. “His father was a bandleader who was very well-known in New England, and (organized) these huge festivals in their town. He would invite bands to march into the town square at the same time from every direction.”

Hearing the sounds of multiple bands overlapping each other as they played became a crucial part of Ives’ childhood and deeply affected his musical composition process, Jacobsen said.

You would hear two bands playing the same piece but not in the same rhythm,” he said. “Or you would hear two bands playing the same piece but not in the same key. Or you would hear two bands playing the same piece but not really in tune.”

Jacobsen said Ives incorporated bands playing over one another into his music, leading the way on compositional concepts like bitonality, polyrhythmia, altered tunings and altered scales.

At 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 3 in the Amphitheater, Jacobsen will showcase distinctly American composers, like Ives, on the Massey Memorial Organ in the mini-concert “The American Organist.”

“These are all the pieces that I, as an American, play on this American organ, in the most American place in America,” Jacobsen said. “Ironically though, the idea for the (Massey) Organ was conceived in Canada and funded by a Canadian family.”

But, he added, the Massey Organ is “essentially a part of American history.”

Jacobsen said he designed the musical program for this mini-concert to complement the rich history of the Massey Organ, which is over 100 years old, and to anticipate Chautauqua’s Fourth of July celebration.

American Composer Dudley Buck’s “Concert Variations on ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ ” is one piece Jacobsen said he included specifically because of the Fourth of July.

He’s important because he grew up in New England and got a really good American music education,” Jacobsen said. “Then he was sent to Europe by his parents to get the European stamp of approval.

According to Jacobsen, people in the late 19th century believed that unless a composer had studied in Europe, they couldn’t be any good.

“They thought that since this was the Colonies, we didn’t know anything about making music,” he said, “which was totally bogus.”

Yet when Buck returned from Europe, according to Jacobsen, he became one of the first American organists to have a career as a touring concert artist, traveling up and down the Eastern seaboard.

“Dudley Buck’s piece, which is a blast to play, is a classic 19th century variation for the keyboard,” he said. “Variations involve starting with a tune, gently playing with it for a little bit, and then getting more adventurous with the rhythms or the chord structure. Because this is an organ piece, there’s always a part that shows off what your feet can do on the organ.”

Variations like Buck’s have a uniquely American flavor to them, according to Jacobsen.

I just love playing American music,” Jacobsen said.

LGBTQ Friends and Community Sponsor Judy Shepard Lecture

Barbara Britton and Bob Jeffery, shown Tuesday, June 26, 2019, held an LGBTQ and Friends fundraiser to sponsor Judy Shepard’s July 2 lecture. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

LGBTQ Friends and Community is excited to welcome Judy Shepard to Chautauqua Institution and sponsor her lecture and conversation with James Fallows.

Shepard’s conversation with Fallows will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 2 in the Hall of Philosophy. After a collective fundraising effort, the organization was able to provide underwriting support for the lecture and bring Shepard, founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation board of directors, to Chautauqua.

We’re interested in LGBTQ topics, so a couple of years ago I approached the Foundation and said ‘If we’ve got speakers that we would be interested in sponsoring, we’d be interested in doing fundraising,’ ” said Bob Jeffrey, a member of LGBTQ Friends and Community and Institution trustee. “Part of our mission is to really raise consciousness about our community.”

The organization holds many events throughout the season to provide a welcoming presence and raise awareness about the LGBTQ community. Hosting events allows them to reach more people and spread more knowledge.

“We have social events, meet and greets; things like that where we can show ourselves as welcoming and welcome those that are coming to the community for the first time and to also build that presence here,” Jeffrey said. “It’s important to do that — (and) to have speakers here as well. They can talk about various topics that help people understand a little bit more about our community.”

LGBTQ Friends and Community’s mission statement is to increase diversity within the greater Chautauqua community. The organization strives to create a sense of welcome and shared community for LGBTQ people and educating family, friends, allies, teachers, pastors and others about LGBTQ people and their experiences.

A big part of our mission is to really be part of the whole diversity effort that Chautauqua’s undertaking,” said Barbara Britton, LGBTQ and Friends Community member. “The LGBTQ and Friends group really takes that seriously, not just for diversity and accepting our organization, but it’s that whole phenomena when you have anybody who’s lived their life as the ‘other’ and knows what it’s like not to be accepted by society.”

Once Britton caught wind that Shepard was a potential speaker, she immediately took action to raise the necessary funds. LGBTQ Friends and Community were excited for the opportunity because of Shepard’s impact in the community.

“We really believe in the mission of what Chautauqua’s doing,” Britton said. “So over the winter, when they let us know that Judy Shepard was a potential speaker, we got really excited because of course, in our community, everybody knows about Matthew Shepard.”

During the month of June, New York State hosted a Pride Celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and a half-century of the LGBTQ rights movement. Chautauqua is an official part of the state’s Stonwall50/World Pride 2019 celebration.

Britton is confident that with such a strong advocate like Shepard, the event will spread awareness and is very much worth supporting.

Judy Shepard has been just fearlessly fighting for our rights — LGBTQ rights,” Britton said. “She’s known worldwide as an advocate and a fighter. It was really special to raise money for someone like that (to come to Chautauqua).”

Shepard is the founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and president of its board of directors. After losing her son, Matthew Shepard, to a murder fueled by anti-gay hate in 1998, she now travels the nation speaking to audiences and communities about what they can do to make the world a better and more accepting place for everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. Shepard has written a memoir, The Meaning of Matthew, which describes the family’s journey through the prosecution of Matthew’s attackers and their continued work to fight for progressive civil rights.

For more information on program underwriting opportunities, contact Karen Blozie, senior major gifts officer at the Chautauqua Foundation, at 716-357-6244 or

Buffalo Day at Chautauqua for the 10th Year


Dennis Galucki sums up the idea of Buffalo Day at Chautauqua in 10 words: “To explore American legacy through place-based, lifelong learning and imagination.”

Ten words, and now, 10 years. Buffalo Day at Chautauqua is spending its 10th summer on the grounds with a lineup of lectures and presentations throughout the day and across the grounds on Tuesday, June 2.

Buffalo Day at Chautauqua, Galucki said, started with a Special Studies course he taught in 2006 and 2007: “Imagine Buffalo in the 21st Century: The Buffalo-Chautauqua Idea.” The idea, he said, “flowed from that thought.”

All of the events scheduled on the grounds today are tied to the theme of “Imagine Communities Working Toward the Common Good: Imagine Greater Buffalo.”

Galucki opens the day with a brief presentation at 12:15 p.m. in the Hall of Philosophy, on “The Buffalo-Chautauqua Idea.” Galucki’s presentation serves as an introduction to a 12:30 p.m. panel discussion: “Education, Environment, Racial Equity, Arts & Culture.” The panel, led by Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, includes Rabbi Jonathan Freirich, the Rev. Jonathan Staples, and David Rust.

“The panel came together through the work being done in Buffalo, where the city is dealing with many of the same issues that Chautauqua is dealing with, whether they’re diversity, whether they’re equity,” Galucki said. “And the lead on that, as far as I can see, is the Community Foundation. They’re a natural fit.”

Following the panel, at 2 p.m. in Smith Memorial Library, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Executive Director John Jablonski will join Betsy Constantine, executive vice president of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, in a discussion on “Buffalo & American Legacy.”

Buffalo Day concludes at 3:30 p.m. in the Hall of Christ, when Stanton Hudson, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, and Peter Schiffmacher, the founder of iTours 369VR and co-founder of Reality Capture Experts, deliver the latest program of the Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series.

“That works at two levels,” Galucki said. “One is the story of Theodore Roosevelt’s being inaugurated in Buffalo. That’s really the beginning of the Progressive Era. … The other dimension is the virtual reality.”

Schiffmacher and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site have worked with a grant from New York State that will allow students in fourth and eighth grades to use virtual reality in their classrooms to experience the site — without ever having to set foot there.

Galucki said that, throughout the years, Buffalo Day at Chautauqua has showcased how the work being done on the grounds can exist in cities across the country.

“What if you could take the spirit and idealism of Chautauqua and plunk it into a city all year long?” he said.

Chautauqua Fund Kick-off Celebration Discusses New Goals for Annual Fund

  • Susan McKee, center left, listens as Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill discusses 150 Forward, the newly unveiled strategic plan, during the Chautauqua Fund kickoff breakfast at the Athenaeum Hotel June 22. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Every year, gifts to the Chautauqua Fund have an immediate impact on the innovations to the full range of programs discovered at Chautauqua Institution. The community’s active participation and investment makes the Chautauqua experience possible, from the lectures and worship, to artistic programming, scholarships for students of the Schools of Performing and Visual Arts and much more.

Last year, over $4.9 million was raised from nearly 3,500 individuals, families and organizations who  gave to the Chautauqua Fund. Chautauqua Fund volunteers play an essential role serving as supporters for the Institution, helping to raise critical funds.

Volunteers on the 2019 Chautauqua Fund team gathered with the Institution and Foundation leadership on Saturday, June 22, to learn more about important initiatives and projects that have been impacted by the work they are doing for Chautauquans.

The kick-off began with a welcome and opening remarks from Tim Renjilian, co-chair of the 2019 Chautauqua Fund, along with his wife, Leslie. Renjilian said he was eager to start the season and was anticipating multiple events that volunteers would enjoy as they engage with members of the community and encourage philanthropic support that makes Chautauqua’s programs possible.

I’m actually really excited about the new strategic plan and the excitement that it’s creating for people,” Renjilian said, reflecting on the kick-off. “I think in terms of the program, there are all sorts of great events across all of our different disciplines. (In) the arts, I am specifically excited about the theater program this year.

Renjilian said the kick-off is a great way to start the season, bringing together the dedicated volunteers who will be advocating on behalf of the Chautauqua Fund.

“My favorite part is just having everybody together,” he said. “That, for me, is kind of the official beginning of the season. It’s the first time when we have all of the familiar faces and old friends just in one place. Seeing all of the people and just feeling the excitement about the new season as everybody comes together and start to actually become part of the season plans, I think that’s the most exciting thing.”

Staff introductions and Foundation updates were presented by Geof Follansbee, CEO and vice president of development. The Foundation has welcomed many new faces to the development office this season — new staff members who were introduced included Amy Gardner, associate vice president for major and planned gifts; Debbie Meyers, assistant vice president for advancement operations; Jennifer Stitely, director of gift planning; and Jared Magoon, assistant director of the Chautauqua Fund.

After introductions, Institution President Michael E. Hill discussed with volunteers the new strategic plan that Chautauqua Institution wadopted this year, 150 Forward. Reflecting on the breakfast a few days later, he said the kick-off provided an opportunity to discuss the plan with fellow Chautauquans in detail and hear valuable feedback.

“It’s just an opportunity to sit down with key ambassadors and Chautauqua Fund volunteers to talk to them at a high level about the process that led to that plan, and what makes it similar or different from what Chautauquans might be used to, and how they might think about it and hopefully be in support of it,” Hill said.

Hill noted that the kick-off is “one of the first moments where we see Chautauquans in the season, so for me it always feels like a family reunion.”

I enjoyed reconnecting with people, I enjoyed hearing their questions and seeing their enthusiasm, and it’s just a moment to express gratitude for everything these folks do for us year round,” Hill said.

After Hill’s speech, Emily Morris, vice president of marketing and communications and chief brand officer, discussed marketing initiatives for the Institution. John Shedd, vice president of campus planning and operations, provided community notes and updates on projects taking place across the grounds leading up to the summer and beyond.

Renjilian returned to the stage to reiterate his gratitude to the volunteers for their service and generosity to Chautauqua, and to encourage them as they work toward this year’s objectives.

The most straightforward goal is to hit our target of $5 million to be raised for the 2019 Chautauqua Fund,” Renjilian said. “I think more importantly than that, we see this whole Chautauqua program and the group of volunteers that we have as a way of really strengthening the community.”

Anyone interested in serving as a volunteer for the Chautauqua Fund is invited to contact Christine Doolittle, administrative project manager, at or 716-357-6465. For more information or to make a gift, visit

Institution Administrators Hold First 150 Forward Info Session

  • Chautauqua residents listen at the Strategic Plan Information Session led by Institution President Michael E. Hill, board of trustees Chair James A. Pardo, Jr. and strategic planning working group Chair Laura Currie, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Hall of Christ. VISHAKHA GUPTA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chautauqua Institution administrators led the first of nine information sessions, allowing Chautauquans to engage with the 150 Forward strategic plan — a series of objectives identified by a 13-member committee aimed at launching the Institution into the future — on Thursday in the Hall of Christ.   

President Michael E. Hill, Jim Pardo, board of trustees chair, and Laura Currie, chair of the Strategic Planning Working Group, led the presentation, which broke down the working group’s processes and results.

After 18 months of listening sessions, focus-group testing and data mining, the group pinpointed the Institution’s strengths — stable finances, breadth of programming, landscape, family appeal and loyal returner base — and its challenges — lack of diversity and affordability, employee recruitment and retention, low brand recognition and the declining health of Chautauqua Lake. Based on these factors, the group synthesized four objectives — optimize the summer season, expand Chautauqua’s convening authority year-round, drive a comprehensive, science-based approach to improving the lake’s health, and grow and diversify revenue — and four cross-cutting imperatives: strategic partnerships; mobilization of technology; labor and talent solutions; and inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.

“The overarching goal of this plan is Chautauqua will convene diverse perspectives and voices to discover and advance the most important, relevant conversations and experiences of our time during the summer assembly season and year-round, on the grounds and beyond,” Currie said.

To accomplish this goal, the Institution will expand its philanthropic efforts into strategic partnerships with larger organizations; increase brand awareness; invest in technology to make Chautauqua more accessible; enhance the customer experience; find science-based solutions to the declining health of the lake; and work to diversify.

Shannon Rozner, chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives, led the first IDEA Listening Session last Tuesday in the Hall of Christ. During the listening session, Rozner and Parker Suddeth — a consultant hired by the Institution — asked open-ended questions to facilitate conversation.

Chautauquans shared anecdotes about diversity — or lack thereof — on the grounds and offered suggestions like income-qualified gate passes and reduced electric scooter-rental costs.

“If you want Chautauqua to be more diverse, that is a community-wide response,” Hill said. “If that’s something you expect the (administration) to do, it will fail — plain and simple.”

The next IDEA Listening Session is 3:30 p.m. today, July 1st, in the Hall of Christ. Strategic Plan Information Sessions are 3:30 p.m. every Thursday in the Hall of Christ. The first Master Plan Information Session is 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Christ.

Foundation Board Chair Cathy Bonner Honored at Annual Dinner

  • Cathy Bonner, chair of the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors, reacts as she is honored at the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors' annual dinner June 21, 2019 in the Athenaeum Hotel. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Last weekend, the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors hosted its annual dinner in the Athenaeum Hotel. During the dinner, past and present directors and current members of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees gathered to celebrate the start of a new season.

“It’s always been one of my favorite nights to start off the new season because it’s a really strong community,” said Karen Goodell, vice chair of the Foundation board of directors. “(These are) volunteers who are really thoughtful and caring about Chautauqua Institution — I feel like so many of them have given so much of themselves and their treasure and their time.”

Goodell said that she finds pleasure in being in the company of her fellow volunteers. She appreciates how dedicated the members of the boards are and how much they care about the community.

Opening remarks were delivered by Cathy Bonner, chair of the Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors, who acknowledged former directors, current directors and Institution trustees. There was also a special welcome for Tim Renjilian, current co-chair of the Chautauqua Fund and the new chair-elect of the Foundation board, as well as Candy Maxwell, chair-elect of the Institution’s board of trustees.

After opening remarks, Geof Follansbee, Foundation CEO and vice president of development, said a prayer.

Bonner is the first woman to serve as chair of the Foundation board of directors. She has held her position as chair for four years and will no longer serve on the board when her term ends in August. Bonner was taken by surprise when she was then honored at the dinner.

“It was such a lovely tribute,” Bonner said. “Totally unexpected.”

In honor of Bonner’s accomplishments and service, and for her efforts with the garden restoration of the Miller Edison Cottage, Goodell took to the podium to announce that two pink dogwood trees were planted in front of the cottage.

“They have pink flowers and you can see them blooming all over Chautauqua right now,” she said. “It was an incredible honor they dedicated to me and the work that we did on the cottage.”

To end the night, the Chautauqua Theater Company performed a special excerpt from A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Goodell particularly enjoyed the performance because of Bonner’s love of theater.

“To have the theater company come and honor her, in front of her peers,” Goodell said, “it’s just so Chautauqua-esque.”

Upcoming Transition in the Chautauqua Foundation

Geof Follansbee

In January 2020, the Chautauqua Foundation will be undergoing a transition when the majority of the Foundation staff will become employees of Chautauqua Institution.

The Chautauqua Foundation is a nonprofit establishment, independent from the Institution. It is responsible for philanthropic funding of the Institution, its programs and facilities.

As part of the planning that went into Chautauqua Institution’s new strategic plan, 150 Forward, the Foundation’s board of directors and Institution leadership reexamined the current structure of how these organizations work in cooperation with one another.

“We began to have discussions about whether the development operation, the fundraising team, was better situated in the Foundation or the Institution,” said Geof Follansbee, vice president of development and CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation.

To help achieve the objectives of 150 Forward, the majority of Foundation operating costs, which have been annually charged against the endowment funds held by the Foundation, will become part of the Institution’s operating budget. This will alleviate the burden placed on endowment funds and, over time, increase the growth and payout of those funds to support Institution programming, thus growing endowment revenue.

Prior to 1991, development office employees were employed by the Institution. In 1991, a decision was made to move that same staff and its operating costs to the Foundation. While considering another switch, the board of directors decided to bring in professional assistance.

“Approximately 14 months ago we hired a firm to come in and look at how well our development program was staffed,” Follansbee said. “They were not evaluating the people we had, but simply assessing what was our structure and did it make sense.”

The firm advised a three-year plan for an expansion of the development office. This plan also corresponded with the ambitious goals of the new strategic plan that Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees approved in May.

“(The consultants) were quite clear that they felt our lack of investment in development was limiting our ability to raise money,” Follansbee said. “Investing more would provide a return over and beyond the cost of the investment. With that, they recommended that the development team move back to the Institution.”

Philanthropic support to the Chautauqua Fund and capital projects will be directed to the Institution beginning in January 2020. Gifts to the endowment will continue to be held by the Foundation for investment. These gifts will then be made available to the Institution according to the spending policy established by the Foundation’s board of directors.

By ramping up staffing leading into the summer season, with the understanding that the Institution would be assuming operational costs in 2020, “the Foundation board agreed to make that investment to allow us to move forward in 2019,” Follansbee said. “We laid out a plan for a multiyear staging of additional investment into our development program.”

Growing and diversifying revenue, philanthropic revenue, in particular, is a goal within 150 Forward. To help reach this goal, the Foundation’s board of directors, in collaboration with the board of trustees and Institution President Michael E. Hill, have made investments in staff resources to secure the philanthropy necessary to achieve the goals of 150 Forward.

“I’ve spent more time managing the office than I have fundraising,” Follansbee said. “We could benefit from more of my time fundraising and working with President Hill on development activities and we could benefit from some other fundraising resources.”

Follansbee is confident this transition will benefit both the Institution and the Foundation.

“In terms of our day-to-day responsibilities we’re going to be doing the same work; we’re going to be doing it better,” Follansbee said. “We will significantly expand our fundraising horizons and our success.”

Anderson Foundation to Offer Matching Gifts


Chautauqua Institution is ready to reach new heights.

As the Institution increasingly depends on the annual Chautauqua Fund for its financial sustainability and programming, following an analysis the decision was made to increase the entry level gift for the Bestor Society in 2019.

“We have a leadership giving community inside the annual fund comprised of members of the 1874 Society and the Bestor Society,” said Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund. “Starting in January of this year, we have shifted the entry level of the Bestor Society from $3,500 to $5,000.”

Bestor Society gifts will now start being recognized at $5,000. For every supporter who makes their Bestor Society gift before Aug. 31, by increasing to this new level over their prior year’s gift, the Edward L. Anderson Jr. Foundation will contribute an additional $1,500 in funds to the 2019 Chautauqua Fund through a matching challenge named “Reaching New Heights.”

“In order to incentivize folks to really step up to the $5,000, if they’re able, the Edward L. Anderson Jr. Foundation has offered to provide this amazing opportunity for our community,” Downey said.

The Institution is grateful for all of its generous supporters and will still recognize those who give at the former Bestor level and are unable to increase contributions, Downey said. With this new adjustment, there will be a new level of membership within the 1874 Society. 

“We don’t want to disenfranchise anybody who’s been giving at $3,500 because that’s a significant gift,” Downey said. “What we’ve done is create a new level in the 1874 Society which recognizes 1874 Society Fellows who make gifts at that $3,500 level.”

Philanthropy is a major component in providing the best possible experience for all who experience Chautauqua, and Downey appreciates people who take the initiative to make gifts to the annual Chautauqua Fund.

“There are teachers and preachers, people who are saving all year to get here,” Downey said. “For them to step up and say ‘I understand the value of my gate pass, I understand the value of access to all of these fantastic programs, the conversations I have with people, all of the learning that happens and the artistic experiences, that I choose to go above and beyond,’ and say ‘You know what, I’m going to do an extra $1,000 to $2,000 or whatever I can do to support that experience,’ is a powerful testament to their belief in what happens here.”

To learn more about Chautauqua’s annual fund or how to join the Bestor Society, please visit or contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, at 716.357.6465 or

Chief of Staff, Shannon Rozner, Discusses Strategic Plan Implementation

Shannon Rozner

In May, Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees approved the 150 Forward strategic plan, a series of objectives and initiatives to launch the Institution into a renewed future.

Central to the implementation of this plan is Shannon Rozner, the Institution’s new chief of staff and first-ever vice president of strategic initiatives. Rozner, a lawyer by trade, will be working with the administration to ensure the plan moves forward as envisioned by the trustees and fellow Chautauquans.

In her first full season at Chautauqua, it’s a big task — she says she’s ready.

What’s your professional background?

I took a little bit of a winding path to get here. My very first job out of college was as a campus minister in suburban Detroit, and I stayed there for four years. Then I went to law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and from there I practiced law at a law firm in D.C. I did securities enforcement law, which was primarily internal investigations of accounting fraud, so my very first case as a new lawyer was working on the WorldCom internal investigation.

After that, I worked for a regulator for a couple of years, until my financial adviser decided to open up his own firm and asked me to come along and help him run it. So I went over and for five years I founded with him, and helped run, a financial planning practice in suburban D.C.

What was your first experience with Chautauqua Institution?

I went to St. Bonaventure University, so my first experience of Chautauqua was back when I was at Bonaventure. A friend of mine, his parents lived here, and I was able to hear about it from him. I served on a committee for students who were getting an honor’s degree — I was the student representative to that committee — and as a thank-you for my service, my professor took my mom and I to see an opera here.

Then I stayed away for far too long and then came back. When Michael Hill became president, he invited my husband and I to come be his guests; we fell in love with it in about the first hour we got here and stayed on for three weeks that summer, three weeks the following summer and then I took the job in January.

How was the transition to your new job and living at the Institution full-time? Was it difficult coming from a larger, metropolitan city?

No, I love the ability to do my work wherever my work needs me. Sometimes I need to be in the D.C. office because we’re working on building up strategic partnerships as part of our strategic plan … and yet I’m always thrilled to come back here.

I drive — I put an audiobook in and I drive back and forth — and literally, the first moment I see the lake, I can feel myself become calm and full of happiness.

I have two happy places and I’m so lucky to have them.

So you’re spending the off-season in D.C.?

No, I spend most of my time here during the week, and then I drive back there occasionally for work when it needs me.

One of the reasons I’m really proud of the direction we’re going in is because there’s a recognition that we can work wherever the work is. So I would say I spend most weekdays here, on the grounds, and then occasionally I’ll spend a week in D.C.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My teammates. I’ve never worked with a better group of people who are smarter, more dedicated, more passionate and more mission-driven. It’s exciting to just be with them and watch their brains and their hearts work.

I’m still in that pinch-me phase. … The mission of this place just speaks to my heart so much. … It’s really hard to articulate how special and fortunate I feel to get to work here. I’m old enough that I’ve seen so many people hate their jobs and still get up and go. I recognize how rare and wonderful it is to work with such amazing people doing such important work around a mission I believe in 110 percent.

What are your goals for your first season?

I really hope to get to know people. I want to spend a lot of time — unstructured time —  being here and learning more; there’s so much more for me to learn about this place.

So, my goal for this season is to listen a lot, learn a lot, to have a lot of fun, to talk a lot about the strategic plan — I really hope people will be excited about it, and energized by it and engage with me and the rest of the team on it. If I can accomplish these things, it will definitely be a success.

Can you talk about the strategic plan and your role in it?

Our board passed it in May and my job now is to lead the implementation of it; it’s not to implement it, and that’s a really important distinction. This is our plan, this is Chautauqua’s plan; somebody needs to drive the bus and make sure we’re staying on point, we’re following a plan — a process — we’re moving forward.

We’ve never had a vice president of strategic initiatives before, and the whole point was to have somebody who doesn’t have a programmatic responsibility to be able to drive that bus. My job is not to make the decisions, it’s to facilitate the planning around how we’re going to implement this and put tactics around the strategies.

How will the strategic plan be accessible to Chautauquans?

There are listening sessions every week. … They’ll be similar to, if people were here last summer, when we did listening sessions around what should go into the plan. This is a time where we’ll present the plan, we’ll talk about the plan and we’ll hopefully hear people’s thoughts about it and reactions to it.

And then just hopefully, informal conversation. This, to me, is a really exciting plan, and I’ll be surprised if people don’t want to engage about it on their porches and on a bench in the middle of Bestor Plaza. I think people will be talking about it informally, and, like I said, if one of my goals for the summer is just to be here and to be out learning, I hope that I’ll be engaging in some informal conversations with folks, too.

Is there one week or event that you’re particularly excited to experience?

I could not pick a favorite, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. That’s what I love about Chautauqua. I’m a person who has a lot of interests; I like to laugh so there’s a comedy week, I like to explore the idea of grace, I like science. There’s no one week in particular for me; they’re all really fun.

How would you describe Chautauqua to other people?

I would tell them it’s a place where seekers come to meet other seekers and to give themselves the time and the space to truly think, feel, play, conserve and engage with themselves and the world in a way that I just don’t think we get to do enough anymore. If that interests you, then you’ll love it here.

The Strategic Plan Informational Sessions will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and IDEA Listening Sessions will be at 3:30 p.m. on varying days. The Master Plan Informational Sessions will be biweekly at 3:30 p.m. on varying days; all platforms will be held in the Hall of Christ. Check the Daily program for specific days and dates.

Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the strategic plan through the online forum at

Leland Lewis Takes on Athenaeum Hotel’s General Manager Role

New General Manager of the Anthenaeum Hotel, Leland Lewis, sits infront of the hotel with his dog, Rosco, who stayed with him during the winter while he made changes to the hotel for this 2019 season. SARAH YENESEL/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER


Walkingaround the Institution grounds before the beginning of the season, sounds of construction echoed up and down the streets. The sound of power saws, beams of wood and trailers coming in and out before the season begins are a normal occurrence, but this year there was a larger project underway. 

The historic Athenaeum Hotel is undergoing changes, not only physically but also in its leadership.

Operating continuously since its completion in 1881, the hotel has seen thousands of guests and staff, but not many like Leland Lewis who, as of November 2018 and following the departure of longtime manager Bruce Stanton, is the new general manager of its halls. 

Lewis floats through the hotel, walking earnestly with purpose and an air of concern, always wondering what could be done or where he might be needed. Before discussing his plans for the hotel, he offered refreshments and asked a question.

“Do you want me to get the dog?” Lewis asked, referring to his Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Roscoe. 

The pair are inseparable — Roscoe followed his owner throughout the winter as Lewis fixed things up around the hotel in the quiet, snowy months. Lewis noted the specifics of the small changes and their overall impact on the hotel. 

Lewis has been working in hospitality throughout his life. After studying abroad in Moscow and St. Petersburg, he began working in restaurants, bringing him into the world of hospitality.

He has had a career in hospitality for over 30 years, traveling the United States with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts to help manage hotels in New Orleans, Chicago and Cleveland, and assist in opening a hotel in Montreal. His most recent endeavors include being the executive director of patient support services at the Cleveland Clinic where he was hired to translate his skills in hospitality and guest services. Lewis also was manager of the Teddy Roosevelt Hotel and the historic Downtown Association of New York City. 

Now Chautauqua feels like home to him. After leaving New York City, a friend called him to talk about a possible job opportunity. After hearing the name Chautauqua, he knew exactly what he was in for. Lewis, after moving to Cleveland in 2002, had met and began vacationing with a family who regularly stayed at the Institution during the summers. He wandered the grounds and was naturally drawn to the Athenaeum. Noticing small things at first, he loved the hotel, but wanted to add his own touch. Once the opportunity to work at the Athenaeum came, there was no way he could pass it up.

But it would take time, and a lot of work for his vision to be realized.

“You see that little tissue box?” he asked. “It’s a tissue box, but it’s also a stack of books; an athenaeum is a place where you store books.”

These small, laser-focused changes, Lewis said, are what will begin to set the hotel apart and attract more guests. Other changes are underway as well, with a longer plan set up to follow in the upcoming years.

The usage of apps like OpenTable for restaurant reservations to bring in outside community members has been an important aspect of hospitality to Lewis. Apps like OpenTable grant people who could otherwise not afford a gate pass three hours to eat, drink and experience a Chautauquan landmark.

“During the season we want to give them an opportunity to come in here and sit on this porch, have a glass of wine, eat dinner and not be prohibited because of the gate pass,” Lewis said.

As he began to detail the staff changes and other restaurant facelifts, Head Chef Edward Work, almost on cue, walked by and gave a happy wave across the field. Lewis said his idea of kitchen support, a plan of hiring new workers to manage the kitchen, work payroll and taking pressure off the head chef will uncomplicate the inner workings of a high-pressure area of the Athenaeum.   

Even as Lewis talked, floorboards were laid, beams were repainted, and Chautauquans wandered around, admiring the work. With a gargantuan amount of work before Saturday’s deadline contractors hummed through with speed.

He has left no stone unturned in terms of renovations and does not plan to stop in the next two to three years. He has proposed the addition of mobile bars, making for easier services during evenings, parties and weddings as well as other events such as Amphitheater entertainment, and easing the stress on the current bar staff. Other plans include replacing porch furniture, cleaning out areas below the porch, extending it to the side of the restaurant and stripping and fixing support beams for the overhanging roof.

“It’s a unique environment; I’m going to start brand new,” Lewis said. “It’s the adage of ‘how do you eat an elephant?’ And it’s one bite at a time. So we’re making the refinements, we’ll continue to do that. There’s a lot of energy you can feel, you’ll sense it when you come.”

Operations Team Finishes Off-Season Construction

  • From left, Alexis Rodenbaugh, Amy Smith, and Hayden Burgeson from the Chautauqua grounds crew plant shrubs Wednesday, June 19, 2019, around the Miller Edison cottage. VISHAKHA GUPTA/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

From decorative additions to complete renovations, Chautauqua Institution faced over 40 construction projects this off-season.

Despite the magnitude of these changes, John Shedd, vice president of campus planning and operations, said this year’s workload did not compare to previous projects the Institution has completed.

“It has been a busy off-season for us, for sure,” Shedd said. “It is a fairly big year, but it’s not way out of normal proportion. If you compare it to when we did the Amphitheater, it’s nothing. I try to remind myself that if we can take that on, we can basically do anything.”

Shedd said regardless of the specific project, the priority was preserving historic features while adding modern conveniences to “further enhance the Chautauqua experience.”

“We always maintain the historic elements by strictly following the guidelines for historic preservation,” he said. “Those guidelines allow you to upgrade things for modern use as long as you preserve certain elements of it. We do our best to consult with the right people to make sure everything is aligned with those guidelines before moving forward on any project.”

With winter weather conditions continuing through late spring, exterior construction was frequently delayed. The completion of these projects would not have been feasible without the Institution’s contractors and their willingness to work around the clock, according to Shedd.

“Our crews are amazing, literally miracle workers,” Shedd said. “We can turn to our contractors at any time, even the last minute, and it still all gets done. None of this would be possible without them. We’re very fortunate to have such hard-working people on our team. They’re the reason I am always optimistic about our ability to be ready when those gates open.”

Schedd said the biggest changes to the Institution are as follows:

Main Gate and Ticketing Offices

In order to improve circulation, the ticket windows have been shifted to one side of the building. The other side has limited entry points and now houses office spaces. Additionally, new floors were installed. To preserve its historic value, the same architect who first renovated the building from its original use as a train station was hired for the project.

Roads and brick walks

Roads such as Palestine and Miller Avenues, along with Turner entrance, have all been repaved. Since it is not possible to repave them all at once, roads were evaluated on a need-based spectrum. The roads with the highest pedestrian, bicycle and scooter traffic were completed first to assure maximum safety. With transit roads, it depended on the severity of damage. In addition to roads, brick walks were re-leveled near Odland Plaza and Clark Walk, and between the Amphitheater and Janes Avenue. 

Odland Plaza

New, interactive smart screens will be installed in Odland Plaza. The smart screens will take the place of the wooden kiosks that used to sit outside for the purpose of posting announcements. From now on, people will need to contact the Department of Marketing and Communications to get their announcements electronically posted. In addition to those smart screens, two new flat screens will be installed by Smith Memorial Library.

Hultquist Center

The Hultquist Center is now home to the Poetry Makerspace, in the space previously held by the CLSC Veranda. With the Hultquist being a hot spot for meetings and public presentations, a new design was implemented to more clearly delineate the audience space and the speaker space on the porch. The two levels of the building were also re-leveled for ADA compliance.

The Octagon

The CLSC Veranda, in the meantime, has moved to the Octagon, now the CLSC Octagon. Interior damage to plaster and wainscoting was repaired and the building is now insulated to make it useable year-round. New air conditioning was installed to protect the product, along with an acoustic ceiling and lighting.

Plaza Market

As part of the strategic plan, the Chautauqua Foundation hired several new employees. To create more office space to accommodate the new hires, the wall in between the former market and the Colonnade was removed. The Plaza Market has now relocated in the Colonnade, into the space that previously housed the Poetry Makerspace. New flooring and wall finishes were added as well as a renovated bathroom for ADA compliance.

Miller Edison Cottage

To restore the garden outside of Miller Edison Cottage, a philanthropic auction took place in which donors bid to contribute to different components of the design. The original landscape was designed by one of the very first female landscape architects in the country. A copy of her design was used along with the historic preservation guidelines to decide how to restore the garden and choose plants suitable for the local environment. In addition to that, new stone pathways were placed.

Children’s School

A new indoor/outdoor pavilion was created to replace the old structure outside the Children’s School. The new pavilion is much larger and will now allow programming to be implemented on-site. Even though the pavilion is not attached to the Children’s School, a historic preservation architect was consulted to ensure the new pavilion will be complementary.

Even though these changes are still in the rearview mirror, Shedd is already shifting gears for the future. A master plan was created to identify the best use of the campus and highlight where his team should and should not build in the upcoming seasons.

Beginning July 3, Shedd will be presenting aspects of the master plan to the community every two weeks this season in the Hall of Christ.

Institution to Hold Various Information, Listening Sessions for Community Engagement with New ‘150 Forward’ Strategic Plan

Shannon Rozner

Chautauqua Institution is introducing a series of new forums for Chautauquans to engage with the “150 Forward” strategic plan — a compilation of overarching goals, key objectives and cross-cutting imperatives to launch the Institution into a renewed future and then forward another 150 years.

Institution administrators will host weekly Strategic Plan Information Sessions and IDEA — Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility — Listening Sessions and biweekly Master Plan Information Sessions throughout the summer. These sessions will replace prior years’ Wednesday Porch Discussions.

“Because we understand there’s work to do, and we believe the community should inform that direction of work, we thought it was important to listen before we continue to engage in that work,” said Shannon Rozner, chief of staff and vice president of strategic initiatives.

The IDEA Listening Sessions, led by Rozner and a consultant hired by the Institution, will be centered around open-ended questions designed to spark and facilitate discussion. Rozner stressed that these listening sessions should primarily consist of community members offering input on how to make Chautauqua more inclusive, diverse, equitable and accessible.

“We’re hoping we won’t talk nearly as much as the community does,” she said.

At the Master Planning Information Sessions, Vice President of Campus Planning and Operations John Shedd will present a wide range of possible, future uses for the grounds.

“The ideas that will be presented are guidelines — not strict, hard-fast plans — that will give us a roadmap to help us think thoughtfully about land use when we are planning future projects,” Shedd said. “The plan has had an energizing effect on many of the people who have seen it and we are confident that it will inspire us all as we look toward the next 150 years.”

The Strategic Plan Information Sessions will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and IDEA Listening Sessions will be at 3:30 p.m. on varying days. The Master Plan Informational Sessions will be biweekly at 3:30 p.m. on varying days; all forums will be held in the Hall of Christ.

Additionally, Chautauquans can voice concerns, leave comments or ask questions about the strategic plan through the online forum at

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