Five Giants of Chautauqua stand to be honored at final Heritage Lecture

At the close of each season since 2006, five Chautauquans, either living or dead, have been  recognized for their singular dedication and service to the Institution.

In their own way, every one of them has made significant contributions to the character of the community and won a place in the hearts of those who live, visit and work here. This year’s honorees for the 11th annual Giants of Chautauqua are no exception, in that they are all exceptional Chautauquans. At 3:30 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy, they will be recognized in the last presentation of the season’s Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, “Five More Giants of Chautauqua.”

Jon Schmitz, the Institution’s archivist and historian, chooses the five honorees with the input of other Chautauquans. Five prominent members of the community speak about the accomplishments of the inductees. No one may be honored more than once.

This year’s presenters and honorees are John Turner, Warren Hickman, Rich Moschel, Lynn Moschel and Sherra Babcock.

John Turner

The Turner Community Center on West Lake Road has provided a bridge between Chautauqua’s summer season and people and the Institution’s year-round population. That’s fitting because John Turner, for whom the facility is named, provided that same kind of bridge during his many years as principal of the Chautauqua Central School and as an active member of the community, while living and raising his family on the grounds.

John Turner

The community center, the Institution’s only year-round recreational facility, features a swimming pool, fitness training, gyms and classrooms. It opened in June 2001, built on the site of the former John Turner Elementary School, also named for Turner, who helped get it built in 1969. His daughter, Suzanne Turner, will talk about his life and contributions.

“The school was the social hub of the community,” she said. “There were basketball games and band concerts. Students came from both the grounds and the surrounding area. In those days, Chautauqua was less expensive, and a teacher’s family and other families could afford to live on the grounds.”

Turner was the supervising principal of the Chautauqua Central School from 1941 to 1969 and an active member of the Chautauqua community who played a leading role in a number of countywide civic organizations, including the Lions Club and the Boy Scouts, Suzanne Turner said. He was a longtime member of Hurlbut Church and the fire department, and he and his family lived year-round at the corner of Emerson and Massey.

For 20 years, Turner ran a summer school program on the grounds for both local children and the children of families staying at Chautauqua for the summer, and he helped bring the Syracuse University Extension Program to Chautauqua. He was also a member of the New York State Board of Regents and the State Commission on Education. He died in 1987. 

Warren Hickman

Warren Hickman, who died in March 2016 at the age of 94, was a legendary Chautauquan who spent a lifetime of summers on the grounds.

He was the first group counselor of the Boys’ Club and taught hundreds of Chautauqua children how to swim, according to his friend Clemens Reiss, who will speak about him. Hickman won a Bronze Star in Europe, serving as part of Eisenhower’s Supreme Allied Command during World War II.

Warren Hickman

Reiss will fondly recollect a litany of stories about his friend, including the time Hickman, at age 13, attended Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “I Hate War” speech at the Amphitheater. As people were standing four deep, Hickman moved park benches from Bestor Plaza and rented them for 50 cents.

Over 65 years, Hickman delivered more than 50 lectures, including 17 at the Amphitheater and 11 from the Hall of Philosophy, Reiss said. And that was in addition to countless Special Studies talks, mainly on international relations. He served 28 years on Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees, from 1957 to 1985.

Hickman also was passionate about lawn bowling, and could be found on the bowling green four or five days a week, even into his 90s, Reiss said.

“What most of us remember about Warren is he always had an encouraging word to anyone he met,” Reiss said. “He rarely disagreed with anyone, but if he did, Warren had a remarkable ability to make the other person feel good.”

“Warren was always a gentleman,” he said.

Rich Moschel

Rich Moschel became a volunteer firefighter when he was 59 years old. He would get up in the middle of the night or leave a concert in the Amphitheater to go out on calls for a fire, heart attack or other emergency. And that is just one remarkable achievement in a life filled with them.

Following a successful career as salesman, corporate trainer and consultant in the textile industry in Buffalo, where he was active in Temple Beth Zion, Moschel threw himself into the life of the community at Chautauqua after he and his wife, Lynn, moved here to live year-round in 2001.

He was elected to the Chautauqua Utility District and served 12 years as its treasurer. He became vice president, and then president, of the Hebrew Congregation of Chautauqua. He also planned the development of the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua, and could be seen at its construction site on Massey every day for a year before it opened, in 2008.

Rich and Lynn Moschel

Yet, while Moschel is well known for his tireless advocacy, and for baking a mean challah, it is his strength of character that truly defines him, according to his longtime friend Arthur Salz, who will introduce him this afternoon.

“The two big things about Rich are that he has always had a tremendous sense of responsibility toward his community and a fierce commitment to his family,” said Salz, a retired professor of education at Queens College who has spent each summer at Chautauqua since 1969.

That commitment and responsibility were tested in January of 2013, when Lynn, Moschel’s beloved wife, whom he married in 1968, suffered a devastating accident that injured her spinal cord and left her paralyzed. The two of them made up their minds to overcome this tragedy and, to an extraordinary degree, they have. Countless hours of rehabilitation work at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and many more in the gym at the Turner Fitness Center have led to Lynn’s partial recovery. The unbreakable spirit both she and husband have shown indicates that she will continue to improve.

Lynn Moschel

Lynn Goodman Moschel has been just as committed to her community and family as her husband, Rich. They first discovered Chautauqua in 1973, after they relocated to Buffalo. The Moschels bought a condo in 1983 and then a house in 1997, settling there year round in 2001.

“Lynn embodies all of the lovely and good qualities that we are seeking in ourselves,” said her friend Maureen Rovegno, the associate director of the Department of Religion, who will introduce her at this afternoon’s ceremony. 

A librarian, Moschel volunteered her time at the Children’s School in the 1990s. When the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua opened in 2008, she established its library and organized Henry Everett’s collection from the Jewish Book Council.

She also became passionately involved in Chautauqua’s year-round community. On the grounds, she served for nine years on the Opera Guild, organized community dinners and seders, started a knitting group and worked with the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. And she volunteered off the grounds in a second-grade classroom at Chautauqua Lake Central School, in Mayville, for 10 years. 

The traumatic injury that she suffered in a fall four and a half years ago slowed Moschel down, but it did not stop her. Initially classified as a paraplegic, she was told by her doctors that she would never walk again. They must not have had any inkling of her heart and will and spirit. With the love and support of her husband and their two children, Michael and Lauren, Moschel has made enormous progress. Her courage and determination have been exemplary, her many friends say.   

“To see Lynn now walking is to suspect the pain that she has endured to make this feat a reality, and to know the strength of character and the love for life and for Rich and for their family that her rehabilitation manifests,” Rovegno said.

Sherra Babcock

There are few Chautauquans as beloved as Sherra Babcock, longtime vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, who will retire in October. And there are even fewer Chautauquans who have had such a deep, wide-ranging impact on the life and character of the Institution.

Sherra Babcock

Under Babcock’s direction, Chautauqua’s lecture program has evolved as a diverse platform exploring contemporary issues, attracting prominent voices on a range of topics. She helped establish program partnerships with cultural and educational organizations like the National Geographic Society, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Sesame Workshop, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among many others.

The Institution’s standing and impact in the literary world has grown markedly through Babcock’s vision and efforts, from fostering emerging poets and writers through the Chautauqua Writers’ Center to cultivating relationships with prominent authors and poets through a revitalized Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.

She will be introduced by Matt Ewalt, the associate director of education and youth services, who will assume the new role of chief of staff of the Institution in the coming weeks.

“I would point to her areas of impact as talent in building programmatic excellence, with a focus on lifelong learning, particularly in the literary arts, and her ability to think of the broader picture of Chautauqua as a place for readers and writers,” Ewalt said.

“Sherra models what a lifelong learner can be, both here and off the grounds,” he added.

Perhaps Babcock’s most lasting legacy, Ewalt said, has been her establishment in 2012 of The Chautauqua Prize, an annual, national book award that, over the course of just six years, has already attracted nearly a thousand entrants. Its winners have included Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan; My Foreign Cities, by Elizabeth Scarboro; the National Book Award-winning Redeployment, by Phil Klay; and The Fortunes, by Peter Ho Davies. 

“As a mentor at Chautauqua, she has provided guidance and support to the people who work with her and for her,” Ewalt said. “I think I speak on behalf of the department and the senior leadership that all of us found incredible joy in working with her.”

Tags : five more giants of chautauquaHall of PhilosophyOliver Archives Heritage Lecture Seriesweek nine

The author David Geary

David Geary has been a reporter and editor for more than 40 years. He retired in 2015 from The New York Times, where he was the late-night news editor. He also has worked for The Boston Globe and other newspapers. He currently freelances for the Times and for The Trace, a nonprofit journalism website focused on gun violence and gun policy in America. He lives in Westfield with his wife, Karin Henry.