John Dilley gives back to Chautauqua by joining Daugherty Society

In 1875, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution Lewis Miller shipped his cottage from Akron, Ohio, to the grounds, according to Jeffrey Simpson, author and editor of Architectural Digest. It would later be dubbed the Miller Edison Cottage because his youngest daughter, Mina Miller, and her husband, Thomas Edison, bought it in the 1920s.

John Dilley

On Foster, longtime Chautauquan John Dilley lives in a house constructed in 1889 by other Akron natives who came to the Institution at the same time. In 1926, Dilley’s great-grandparents bought the property, and it has remained in his family ever since.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Dilley has been coming to the Institution for 72 years. He went through Children’s School, Boys’ and Girls’ Club, worked at the boat dock for five summers and has been involved in various activities on the grounds. He acquired many skills at the Institution, such as learning to swim and play golf, and he discovered interests like classical music.

In appreciation of his personal history at the Institution, Dilley began giving back through various philanthropy and volunteer activities. Last summer, he decided to join the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society, made up of Chautauquans who have included Chautauqua in their wills or estate plans.

Like other members of the society, Dilley wants to ensure the Institution’s future and always see it improve.

“(I hope) it keeps going and gets better,” Dilley said. “There’s always ways to improve. Look at the Amphitheater — that was a great improvement.”

Dilley decided to make the Chautauqua Foundation a beneficiary of his individual retirement account. He liked this option because of the flexibility it offers, in addition to associated tax benefits. In his years at Chautauqua, Dilley has donated in other ways, such as volunteering at the Chautauqua Property Owners Association, and he is looking forward to replacing the street lights at the Institution.

The lightbulbs currently in use are incandescent, which Dilley said are inefficient compared with other types of bulbs. He got involved with the Outdoor Lighting Committee four years ago, and its members have been working to replace all the street bulbs with LED lights.

“They’re dark-sky friendly, low trespass (and) efficient,” Dilley said. “They take 20 to 25 percent less electricity (than incandescent bulbs). They last 15 to 20 years, while the incandescents last less than a year.”

Aside from giving his time and resources to these causes, Dilley has made various memories at the Institution over the years and continues to enjoy the new experiences and programming every season. After he had a chance encounter with original “Saturday Night Live” cast member Laraine Newman, he and other Chautauquans took her on a boat ride to show her the area.

“I gave her the shoreline tour of the Institution from south to north,” Dilley said. “(I) pointed out the highlights, and then we cruised over to Dewittville because my brother was going to meet us over there.”

Dilley enjoyed Newman’s lecture, along with talks from speakers on the morning lecture platform. This season, stories from speakers like The New York Times’ David Brooks struck Dilley. He first heard Brooks speak at his alma mater, Ohio State University, and was excited to see him on July 5.

“After the lecture, I scooted back there real quick and got in line just to shake his hand and say hi again, and tell him how much I enjoy his work,” Dilley said. “Meeting these people and reading their books, it’s really kind of something that has come later in life for me. … That’s kind of an extra benefit (of coming to Chautauqua).”

For information on how you can become a member of the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society or help advance Chautauqua’s mission, please contact Dusty Nelson, director of gift planning, at 716- 357-6409 or foundation@

Tags : chautauqua institutionEleanor B. Daugherty SocietyJohn Dilley

The author Matthew Steinberg

Matthew Steinberg is a rising senior at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, studying communication arts, journalism, and Spanish. He will be copy editing for the Daily this summer, and in his free time enjoys spending way too much money at TJ Maxx, longboarding on roads that he shouldn’t and ranting about politics.