Nancy and Steve Bass spend first full season at Chautauqua, join Bell Tower Society

Nancy & Steve Bass

Like many Chautauquans, Nancy and Steve Bass enjoy attending lectures and taking classes on varying subjects. One speaker who has struck them over their 23 years of coming to Chautauqua is Dan Ariely, James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.

The couple of 46 years makes a point to attend Ariely’s lectures whenever they are a part of the programming, but also have read additional studies of his. One aspect of his work that intrigued the Basses was Ariely’s take on “the pain of paying.” According to Ariely, there is a moral tax associated with consumption. When people pay for something, the timing and method of payment affects the enjoyment that people get out of their consumption.

Throughout their years at Chautauqua, Nancy and Steve Bass have joined the 1874 Society, comprised of Chautauquans who gift $1,874 to $3,499 a year to the annual fund, and have volunteered to serve as advocates raising money for the Chautauqua Fund. When the couple was recently approached about joining the Bell Tower Society, or making a recurring monthly gift to the fund, they saw it as a convenient way to offer their support.

“(The Bell Tower Society) is a very practical way of maintaining our contributions (to Chautauqua),” Steve Bass said. “I think it is an example of decreasing the pain of paying.”

The Basses are New York City natives currently residing in Cleveland who, up until this year, have spent brief amounts of time at the Institution every summer for more than two decades. They have owned a house south of the Institution for 19 years and think the more time they can find to spend at the Institution, the better.

“A week is great, two weeks are better, three weeks are really a lot better, and maybe a summer would be unbelievable,” Steve Bass said. “We both have responsibilities back in Cleveland, so we’ve been traveling back periodically every couple of weeks, but we get our mail here, so this is home for the summer.”

Nancy Bass said the couple is “busy all day long” as they dive into lectures to learn from speakers like Ariely, but they appreciate more than just the programming at the Institution.

“We come over by boat every morning, which has been a lot of fun,” Nancy Bass said.

The Basses said their morning routine has been an important part of their experience at the Institution. Before they ride their boat over for another day of activities, Nancy Bass goes to the gym and Steve Bass goes for a bike ride. This portion of their day starts at 6:30 a.m., which then includes coffee, reading and getting ready for the day until 10:15 a.m.

During their first full season at the Institution this summer, Nancy and Steve Bass were particularly interested in the week on Russia. They loved hearing from speakers like journalist Masha Gessen, Sen. Chris Coons, former Ambassador William J. Burns and other speakers throughout the week.

More recently, they were captivated by Arthur Brooks, president of American Enterprise Institute, who gave a lecture in the Amphitheater about work, life and happiness. Like Ariely, the Basses have heard Brooks speak at the Institution before and now seek to dive into other aspects of his work.

The couple said they have enjoyed everything this season. The Institution has brought them a great deal of joy, and they are happy to continue donating.

“It’s important for us to (contribute to the annual fund),” Nancy Bass said. “We have a certain amount of money we want to allocate toward charities and (other things) every year, and we did some revamping because Chautauqua’s really important to us. So this is one of our big contributions for the year.”

For more information on how to join the Bell Tower Society or volunteer as an advocate for the Chautauqua Fund, contact Leah Stow, assistant director of the Chautauqua Fund, at 716-357-6405 or

Tags : Bell Tower SocietyChautauquansNancy BassSteve Bass

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.