As we enter a season filled with family, friends, fellowship and reflection, I wanted to take a moment to thank you. This is an extraordinary time for Chautauqua Institution. In the past year, Chautauqua has experienced monumental change and achievement — we've successfully closed a nine-figure capital campaign, delivered the most ambitious building project in our modern history, and realized promising growth in long-term attendance. Also in that span, it was my great honor and privilege to begin work as your 18th president. Now we embark upon a bold new shared vision to raise Chautauqua's prominence in our national conversation. None of this would be possible without extraordinary generosity and outsized investment of so many members of our community.
Amid these tectonic shifts, though, are thousands of small, daily moments that also speak to this community's spirit, and to the goodness and importance of this institution's work. They are as unassuming as your silent but riveting presence at a student piano recital, a friendly greeting to passing strangers on the brick walk, or listening thoughtfully to a lecturer or neighbor with differing views. These moments affirm the young artist's choice to explore their potential in an uncertain but incredibly rewarding career path, make this place accessible and welcoming to newcomers, and deepen our understanding of and empathy toward others.
We live in "troubled times," as Linda Greenhouse noted in her 2017 lecture on the Supreme Court. Fortunately, Chautauqua remains a model — not separate from the world, but offering a different approach — of civility even in disagreement, of intellectual and artistic rigor, of intentional, quiet reflection. After nearly a year as your president, I find myself only further convinced of the need for more Chautauqua in our world, for this work and model to achieve increasingly wider influence. I'm thankful to you for the important role you play in our story, and for carrying our spirit and work outward into your daily lives.
May your Thanksgiving be alive with merriment, and this new holiday season filled with reminders of the blessings in your life.
All my best,
Michael E. Hill
P.S. I take all of your goodness with me as Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno and I join an interfaith delegation from Western New York to Israel next week. The goal of our trip is certainly to learn and to listen, but it is also to find the commonalities, not the differences, among three of the world’s largest faith traditions. We ask for your prayers that we represent Chautauqua’s ideals of seeking first to understand rather than to be understood, and that this pilgrimage help inform a greater understanding of Chautauqua’s role in healing a broken world.