CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. — Michael E. Hill, currently the president and CEO of Youth For Understanding USA, will be Chautauqua Institution’s 18th president, the Institution’s Board of Trustees has announced. Hill is an experienced leader of arts, cultural and social service organizations including Washington National Cathedral, The Washington Ballet and United Cerebral Palsy. Youth For Understanding USA is one of the world’s oldest, largest and most respected intercultural exchange programs.

“We are absolutely thrilled that Michael is coming on board. He is a high-energy, visionary leader who understands how to balance tradition and progress,” said Chautauqua Institution Board Chairman James Pardo. “Michael has already logged an incredible track record of success for a person of his years. His unique background will help Chautauqua Institution connect more deeply with the community, reach new audiences and expand our exposure on a national and international stage.”

Hill has a rich, diverse work history with a variety of organizations. In addition to holding senior management positions at several nonprofits, he has extensive experience in fundraising, programming, marketing and communications. He is an international educator and founding faculty member of the Master of Arts Management program at George Mason University, and in 2016 served as an Aspen Institute Non-Profit Leadership Fellow.

Among his achievements, Hill directed a $125 million expansion of the historic Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., securing the largest single gift ever made to a theater in the United States. At St. Bonaventure University, he oversaw the construction of a new museum complex, the addition of an artistic residency center and the quadrupling of programming at the university’s multi-venue arts complex. During his college years, he served for a time as assistant editor for The Chautauquan Daily, and later served for several seasons as a guest critic for symphony and theater while serving as Director of The Quick Arts Center at St. Bonaventure University.

“This is an incredible opportunity to help an internationally recognized, highly respected institution leverage its strengths to engage Chautauquans in new ways and to find new audiences,” Hill said. “I am honored, and I am humbled. I am passionate about Chautauqua Institution’s history and the incredible diversity of its programs. I look forward to reconnecting with the CHQ I remember, and listening and learning so we can raise the Institution’s visibility and further enhance its astounding reputation.”

Following Tom Becker’s retirement announcement earlier this year, the CHQ board appointed a committee chaired by George Snyder, immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees, to launch a rigorous national search to find a successor. The Institution retained executive search consultants Russell Reynolds Associates, which conducted a comprehensive leadership needs assessment with CHQ senior staff, the Board of Trustees, Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors, major donors and other stakeholders. “Michael emerged as the unanimous selection of the search committee from a pool of incredibly talented and diverse candidates. Our search process reaffirmed the national prominence of the Institution,” said Snyder.

Hill succeeds Becker, who is retiring at the end of 2016 after 13 years as president. The two will work together in the weeks ahead to ensure a seamless transition and an exciting beginning to the 2017 season.

“We thank Tom Becker for his historic service, and we look forward to Michael Hill’s leadership and the perspective he brings from his previous positions,” Pardo said. “Since its beginnings in the 1870s, Chautauqua Institution has had a succession of dynamic, inspirational leaders driving the Institution forward. With a new president, and with a new Amphitheater about to debut, it is truly an amazing time to be a Chautauquan.”

A native of Norfolk, New York, Hill, 42, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at St. Bonaventure University, where he is a member of their Board of Trustees, and a master’s degree in arts and cultural management from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. He will begin his work at Chautauqua Institution on January 1, 2017.


Click here for Hill’s full bio and portrait.

Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce Off the Radar: A Father’s Secret, a Mother’s Heroism, and a Son’s Quest (Blue Rider Press) by Cyrus Copeland as the 2016 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.

As author of the winning book, Copeland receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for himself and his family for a one-week summer residency at CHQ from Aug. 7 to 13, 2016. He will host a public reading and a book signing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10, in the Hall of Philosophy.

Copeland received news of the Prize while abroad, preparing to embark on the Camino de Santiago which, he said, “makes this the first time a blessing was delivered before a pilgrimage.”

"I'm grateful to the book lovers and tastemakers at CHQ,” Copeland said, “and humbled to be in the company of other great authors.”

Off the Radar is a story only Copeland could tell — that of his American father arrested in Iran for spying at the time of the 1979 hostage crisis, then put on trial for his life in a Revolutionary Court. Off the Radar is a memoir and mystery, a spy story and a tale of the relationship between father and son. The book is “an intriguing story well told,” CHQ readers said, lauding it as being an “outstanding” work of “timeless and timely material.”

Copeland attended Haverford College and Villanova University, and received his MBA from Cornell. He is a former advertising executive and the editor of two collections: Farewell, Godspeed: The Greatest Eulogies of Our Time and A Wonderful Life: 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit. Copeland has appeared on NPR and the BBC and has written about his experiences and the art of remembrance for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Slate and The Huffington Post.

The Chautauqua Prize, this year awarded for the fifth time, is an annual prize that celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. Previous winners include The Sojourn, by Andrew Krivak (2012); Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, by Timothy Egan (2013); My Foreign Cities, by Elizabeth Scarboro (2014); and Redeployment, by Phil Klay (2015).

Details on The Chautauqua Prize are available online at Books published in 2016 will be accepted as submissions for the 2017 prize beginning in September 2016.

With a history steeped in the literary arts, Chautauqua Institution is the home of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, founded in 1878, which honors at least nine outstanding books of fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry every summer. Further literary arts programming at CHQ includes summer-long interaction of published and aspiring writers at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center, the intensive workshops of the nationally recognized Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, and lectures by prominent authors on the art and craft of writing.


National Historic Landmark was Home of Chautauqua Co-Founder; Hosted President Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.
The Chautauqua Foundation has acquired the Lewis Miller Cottage, a National Historic Landmark and the only structure on the Chautauqua Institution grounds to carry that National Park Service designation. Thomas B. Hagen, a longtime Chautauquan, has been working for more than a year with Foundation and Institution leaders and the cottage’s owners, Miller descendants Ted Arnn and Nancy Kim Arnn, to enable CHQ to acquire the property.

“When the cottage was put up for sale, I felt that the proper steward of this National Landmark should be CHQ itself,” said Hagen. “I’m thrilled that all the parties involved made this acquisition a success for everyone.”

In addition to his gift to allow for the purchase of the cottage, Hagen has committed to match, dollar for dollar, up to $150,000 in donations from the community. These gifts will be used to establish an endowment for the future maintenance and care of the cottage.

“This is a rare and incredible gift to CHQ, and I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Tom Hagen, and to Ted and Kim Arnn for making this dream a reality,” said Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker. “We intend to preserve the Miller Cottage as it stands today. We will be working closely with a highly regarded preservation architect to evaluate the condition of the home, identify possible uses for it, and develop an ongoing preservation plan.”

To undertake the preservation program, the Foundation has hired Jeff Kidder, AIA, a preservation architect and partner at Erie, Pennsylvania-based Kidder Wachter Architecture & Design. Kidder, who has more than 20 years of professional experience, will also work with the Institution to carefully research and document the structural evolution of the cottage from 1875 to present and to identify code improvements needed for possible future uses.

The cottage was built in 1875 for the co-founder and first president of the Institution, Lewis Miller, an inventor and businessman from Akron, Ohio. President Ulysses S. Grant visited the property that year. Miller’s daughter, Mina, also spent summers at the cottage with her husband, Thomas Alva Edison. The Swiss-style structure on lakefront Miller Park is an excellent example of “stick style” architecture popular in the late 1800s. Considered one of the earliest prefabricated structures in America with components produced and assembled in Akron, the cottage has gone through numerous renovations, expansions and systems upgrades over the past 130 years.

Of particular interest to CHQ is documenting the extensive gardens that were developed in the 1920s and working toward their restoration. Mina Miller Edison hired a pioneering landscape architect, Ellen Biddle Shipman, to design the Miller Cottage gardens in 1922. Elements of the original design can be seen today, although modifications have been made over the decades.

The Lewis Miller Cottage was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 4, 1966.

(Chautauqua, N.Y.) — A local partnership team consisting of Chautauqua Institution, Jamestown Public Schools and the Chautauqua Lake Central School District  has been named among 10 new inductees in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education Program. Leaders from the three institutions will attend the 14th Partners in Education Institute from April 27 to April 30. The Institute promotes partnerships between arts organizations and local schools in communities across the nation, focusing on the development of education programs for teachers. The Chautauqua County team joins teams from Carmel, California; Naples, Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Mason City, Iowa; Flint, Michigan; Wilmington, North Carolina; Wooster, Ohio; Houston, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas, as new inductees.
“We are elated to be recognized by the Kennedy Center and to build upon Chautauqua Institution’s  engagement with local schools,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president and director of programming at Chautauqua Institution, who has also served as a National Workshop Leader for the Kennedy Center since 2008. “Through this and projects like the Young Playwrights Project and arts-integrated residencies for students with and without disabilities, the Institution is committed to being an arts education resource in the lives of Chautauqua County children and their families. The goal for this partnership was set two years ago as a result of the Institution's strategic plan which outlined a desire to reach our community beyond the summer season and beyond the gates. Working with superintendents Ben Spitzer and Tim Mains has been an honor and I'm excited about our joint future in serving children through the arts."
“We are thrilled to deepen our partnership with Chautauqua Institution and to benefit from the staff development available through the Kennedy Center,” said Tim O. Mains, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools. “By feeding our teachers new ideas and approaches, we will nourish the students they serve.”
“The Chautauqua Lake Central School District is extremely fortunate to have a well-developed, long-standing and vibrant relationship with Chautauqua Institution,” said Benjamin Spitzer, superintendent of CLCS. “This latest partnership moves the needle from excellent to outstanding, as we bring in the expertise and unique perspective of the Kennedy Center. We are very excited to take this journey together with Chautauqua Institution and our new partners in Jamestown.”
While at the Kennedy Center, each team develops a plan customized to their community for the partners to establish or expand arts-based professional development programs for teachers. Teams receive a detailed planning guide, attend performances, and meet with national education leaders and guest artists while at the Kennedy Center. The new teams will join the current 95 teams from 41 states and the District of Columbia already participating in the Partners in Education program, now in its 25th year. At the Institute, participants will examine the variety of educational offerings for teachers developed and refined at the Kennedy Center since 1976.
The newly selected teams met the criteria for selection by effectively demonstrating the potential for the arts organization and school system to commence or further grow programs for teachers and the stated commitment by both partners to collaborate on developing programs.
Since its establishment in 1972, the Kennedy Center’s Education Division believes the inclusion of the performing arts in a broad-based curriculum improves the quality of a child’s educational experience. The Kennedy Center’s Education Division is committed to its leadership role in promoting higher standards of national performing arts education programs and policy. For more information about the participating teams and the Partners in Education program, visit
Chautauqua, New York
Chautauqua Institution
Chautauqua Lake Central School District
Jamestown Public Schools
Carmel, California
Sunset Cultural Center Inc.
North Monterey County Unified School District
Naples, Florida
Artis – Naples
Collier County Public Schools
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola Opera
Escambia County School District
Mason City, Iowa
North Iowa Area Community College Performing Arts and Leadership Series
Mason City Community School District
Flint, Michigan
The Whiting
Swartz Creek Community Schools
Wilmington, North Carolina
UNCW – Office of the Arts
New Hanover County Schools
Wooster, Ohio
Wayne Center for the Arts
Tri-County Educational Service Center
Houston, Texas
Alley Theatre
Fort Bend Independent School District
San Antonio, Texas
The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
North East Independent School District
The pre-eminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 people visit CHQ and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages — all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village. Smithsonian magazine named CHQ the No. 1 “Best Small Town to Visit in 2014” in the cover story of its April 2014 issue.

Tom Becker Leaves Three-Decade Legacy at Historic Center of Arts and Ideas

Chautauqua Institution President Tom Becker is announcing his retirement, effective at the end of this calendar year, 2016. Becker has served as the 17th President of Chautauqua Institution since November of 2003.


Tom has devoted nearly half of his life and 100 percent of his energy to Chautauqua Institution. He and his wife Jane have spent substantial time thinking this important decision through, and their decision is a joint one I respect,” said James A. Pardo Jr., chair of the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. “His wonderfully solid and progressive work over three decades has stabilized the foundation on which the Institution stands so that it can move forward into the future. We cannot begin to express our gratitude to Tom for his vision, creativity and tireless dedication to Chautauqua Institution and its ideals.”


Pardo said the Board of Trustees would begin work immediately to launch a nationwide search for Becker’s successor, and will provide regular updates to Chautauquans as the process unfolds.

Tom Becker joined Chautauqua Institution in 1985 as Vice President of Development for the Institution, and Vice President of the Chautauqua Foundation. He later served as Executive Vice President for Development of Chautauqua Institution and as Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation. As CEO, Becker oversaw the growth of the Foundation into a professional fund-raising organization achieving over $100 million in support of the Institution and successfully guided campaigns to build and endow Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall and Bratton Theater.

As president, he steered the Institution through the financial crisis of the late 2000s and positioned it for long-term sustainability. Most recently, Becker successfully led the effort to raise $41.5 million in philanthropy for the renewal of the Chautauqua Amphitheater, a project scheduled for a grand opening at the start of the 2017 season. His presidency has seen the success of two capital campaigns including the current Promise Campaign, a six-year initiative raising $98.2 million to be invested across the Institution’s programs, people and physical plant.


Programmatic initiatives during Becker's tenure at CHQ include the five-year people-to-people exchange with the Soviet Union and the decades-long Abrahamic Initiative to promote dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews on critical topics. He has established partnerships with organizations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Sesame Workshop and National Geographic Society and collaborations with Ken Burns, Roger Rosenblatt and Sandra Day O’Connor. Under his leadership, the Institution has moved into the digital age, with a multi-channel approach that engages a broader population in the work of CHQ and in civil dialogue on the issues of our times. He has also been responsible for critical hires in key staff positions, most recently, the directors of CHQ's religion and arts departments.


“The breadth and depth of Tom’s innumerable contributions to the CHQ community is extraordinary,” Pardo said. “We look forward to celebrating Tom’s many accomplishments. We have a strong leadership team in place to carry the torch and we will be truly excited to see how Tom’s successor leads the Institution into the future.”


“It has been my honor and privilege to serve Chautauquans at this great institution. The work we do together today nurtures and embraces a learning-centered life, and we move forward together with hope and optimism,” Becker said. “I want to sincerely thank Chautauquans for their passion, energy and commitment to the Institution. It is my most ardent hope that they share their love of learning, intellectual stimulation and discourse, and love of Chautauqua Institution and all it stands for with future generations.”


Read Tom's letter to Chautauquans

The pre-eminent expression of lifelong learning in the United States, Chautauqua Institution comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Over the course of nine weeks, more than 100,000 people visit CHQ and participate in programs, classes and community events for all ages — all within the beautiful setting of a historic lakeside village. Smithsonian magazine named CHQ the No. 1 “Best Small Town to Visit in 2014” in the cover story of its April 2014 issue.