News & Announcements

Chautauqua Community Mourns Passing of Jared Jacobsen

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Dear Friends of Chautauqua Institution:

We learned yesterday of the tragic passing of our beloved Jared Jacobsen, Chautauqua’s organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music for nearly 25 years, and someone who proudly proclaimed himself a lifelong Chautauquan. Jared was involved in a car accident in Geneva, Ohio.

While we await formal word of Jared’s wishes, we know our community is grieving this unspeakable loss. Many have described Jared and the music he masterfully created with the iconic Massey Memorial Organ at the Chautauqua Amphitheater as the “heart and soul” of Chautauqua. This sentiment speaks not only to Jared’s talent, but of his ever-presence during our summer assembly season, his untiring love for music, and his generous willingness to share his passions with Chautauquans across generations. His music ushered in each day, heralded the noontime and afternoon hours, and closed each Sunday evening of the summer assembly, keeping the time of a timeless community.

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Three Taps of the Gavel Address: ‘Camp Meeting Commences’

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed Chautauquans gathered for the season's final Sacred Song Service with the traditional Three Taps of the Gavel Address to close the 2019 Chautauqua Assembly on Sunday. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below. (Photo by Dave Munch, Chautauqua Institution multimedia producer)


“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
—T.S. Eliot

Our organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, Jared Jacobsen, has dubbed this evening “Camp Meeting is Over” and The Chautauquan Daily headline reminded me that my job tonight is to declare that this is so. This final Sacred Song Service each summer season lends itself well to this narrative. The day’s sun has slipped beneath the horizon, hints of autumn can be felt in the air, and our beloved Amphitheater is far too empty. The Saturday crowds have left the grounds and a new group has not come to take up residence on “change over day.” And the likelihood that a gentle bark from one of our furry puppy Chautauquans will puncture the proceedings is far less than it was just a few nights ago.

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President Michael E. Hill Opens 146th Chautauqua Assembly with ‘Three Taps’ Address

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Following an introduction to Chautauqua Institution’s new strategic plan, 150 Forward, President Michael E. Hill on Sunday morning tapped a historic gavel three times to officially open the Institution’s 146th Assembly. Hill’s “Three Taps” address, marking the traditional and formal start to a Chautauqua season, was titled “Walking the Tightrope Between History and Innovation,” and gave Chautauqua community members gathered a synopsis of the recently approved strategic plan, including a strong rebuke of hatred and bigotry. The remarks preceded the Institution’s popular Sunday worship service, which this particular morning featured a historic twist — for the first time at Chautauqua, the sermon was delivered by a rabbi chaplain in residence, Rabbi Sharon Brous, senior and founding rabbi of IKAR in Los Angeles.

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Anjali Sachdeva's "All the Names They Used for God" Wins 2019 Chautauqua Prize

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Author Will Give Public Reading at Chautauqua Institution on Aug. 16

Chautauqua Institution is delighted to announce Anjali Sachdeva’s All the Names They Used for God: Stories (Spiegel & Grau) as the 2019 winner of The Chautauqua Prize.

As author of the winning book, Sachdeva receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a summer residency at Chautauqua from Aug. 12 to 16, 2019. A public reading will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, in the Hall of Philosophy on the Institution’s grounds. 

Sachdeva said she was “incredibly grateful for all Chautauqua Institution has done to celebrate the arts and their potential to enrich our lives. To me, the Prize represents not only an amazing honor, but key support that will help me to continue writing.” 

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Board of Trustees Extends President Michael E. Hill’s Contract

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Hill to Pursue Doctoral Degree

The Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees has extended President Michael E. Hill’s appointment for three years, through Dec. 31, 2021, following its annual review of presidential and institutional performance last month. Hill, who was appointed in 2016 and began his work at Chautauqua on Jan. 1, 2017, is the 18th president of the nearly 150-year-old Institution.

“Michael has met or exceeded all of our expectations in his first two years of service, and he has outlined an ambitious agenda for the future of our beloved Institution,” said James A. Pardo Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees. “The Board approved his contract extension with great excitement and anticipation for the future.”

Hill and others currently are in the final stages of a comprehensive and collaborative strategic planning process that is outlining the Institution’s priorities over the next five to 10 years. As part of this process, Hill’s vision to expand Chautauqua’s impact beyond the summer assembly season and beyond the grounds of Chautauqua’s historic campus has been tested and reaffirmed. The plan is scheduled to be approved by the Board in May and released to the community in June.

“It has been a true honor to engage with the Chautauqua community and to understand its aspirations and potential in the world,” Hill said. “I am thrilled by the Board’s confidence in my leadership and vision, and I look forward to building on the extraordinary experiences and conversations that we convene here on the grounds during the summer months and to also bring them to a world that is calling for Chautauqua’s multidisciplinary brand of positive, action-oriented dialogue and engagement.”

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Seasons Greetings from Chautauqua, 2018

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Dear Chautauquans,

Many of you know that as President I am incredibly fortunate to work from an office that overlooks Bestor Plaza. This is a grand vantage point in any season, and especially as night falls late in the year, when the Winter Village lights paint our picturesque town square in the colors of the season. I’m reminded of the first stanza of “Day is Dying in the West,” a staple of our summertime Sacred Song Services: 

Day is dying in the west,
Heav’n is touching earth with rest,
Wait and worship while the night
Sets her evening lamps alight
    Through all the sky.


Today is the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, and as we approach the longest night of the year, it’s comforting to celebrate and appreciate anew that which brings light to our lives.

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A Message of Thanksgiving from Chautauqua

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Like many of you, I look forward tomorrow to gathering around a table with loved ones — for me at the President’s Cottage at Chautauqua — to share and partake in a most cherished tradition. At many Thanksgiving gatherings it is customary to begin the meal with a brief prayer or blessing, to “say grace,” as we put it at my table. It is a simple act, but one that is so profound: an expression of thanks for a nourishing meal, for those who prepared and share in it, and any number of the countless blessings in our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately, and not just in the Thanksgiving context. It’s the reason we have a whole week devoted to it in 2019. The description for that theme begins: “Be it emotional, physical or spiritual, grace takes many forms. It exists in the way we treat one another, the way in which we move through the world, and the way in which we use our gifts, our grace, to lift up others.”

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Prayers for Pittsburgh, from Chautauqua

Chautauquan Daily photo by Ruby Wallau

Dear Chautauquans,

We were all shocked and horrified by the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this past Saturday. A faith community, a city and a nation mourn and grieve and, as a community, all at Chautauqua stand with them and you in prayer and togetherness. To our Jewish brothers and sisters and our Pittsburgh neighbors: May you feel the warm, global embrace of your Chautauqua family as together we seek out a path for healing. And as we remember the lives lost and begin to heal from this unthinkable tragedy, all too common in these troubled times, let us renew our collective commitment to sowing more love, kindness and compassion in our neighborhoods and world.

May the names of those who have lost their lives be long remembered …

Shalom,
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Michael E. Hill
President

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Community Update on Chautauqua Lake Conservation Efforts

Dear Chautauqua Institution Property Owners and Other Interested Citizens:

Thank you for your continued attention to and concern for the health of Chautauqua Lake, which is fundamental to the livelihood of Chautauqua Institution, our community and our neighbors all around the lake shore. I write today to share the latest developments in our efforts to ensure responsible conservation of the lake.

At a hearing on Oct. 25 in Erie County, State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek asked attorneys for Chautauqua Institution, the Town of Ellery and Chautauqua Lake Partnership to encourage their clients to pursue mediation as a potential means of resolving the litigation regarding the Chautauqua Lake Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). Justice Siwek suggested the mediation involve representatives of the named parties, their counsel and mutually agreed upon legal and technical consultants to attempt to work through the disagreements on the content and sufficiency of the SEIS. Attorneys for Chautauqua Institution immediately indicated willingness to participate in mediation.

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Chautauqua Lake Advocates Learn from the Lake George Experience

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In order to benefit from the lake and watershed conservation experience of another lake community in New York, Chautauqua Lake stakeholders including representatives of Chautauqua Institution, SUNY Fredonia, and Chautauqua County government earlier this month visited Lake George, New York, where an innovative new model for lake and watershed management is working to save and maintain one of New York’s most famous lakes. Lake George has faced similar environmental concerns as Chautauqua Lake and most of New York’s fresh waters, including the negative impacts of human activity in its watershed and infestations of aquatic invasive species.

The Chautauqua group on Oct. 10 spent a full day with the leaders and researchers of the Jefferson Project, a public-private partnership that uses sound, validated science to spur decisions that have greatly improved the lake’s health and water quality.

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The Nonprofit Crystal Ball: What Does the Future Hold?

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed the annual Nonprofit Networking Day conference hosted on Oct. 17, 2018, by the Cattaraugus Community Foundation at St. Bonaventure University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below.

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be with you for this gathering of some of the most important leaders in our region. The nonprofit sector is not only an important economic and social driver in communities across our nation, but I believe this sector also represents the heart and soul of our communities.

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Matt Ewalt named Vice President, Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill announced the appointment of Matt Ewalt to the position of vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, effective Sept. 24. Ewalt has served Chautauqua in various capacities since 2006, most recently as chief of staff. 

In his new role, Ewalt continues to lead the Institution’s 10:45 a.m. Amphitheater lecture platform, and now also oversees education, youth and literary arts programs. The change comes as part of a leadership reorganization to, in part, better resource the lecture platform and work related to developing the weekly program themes for Chautauqua’s summer season.

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Matt Ewalt Named Vice President in Institution Leadership Reorganization

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Matt Ewalt, who has served Chautauqua as chief of staff at Chautauqua Institution since 2017, has been named vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. In this role, Ewalt will continue to lead the 10:45 a.m. lecture platform and theme development work, and will also oversee education, youth, and literary arts programs.

The change comes as part of a reorganization to, in part, better resource the lecture platform and theme development work. David Griffith’s contract as vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education ended as part of this reorganization.

“Following a thorough organizational analysis, which included input from members of the Board of Trustees as well as outside organizational experts, it was determined that we needed to change the way Chautauqua Institution is staffed at the executive level to address a number of priorities,” said Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill. “We are grateful to David Griffith for his service over the past year, during which we achieved increased engagement in youth programs and exciting new partnerships and programs in education and the literary arts.”

The Institution will seek to fill the now-vacant chief of staff position, responsible for implementation and monitoring of the Institution’s strategic plan, and will be creating a new position to oversee development of youth programs, under Ewalt’s leadership.

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President Michael E. Hill Delivers Annual Closing Three Taps of the Gavel Address

Photo by Dave Munch

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed Chautauquans gathered for the season's final Sacred Song Service with the traditional Three Taps of the Gavel to close the 2018 Chautauqua Assembly. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below.

Tonight we share an evening surrounding a Pilgrim’s Hymn. As pilgrims, immigrants all to this sacred place, please pray with me:

Eternal Friend,
grant me an ease
to breathe deeply of this moment,
this light,
this miracle of now.

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President Michael E. Hill Delivers the President’s Address to the Bestor Society

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed a gathering of the Bestor Society on Aug. 5, 2018. The President's Address is traditionally the highest-profile speech the Chautauqua president delivers during the Chautauqua season. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below.

My heartfelt thanks to each of you for spending your Sunday afternoon here and for representing some of Chautauqua’s truest friends.

It is an honor to gather with you in this magical environment with this picturesque view of our beloved lake behind us, in the shelter of this tent to shade us from the sun, and serenaded by the exquisite sounds of a chamber ensemble that exemplifies the promise of Chautauqua and of the future of artists and artistry.

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President Michael E. Hill Delivers Remarks at the 10th Anniversary Rededication of the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua

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Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed a gathering of Chautauquans on July 31, 2018, at the rededication and 10th anniversary celebration of the Everett Jewish Life Center at Chautauqua. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below.

It’s a joy to be here with this esteemed group of speakers and all of you. A very special thank you today to Rich and the board of the Everett Jewish Life Center, to my friend and predecessor Tom Becker, and with an abundance of gratitude to Edith Everett and your family for bestowing on the Institution this incredible gift, which has nourished our community for the past decade and stood as a symbol of welcome.

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The Long Game of Chautauqua Lake Conservation

The following was submitted as an op-ed to Chautauqua-area media outlets on June 1, 2018.

The herbicide permits granted to the Town of Ellery and other lake municipalities recently by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to control weed growth in selected areas of Chautauqua Lake, and the process leading to the issuing of the permits, have raised significant concern among many regional citizens, including Chautauqua Institution and many of the 1,190 private property owners on the Institution grounds. Our concerns center on the general ecology and sustainability of the lake, including our dependence on it for drinking water, recreation and, more broadly, regional economic development. 

The Institution’s leadership team has closely followed and formally responded to the herbicide application process, including the Town of Ellery's application for Lead Agency Status and the related Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). In order to do so in the most responsible way possible, we hired outside scientific experts and legal counsel to advise and support our engagement in this process. Our goal has been to become informed about the perspectives of the various Chautauqua Lake organizations and municipalities, to stay up to date on the NYSDEC’s own research and investments in lake care and management, and to advocate for a collaborative, scientifically supported long-term approach to lake care and management.

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Elevating Civil and Interfaith Dialogue in Communities: Finding Common Ground in an Age of Discord

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill addressed a gathering of Chautauquans on April 17, 2018, at South Franklin Circle in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. His remarks as prepared for delivery, with light edits, are provided below.

I bring you greetings from a Chautauqua Institution community that is preparing to remove its porch wraps and launch the Institution’s 145th season on June 23. As we busily complete a few remaining lecture and entertainment bookings, we are also in the process of inviting our community members to help us frame the next strategic plan for Chautauqua.

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As We Look Ahead, a Collective Wisdom and Hope

Portraits of all 18 Chautauqua Institution presidents is now on display in the hallway leading to current president Michael E. Hill's office in the Colonnade.

There is a new addition to the hallway leading to my office door in the Colonnade, a tribute to all the men — and I look forward to the day we will say “men and women”! — who have been fortunate enough to serve as president of the Institution. As many of you know, I am fond of referring to myself as the 18th president of Chautauqua as a reminder that 17 others came before me, but there is something about this tribute wall to I find particularly moving. As I glance into the faces of my 17 predecessors, I see both a wisdom gleaned from being formed by our beloved Chautauqua and those who populate it year after year, and also an earnestness, an expression of hope on each face of what is to come for the person who is lucky enough to sit in that unique chair.

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Season's Greetings from Chautauqua, 2017

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I've been thinking a lot in recent months about neighbors. Having good, thoughtful neighbors is, I believe, an underappreciated joy in modern life — we're all fortunate in the Chautauqua community to have so many wonderful ones. Neighbors are usually not our family and, for myriad reasons, don't always become our friends, but they are important relationships that require work to establish and maintain a mutual sense of respect and dignity. Our communities are made better when we approach strangers as new neighbors, not as the Other.

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