Chautauqua Institution News & Announcements

David Griffith Named Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education

Chautauqua Institution to Grow Youth Programming

Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill today announced the appointment of David Griffith to the position of Vice President and Emily & Richard Smucker Chair for Education effective Sept. 1. Griffith is currently Director of Creative Writing for Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, Michigan.


Griffith will replace longtime incumbent Sherra Babcock who will retire following the close of the 2017 Chautauqua season. He will manage and provide administrative leadership for Youth Programs, Special Studies, the Smith Memorial Library, Chautauqua Archives, the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC), the Writers’ Center, and a comprehensive Literary Arts Program that includes the Chautauqua (literary) Prize. As a collaborative team member in planning Chautauqua’s core nine-week season, Griffith will also be a key strategist in implementing the vision of Chautauqua Institution, which includes expanding the reach and length of Chautauqua’s impact, especially through digital engagement.

At Interlochen, Griffith is credited with dramatically reinventing the creative writing program, comprising a pre-professional arts boarding school and a summer arts camp for young people. Through his leadership, the program has experienced significant increases in enrollment and prestige. Prior to his work at Interlochen, Griffith was an Assistant Professor of English at Sweet Briar College for six years. He has held other university posts and served as Director of Creative Writing at the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts. 

In addition to his work at Interlochen, Griffith is Chair of the Associated Writing Programs Caucus for K-12 Educators and was the Founding Director of the Blue Ridge Summer Institute for Young Artists at Sweet Briar, among other posts. He is the author of the acclaimed book A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America, which received critical acclaim from, among others, The New York Times Book Review. He is completing his second book, Pyramid Scheme: Making Art and Being Broke in America. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame, and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Pittsburgh.

“In all programs, Dave has introduced innovative approaches to educating and engaging young people achieving both enrollment and retention success,” Hill said. “His career experience spans service to young children through college-age young adults, which is what we’ve asked him to reimagine here at Chautauqua.”

Griffith’s appointment is part of a comprehensive plan to strategically grow youth programming and engagement to secure and build upon Chautauqua’s distinctive multigenerational experience. The plan will also bolster the Institution’s longstanding legacy of excellence in literary arts. A national search for the new Director of Literary Arts is underway.

“I am humbled and deeply honored to be named Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education at Chautauqua, an institution that occupies such a storied place in American arts and culture,” Griffith said. “I look forward to working with President Hill, the Chautauqua staff, and generations of Chautauquans to expand the Institution’s role as a place where diverse thinkers and diverse audiences convene to build knowledge and understanding together.”

“As we prepare to welcome Dave and his extraordinary prowess and energy to our team, we will use every opportunity during the 2017 season to celebrate Sherra Babcock’s tremendous leadership and service,” Hill said. “Sherra has helped us to imagine the future potential of education, literary arts and lecture programming at Chautauqua, calling us to add staff and resources to realize a significantly expanded vision.”

As part of the plan, Associate Director of Education and Youth Services Matt Ewalt will be promoted Sept. 1 to the role of Chief of Staff, reporting to Hill. Among other leadership and administrative duties, Ewalt will lead the lecture platform planning and programming. A longtime Chautauqua County resident, Matt served from 2007 to 2013 as Editor of The Chautauquan Daily and concurrently as Publications Editor and then Director of Communications for the Institution.

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