President Tom Becker to retire
at year's end
January 5, 2016
Let me begin by wishing you a very happy new year. I hope 2016 is a year of good health, intellectual growth, spiritual awakening, creative expression and compassionate contribution.
In short, I hope your experience of this New Year will embody the best of the values of Chautauqua Institution.
I also write to share some personal news. Jane and I have thought deeply about our time at Chautauqua and particularly about the inevitable conclusion to what has been a long and remarkable time in service to this Institution. We have decided that 2016 will be the final year I will serve as president of Chautauqua Institution. There are a number of personal and organizational reasons for this decision that I would like to share with you.
From an organizational perspective we are fast approaching the conclusion of the strategic plan that seeks to ensure the sustainability of this grand undertaking. The Promise Campaign, designed to stimulate the development of programmatic and physical infrastructure with gifts totaling over $98.2 million, will conclude at the end of 2016. Notably, within the campaign, the renewed Amphitheater and the endowment of facilities and key staff and artistic positions are statements about the security of assets into the future. Outside of philanthropy, the investments in the Athenaeum Hotel ensure structural integrity, steady renovation and operational innovation. The annual care of the streets, walkways, gardens, and trees has increased dramatically. The transition of leadership within religion, the arts and operations have secured the necessary talent and energy needed to manage the forward development of Chautauqua. These achievements are breathtaking in their scale and in the confidence, vitality and capacity of our work that they reflect.
These achievements also call for a broad and deep conversation about what lies ahead. Indeed, the Institution’s success in these endeavors requires us to think critically and creatively about the next phase of the Institution’s advancement. It is therefore the appropriate time to seek leadership that will help develop that vision and steer the articulation and achievement of a new strategic approach.
From a personal perspective, 2016 will begin my 32nd year in service to Chautauqua. I will have had the distinct privilege of serving the last thirteen as president. The work has been demanding, challenging and creative. The people I have worked with at the board, staff and volunteer levels have, to a person, shared an emotional and intellectual commitment to the sustainability and betterment of the Institution. My life has been enriched beyond measure by the extraordinary talent, integrity and character of the people who grace our various stages and platforms. And there is simply no better view of our capacity as a nation to come to grips with the complexity and challenges of our time than the one I have enjoyed from the platform watching you, all of you Chautauquans, engage with ideas, art and matters of faith. You bring your life experience, critical reasoning, commitment to ideals and the courage to challenge your own beliefs to these programs. You affect how the presenters process their views and you lift my confidence in the ultimate capacity of reason and faith to lift the human condition.
I remain convinced that Chautauqua Institution offers our complex and dangerous world a model of assembly and learning that in its practice holds the promise of reasoned and faithful progress for individuals and society at large. And I am confident that the time beyond my service will shine as the finest in our long, rich history. There is much to do during the coming year. I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities 2016 will bring and I look forward to seeing all of you at Chautauqua.
About Tom Becker
Tom Becker became the 17th president of Chautauqua Institution in November of 2003. He joined the Institution in 1985 as vice president of development. In this role and later as chief executive officer of the Foundation he oversaw the growth of the Foundation into a professional fund-raising organization achieving over $100 million in support of the Institution and successfully guided a capital campaign to build and endow Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall and the Bratton Theater, among others.
Programmatic initiatives during Tom's tenure at Chautauqua include the five-year people-to-people exchange with the Soviet Union and the decade-long Abrahamic Initiative that promotes dialog among Christian, Muslims and Jews on critical topics. He has established partnerships with organizations like Colonial Williamsburg, Sesame Street and National Geographic and collaborations with Ken Burns, Roger Rosenblatt and Sandra Day O’Connor. Under Tom's leadership, the future will move the Institution to the digital age, with a cutting edge multi-disciplinary approach to brand management and viral marketing to engage a broader population in civil dialogue on the great issues of the times.
Tom received his bachelor’s degree from Xavier University and his Master of Public Administration from Indiana University. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. In 2005, he was awarded the Lifelong Learning Award from Teachers College, Columbia University. Tom was recently appointed by the governor to a one-year term on New York's Tourism Advisory Council. He is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE); member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP); and a director and investment chair of the Lincoln Institution of Land Policy. He is the former chair of the Arts Council of Chautauqua County and the Hospice Board of Directors.
He is married to Jane Cleaver Becker and has three daughters, Culleen, Erin and Molly, and three granddaughters, Sophia, Mia and Olivia.