About Us /
From the President
Welcome to Chautauqua Institution’s website, a resource designed to introduce you to the remarkable array of experience and opportunity available on these historic grounds, where each summer we dedicate ourselves to the exploration of the best in human values and to the enrichment of life.
In 1874, this institution was created on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York to serve as a resource for lifelong learning. Responding to the great need for information in the lives of Americans—who at that time were largely finished with schooling at a young age—Chautauqua hosted a gathering of people of all ages from throughout the United States and Canada.
Today this Institution—while reflective of its history in much of the architecture and many of its rituals—responds to a modern need for access to meaning: to affix the flood of information in our lives into a context and to consider the ongoing necessity of sparking an imaginative understanding of our proper place in the world around us.
The stimuli to imagination within the Chautauqua experience invoke the intellectual, creative and spiritual aspects of life. You’ll find dynamic expression across generations, disciplines and ideologies. There is an experience of community here that has value beyond the immediacy of the experience into the conduct of the rest of your life.
Bring an open mind, a hungry soul and a willingness to wonder. Your rewards will be outstanding.
Welcome to Chautauqua Institution.
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.