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From 1933 to 1936, the future of Chautauqua Institution was at significant risk. As the United States' economy entered and remained in a great depression, visitors and gate revenues decreased at Chautauqua. Carrying significant debt from the expansion of program and facilities throughout the 1920's, Chautauqua faced forfeiture on its loans. Chautauqua entered receivership in December of 1933. Under the leadership of Samuel Hazlett and a number of other leading Chautauquans, the Chautauqua Reorganization Corporation, an independent corporation which sought to acquire all claims against the Institution, undertook an active fund raising effort.

Hazlett's efforts were ultimately successful and by the end of the 1936 season, the debt had been retired and Chautauqua was released from receivership. Those who had been central to Chautauqua's recovery agreed in early 1937, to create the Chautauqua Foundation, another separate organization. As opposed to the Reorganization Corporation's charge to retire debt, the Foundation would seek to build a permanent set of assets that could be used to support the future work of the Institution. In May of 1937, the Foundation was incorporated and in August of that summer, the first annual meeting of the membership was held. The members elected Walter Roberts President.

Accumulation of assets within the Foundation proved difficult initially. The Foundation did not hold $1,000,000 of endowment principal until 1958. It took another thirteen years to reach $2,000,000.

The assets of the Foundation began to grow more rapidly throughout the 1980's as Chautauqua undertook a series of comprehensive campaigns which asked for endowment and began to highlight the opportunities of giving through bequests and charitable life income trusts.

In 1991, the Foundation and Institution agreed that the Foundation would become responsible for all fund raising and the development staff and operations were transferred to the Foundation. In 2001, Thomas M. Becker became the first full-time chief executive officer of the Foundation. Prior to that time, the volunteer chairman of the Board of Directors served as President of the Foundation.

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P.O. Box 28
One Ames Ave.
Chautauqua, N.Y. 14722
Institution website

Chautauqua Institution is a non-profit organization, dependent upon your gifts to fulfill its mission. Gate tickets and other revenue cover only a portion of the cost of your Chautauqua experience. A community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state, Chautauqua Institution comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. Visit our website for more information.