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July 15, 2014

Foundation President Colin G. Campbell honored with Chautauqua Institution President’s Medal

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. – The Chautauqua Institution Monday bestowed its President’s Medal on Colonial Williamsburg Foundation President and CEO Colin G. Campbell, recognizing his contributions to the unique educational center’s mission of lifelong learning.

Campbell is only the 29th recipient of the award, first issued in 1974 as the Centennial Medal to honor individuals who reflect Chautauqua’s spirit and purpose and who give back to the organization through their energies and resources.

Previous honorees include Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, biologist E.O. Wilson, and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice and former Colonial Williamsburg trustee Sandra Day O’Connor.

James A. Pardo Jr., chairman of the Chautauqua Institution’s Board of Trustees, presented the award on behalf of organization President Tom Becker, who was unable to attend the ceremony but reflected beforehand on Campbell’s legacy.

“As evidenced by the three major elements of his career — 21 years at Wesleyan, 12 years at Rockefeller Brothers, 14 years with Colonial Williamsburg — Colin Campbell plays the long game. His work at these institutions was not about short-term, personal gratification but about long-term sustainability, and a devotion and sincere depth of understanding of their mission and values,” Becker said.

“I admire in particular his work for Colonial Williamsburg, where, at his best and most expressive, he has led a vital institution in preserving its singular history while promoting and pursuing active, mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations such as Chautauqua,” Becker added. “Colin has spent his career in the genuine pursuits of public service, and he has done so passionately, intelligently, soulfully, effectively.”

The ceremony coincided with Campbell’s keynote address at the weeklong conference “The Egyptian Experience.” It is the second conference cosponsored with Colonial Williamsburg in their Emerging Citizenship series, which examines the conflicts between ideals and practical realities in periods of political and social upheaval.

The Emerging Citizenship series began in Williamsburg in February with “Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Challenging Times.”

The institutions’ partnership was born in 2006 when Campbell visited Chautauqua’s 750-acre lakeside campus for the first time to deliver an address on citizenship.

“I knew of Chautauqua’s reputation, its educational mission and its commitment to public discourse from early in my Wesleyan years,” Campbell said. “But only after participating in one of its programs did I appreciate what a remarkable place it is and realize the potential for a promising collaboration with Colonial Williamsburg.”

“Chautauqua explores the best in human values — the same values that informed the American concept of citizenship,” Campbell added, “an ideal that Colonial Williamsburg exists to further as well.”

Three years after Campbell’s first visit, the partnership was realized when Chautauqua hosted a co-sponsored weeklong event titled “The History of Liberty,” which featured conversations with McCullough and other top scholars and government figures, and presentations by Colonial Williamsburg’s historical actor-interpreters.

“I am deeply grateful to Tom Becker and the entire Chautauqua community for this signal honor,” Campbell said. “I consider it a testament to the rich partnership fostered by our two institutions, which have so much in common, especially our shared commitment to seeking ‘a more perfect union.’”

In January Campbell announced plans to retire after 14 years leading Colonial Williamsburg through the tourism and economic challenges that followed both 9/11 and the great recession of 2009. He directed an investment of $220 million to modernize hospitality facilities and oversaw expansion of programming to include interactive street theater and new media that leverage mobile devices and other digital technology.

The former president of Wesleyan University and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Campbell was elected to Colonial Williamsburg’s Board of Trustees in 1989 and served as its chairman for a decade beginning in 1998.

Mitchell B. Reiss, a former senior U.S. diplomat and now president of Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, has been appointed to succeed Campbell as president and CEO in October.

Established in 1874 as a summer educational camp for Sunday school teachers, Chautauqua quickly evolved into a non-denominational experiment in vacation learning and the center of a national adult education movement that continued through the early 20th century.

Today, Chautauqua hosts nine-week summer seasons of roughly 2,200 varied educational, artistic, religious and recreational programs – reflecting the four key areas of its mission — that attract more than 100,000 guests each year, about 7,500 of whom reside on its campus at a time.

The President’s Medal reflects the Centennial Medal design of H. Richard Duhme, first director of Chautauqua’s School for Sculptors. One side bears images representing education, religion, arts and crafts, music and drama, and nature and recreation. The other depicts Chautauqua’s Miller Bell Tower, named for founding benefactor Lewis Miller.

Media Contact:
Joe Straw