Having married into Chautauqua, Faust finds a place to grow family roots


Sylvia Faust poses on the front porch of her home at 17 Ames. Photo by Demetrius Freeman.

Sarah Gelfand | Staff Writer

At 9:30 a.m., Sylvia Faust’s grandchildren are all down at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and Faust has a rare quiet moment. For most of the summer, this year-round Chautauqua resident has a full house.

Faust’s two children and five grandchildren spend much of the season with her, and she channels their energy into her own volunteer work on the grounds. Faust, a Chautauquan for almost a half-century, serves on the Chautauqua Foundation’s planned giving committee.

Originally from Beaver Falls, Pa., Faust lived in West Palm Beach, Fla., for 40 years and worked as a special education teacher before settling permanently at Chautauqua in 2001. Her late husband, H. David Faust, grew up spending his summers at the Institution, and in 1967, Sylvia visited for the first time.

The family bought a house in the fall of 1974 and started staying at Chautauqua soon after.

“From then on, the children and I came all summer,” Sylvia Faust said.

Soon, Chautauqua became a full family affair.

“My parents came, too,” she said. “They all helped when we bought this house to renovate. We had no money, but we had lots of people.”

When she’s not “dog-sitting or grandchild-sitting,” Faust said she spends much of the nine-week season serving on the house committee of the Presbyterian House and on the Wensley Committee for more than 12 years.

“The (Wensley) was in really bad shape, and it’s been a huge improvement thanks to Mrs. Hagen’s support,” Faust said, referencing Susan Hagen’s donation to restore the former Wensley Guest House, where Chautauqua’s program guests stay.

Most days, Faust can be found at the 10:45 a.m. lecture or the symphony concerts, which she especially enjoys. Several years ago, Faust and her children gave a practice shack in memory of her late husband.

“My son John had a sign put in it that says, ‘Hey Dad, bet you didn’t think we’d appreciate this classical stuff,’” Faust said. “When they were young, we required them to go to the first 30 minutes of the concerts.”

During the off-season, Faust extends her volunteer service outside of the Institution’s gates. For at least a decade, she has served on the board of the Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation, which provides low-income housing.

Faust is also active in Habitat for Humanity International.

“I got interested in Habitat years ago when (founder) Millard Fuller came here to speak,” Faust said. “So then, I started doing some work with them, and I’ve taken several Habitat trips abroad.”

Combining her love of travel with her commitment to service, Faust has charted the world with Habitat for Humanity, traveling to Eastern Europe, Oceania, the Middle East and Africa. She often finds herself in less-than-stable places when she travels with Habitat, such as South Africa, which she visited four years after the end of Apartheid.

“My last trip was to Jordan two years ago,” Faust said. “At that point, my son said to me, ‘Do you know there’s a war in the next country?’ And I said I wasn’t going to worry about it. I like traveling with a purpose in mind.”

Faust works with Habitat locally, as well.

“We’re just starting a new house in Mayville,” she said. “We finished one last August, and we are also doing one in Silver Creek. There are a number of Chautauquans who do work for Habitat,” Faust said.

Among her various commitments on the grounds, Faust spent eight years as a member of the board of trustees at Chautauqua.

Now, as a member of the three-year-old Planned Giving Committee, Faust asks Chautauquans to help ensure the future of the Institution by remembering Chautauqua Foundation in their will or other estate plans. Faust’s experience as a tax-preparer certainly helps in this way. She enjoys the service element of her work on the committee but also the many friendships she forms with the Chautauquans she meets.

“This Institution is not going to survive without philanthropy, and planned giving is part of that,” Faust said. “I joined the committee because I think it’s important for people to give. Making a planned gift is a good way for people to do that, particularly for those who can’t give an amount now.”

Faust has given back on her own and not just in time and energy. Twenty years ago, Faust made her own planned gift by making Chautauqua Foundation a beneficiary of a charitable remainder trust. After her lifetime, a portion of the trust value will be added to her late husband’s endowment fund for Chautauqua.

“I think giving is very important; the Chautauqua program couldn’t go on if people didn’t give more than just their gate ticket,” Faust said.

Often fitting up to 12 family members and friends in her house, Faust serves as a true Chautauqua hostess, ensuring the Chautauqua experience continues for others.

“I want to see another 138 years of Chautauqua, and I have grandchildren who might be around for a good deal of that time,” Faust said.

Because she made Chautauqua a beneficiary of a charitable remainder trust, Faust has become a member of the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society, a group of Chautauquans who have remembered the Foundation in their will, trust or other life-income gift arrangement. For more information on how you can include Chautauqua in your estate plans, contact Karen Blozie, director of Gift Planning, Chautauqua Foundation, at 716-357-6244 or email kblozie@ciweb.org.