Sarah Gelfand | Staff Writer
The younger set of Chautuauqua Fund donors opened the 2011 Season by greeting old faces and meeting new friends at President Tom Becker’s cottage on Saturday evening. The Beckers held the reception to welcome the NOW Generation back to the Institution. The NOW Generation is a group of Chautauqua Fund donors who are less than 50 years old.
Guests mingled on the Beckers’ back patio as they swapped reminiscences of the Boys’ and Girls’ Club and summers working and interning in the Colonnade.
Katie Cooke opened up the reception by recounting her first day at Club; initially nervous as an 8-year-old, she ended the day with lifelong friends.
“Really, what Chautauqua means to me are the relationships I’ve made here, and that’s why I keep coming back; that’s the investment I’ve made here and with so many of you,” Cooke said. “I just hope all the things I learned at Chautauqua I can bring home to my community and help other people value the things Chautauquans value: lifelong learning, respect, kindness and open-mindedness.”
Many NOW Generation donors grew up at Chautauqua and find that their most important life experiences occurred on the grounds. Keith Rogers shared the story of his proposal, which took place on the lake, as well as his connection to the Institution.
“Boys’ and Girls’ Club, as a kid growing up here, instilled in me social skills and athletics,” Rogers said. “I didn’t know I could really swim until I started doing the tadpole thing. I won the first race I was ever in. In competitive swimming and in Club Olympics, Group 4 boys still hold the record for discus.
“In my adult life, in my college years, I spent some time at Club as a counselor, and to this day, literally, it’s been my favorite job of all time. Both the people that I worked with and the kids and being part of a community like this is so special and so rare, especially in today’s day and age. If there’s anything that I can say to everyone to inspire them … that is to keep that alive.”
Rogers looked to the Fourth of July holiday as an added inspiration to give.
“I think it’s appropriate that here we are, and a lot of us come here to celebrate the Fourth of July, and we come to celebrate our country and to celebrate our freedom,” he said. “‘We the people’ is what our country is about and what Chautauqua is. You have an opportunity to participate, just as our founding fathers did when they pledged their lives and their honor to each other, and that’s what we get to do here. I encourage you to participate in our community and engage in it; that’s what makes it so special and helps to build for further generations of Chautauquans.”
George Murphy, vice president and chief marketing officer, then spoke about the Institution’s new marketing strategy. Joined by Laura Taflinger, who is leading Chautauqua’s videography staff this summer, Murphy explained how the Institution was investing in new media in order to reach out to potential Chautauquans.
Becker concluded the program by recalling Partners In Health Co-Founder Paul Farmer’s Week One speech as he discussed the importance of community. Becker focused specifically on Chautauqua’s unique environment and its residents’ responsibility to share their meaningful Chautauqua experiences outside the Main Gate. Looking to his guests, Becker challenged the NOW Generation members to think of Chautauqua in a larger sense while thanking them for their financial and emotional investment in the Institution.
“I ask you for all the affection you feel about this for yourselves, to think about the larger concept and value of this place,” Becker said. “I thank you, I really do thank you for your generosity of spirit, the way in which you connect with one another, for the way in which the dialogue of this place runs through your lives in such a rich and remarkable sort of way. I welcome you back to Chautauqua and I hope your time here this summer is as it was when you were a little kid playing in the ravine.”
That image of childhood on the grounds of Club resonated throughout the reception; the conversations notably focused on the impact Chautauqua has made in the lives of the attendees. The members of the NOW Generation are aware and appreciative of the importance of the Chautauqua experience and intend to make a difference both within and outside the Institution for years to come.