Banners give back by giving family cottage to Institution

Arthur and Barbara Banner, of Brunswick, Maine, pose on the porch of the cottage they are donating to Chautauqua. Photo by Eric Shea.

Sydney Maltese | Staff Writer

When Barbara Banner brought her husband, Arthur, to Chautauqua for the first time, she revealed to him not only the place of her fondest childhood memories, but also a world of culture in which he could discuss, learn and love just as she had.

The two were in their final years of medical school at the University of Rochester. Barbara, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and Arthur, from Bronx, N.Y., were brought up in different worlds, but it didn’t take long for Chautauqua to become a place they loved individually and together. Their daughter, Sarah, was married in the Hall of Philosophy by the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell.

Years later, the couple continue to visit Chautauqua each summer. In the morning and evening, they take their ritual walks around the grounds, never following the same path.

“In Chautauqua, you can take a different route, up and down the little streets, every day for an entire summer and always see something new, always hear music in the air,” Barbara said.

The real joy the Banners find in their Chautauqua experience, however, comes from learning. For Barbara, who learned even basic skills at Chautauqua while in Girls’ Club, and for Arthur, whose knowledge of music and art grew exponentially at the Institution, the morning lectures and surrounding conversations provide an opportunity to continue to learn and grow at any age.

“Chautauqua offers pros and cons on different issues that stimulate people to think and also helps them to see points of view opposite from theirs — to be a little more broad-minded about things,” Barbara said. “That’s very unique. You don’t see that in many places — a whole week of discussion on a certain theme, with all different viewpoints brought to bear on it.”

Barbara imagined their daughter, Sarah, and her husband and son coming for the summers just as she had as a girl. She and Arthur thought their grandson, Noah, might attend Boys’ and Girls’ Club and learn about sports, sailing and art on the grounds.

“As time passed, we realized that — for many reasons — it would be impossible for us to re-create the old dreams of spending a summer with grandchildren at Chautauqua,” Barbara said.

The Banners’ daughter lives in Seattle, and the Banners themselves live in Maine during the off-season.

The Banners planned a few years ago to make a deferred contribution to Chautauqua through their trust, but the difference in their familial situation from what they had originally planned made them decide to give their cottage to Chautauqua as well.

“Our ideas evolved, and we decided to give the house, which contained so many of our good memories, back to the source — the Institution,” Barbara said.

The Banners discussed their decision extensively with their daughter, Sarah.

“Because of the geography and the kinds of jobs that our children have, this idea that they’ll come out and spend the whole summer and send our grandchild to Club — it really is something from the prior generations. So we would have to think differently about it,” Barbara said. “People’s ideas about charitable giving change over time. It’s not a set thing.”

By leaving behind a gift of real estate, the Banners hope to ensure the continuation of the place that means a great deal to both of them. They retained the right to live in the house for a period of 10 years, after which it will go to Chautauqua.

“Chautauqua gave me all my ideas and all my skills and all the things that I learned in Girls’ Club. How to swim, how to sail, how to be a team member, how to play all the different sports. It gave me an appreciation of opera,” she said. “How does one account for a lifetime of memories which comprises one’s sense of place?”

Similarly, Arthur feels his time at the Institution expanded his own perspectives.

“I was brought up in the city and had little contact with music or art. So I got to appreciate the things that Barbara appreciated,” Arthur said.

The Banners feel that their gift reinforces their commitment to a healthy future for the Institution.

“Our hope is that Chautauqua’s mission to stimulate in-depth discussion without rancor and to expose people to ideas beyond the realm of their everyday experiences will continue into the future,” Barbara said.

Since making the decision to give back, the Banners have encouraged others to do the same.

“Charitable gifts are flexible, and they almost have a life of their own. You can keep working on it till it works best for both the Institution and for you,” Barbara said.

Arthur and Barbara Banner know that sometimes exploring a different route, be it on an afternoon walk or in a plan for the future, can lead to extraordinary discoveries.

Arthur and Barbara Banner are members of the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society, which recognizes those who have made a provision for Chautauqua in their will, trust or by making Chautauqua a beneficiary of an IRA, or other retirement account, or through a gift of real estate.  For more information on how you can include Chautauqua in your estate plans, please contact Karen Blozie, director of gift planning, at 716-357-6244, or email