For Webb, Chautauqua offers ‘buffet’ of enrichment

Rachael Le Goubin | Staff Photographer
Chautauquan Jo-An Webb currently serves on the scholarship committee for the Women’s Club. She has previously been a part of committees for Chautauqua, including the Chautauqua Fund, the Chautauqua Opera Guild and Friends of Chautauqua Theater Company. She also is a graduate of the CLSC Class of 1992.

“I’m a Chautauquan, through and through,” Jo-An Webb said.

Sitting on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, Webb detailed how she spent her past 40 years at Chautauqua, as well as her plans for the future.

Webb has made an impact on Chautauqua through her active involvement in organizations across the grounds over several decades, and she’s increased her investment in the Institution by investing in Chautauqua’s pooled life income fund.

Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Webb was living in Ohio when a friend told her about Chautauqua. Webb came to Chautauqua for the first time in the 1960s with her four children, returning every summer and eventually buying a house in Wahmeda. Webb now lives in Sarasota, Florida, but she heads north annually for the Chautauqua season, joined by her children as well as her nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Webb is largely responsible for the presence of Unity Church on the grounds. Some years ago, she selected the visiting Unity Church ministers.

“They call me the founder,” she said. “I went to Unity Church in Erie and a friend and I said, ‘There should be a Unity House here.’ At that point, I had just bought a house, and my children weren’t able to come, and we started meeting at my house. Over the years, we have grown to have a different minister for every week, even though we just started out as a small group.”

Webb served on a variety of committees for Chautauqua, including the Chautauqua Fund, the Chautauqua Opera Guild and Friends of Chautauqua Theater. She also is a graduate of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Class of 1992. She currently serves on the scholarship committee for the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

Webb said she appreciates the Chautauqua experience.  She said her favorite part of Chautauqua is the stimulating atmosphere, and the balance offered by the four pillars — religion, education, recreation and art.

“I call it a ‘buffet,’ ” Webb said. “I like the opportunity to have many things to choose from. I can do anything and be part of the stimulating programs, or I can go out on the lake and float around and relax.”

Twenty years ago, Webb decided to support the Institution by making a gift to the Chautauqua Foundation’s pooled life income fund.  She contributed appreciated stock — avoiding having to pay capital gains tax — and began receiving income quarterly from the fund.  She also received a tax deduction based on her age and the fund’s current yield at that time.

“I encourage it for people; if you have a CD that has matured, or if you have bonds that have matured, there’s no other way to invest right now where you’re going to earn a decent amount of interest,” Webb said. “It was a good investment for me. At this point in time, when we have so few choices to invest money or earn money, this is better than any other option.”

Webb recently participated in the Old First Night Run.  Participation in Old First Night, as well as other Chautauqua traditions, Webb said, is how she feels like part of the Institution.

“(The run) is one of the ideas that gives the spirit of Chautauqua; that and Old First Night and the CLSC graduation,” Webb said. “I think over the years, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of those traditions; I encourage them. Being a part of the pooled life income fund is just another way that I feel is to be a part of the legacy of Chautauqua.”

By making a gift to the pooled life income fund, you can become a member of the Eleanor B. Daugherty Society, which recognizes those who have included Chautauqua in their estate plans through their will, trust, retirement plan, as a beneficiary of an IRA, through a gift of real estate or through participation in the pooled  income fund.

Pooled income funds can be established for an individual or for two people (two lives). They can be funded for an initial contribution of $5,000 which can come from marketable securities and the fund can be added to at any time. To learn more about Chautauqua’s pooled life income fund, contact Karen Blozie, director of gift planning, at 716-357-6244 or email