Planting roots, giving back: Lindsays invest in Chautauqua

Cary and Susie Lindsay are recent members of the Bestor Society.  (Ruby Wallau | Staff Photographer)

Cary and Susie Lindsay are recent members of the Bestor Society. (Ruby Wallau | Staff Photographer)

Charles “Cary” and Suellen Lindsay are first-generation Chautauquans, and have loved spending time at the Institution since they first stepped on the grounds by chance more than 12 years ago.

The Woodlands, Texas, couple were ending a trip to Niagara Falls and had about four days left before they were to fly back home. Cary had heard of a place called “Chautauqua,” and with the extra time they had, the Lindsays decided to venture to the grounds. They arrived, checked into a room at the Athenaeum Hotel — still with absolutely no idea what to expect — and “were amazed at what Chautauqua offered.”

The Lindsays cherish education: Susie is a retired teacher, and Cary spent nearly 40 years in the educational publishing industry, most recently as a regional vice president at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s West Coast office.

“For Susie and me, it’s something that we allocate our summer to allow us to come here; it’s number one,” Cary said.

Susie loves the stimulating lectures and overall beauty of the Institution.

“It’s like a recharging
…hearing the speakers we would never have the opportunity to experience anywhere else in one place,” she said. “Plus, it’s beautiful and entertaining. It’s the whole package for us.”

The couple stays busy at Chautauqua, enjoying the range of programs and entertainment.

“Where else can you go to hear the symphony, the Smothers Brothers, the Beach Boys, even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?” Cary said. “If there is a problem with Chautauqua, it’s being able to plan a day’s agenda which you’re not intending to skip something.”

The Lindsays live in a planned community north of Houston, filled with a diverse population of professional individuals. Both, however, share humble roots. Cary was born in a four-room farmhouse in Southeast Alabama that lacked running water or electricity.

“Neither of my parents had an education that extended beyond the fifth grade,” he said. “My father died when I was 10 years of age, but … he took great pride [that], from an early age, I enjoyed reading books.”

Cary’s mother, too, encouraged her son’s love of reading, even arranging for the county bookmobile to stop at their farm house.

Susie also came from a farming family. She is a native of Tyler, Texas, where the couple met.

In addition to intellectual pursuits, the Lindsays also share a love of travel. Cary has visited all 50 states and approximately 30 countries.

“But of all the places that Susie and I travel,” he said, “when we walk through the gates at Chautauqua, we are at our favorite place.”

For these past 12 years, the Lindsays have shared amazing experiences at Chautauqua — Cary’s fondest being a chance encounter on the brick walk with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Over this span, they have also increasingly involved themselves in ensuring the Institution’s future health and vitality.

The couple recently became members of the Bestor Society, making a leadership contribution to the annual fund. In addition to giving back financially, Cary is a volunteer reader for The Chautauqua Prize, and the two have served as Chautauqua Advocates for the past three years. Advocates are dedicated Chautauquans who host regional gatherings and share their Chautauqua experiences with friends, neighbors and colleagues at home. Currently, the Lindsays are responsible for introducing approximately 20 people to Chautauqua. This season, 10 of those 20 came to Chautauqua from states such as Arkansas, Vermont and, of course, Texas.

“Having the education I have, having the opportunities I have had, I am most grateful,” Cary said. “I am more than grateful, I’m appreciative beyond means.”

Furthering their family’s legacy at Chautauqua has become the Lindsay’s latest aspiration. They hope their daughter, Claire, and son-in-law, John, will be able to spend more time here with their 3-year-old “most wonderful” granddaughter, Grace.

“What Chautauqua exemplifies is learning and growing as a human,” Cary said.

With their generous giving of time and resources, the Lindsays are ensuring this experience will be available to others — even for generations to come.