Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary! Today, January 1st, 2024, we celebrate our 50th anniversary with deep gratitude for our extraordinary founding leadership.
On this day in 1974, Victor Swenson and a tight-knit group of community leaders launched the Vermont Council on the Humanities and Public Issues, now known, more simply, as Vermont Humanities.
Victor created and launched many programs that are still with us today, with a particular focus on our early education and adult literacy work – making the point that knowing how to read ensures that all Vermonters can fully participate in our democracy. The annual Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award continues to honor this legacy by recognizing a Vermont teacher in grades six through twelve who inspires and encourages students to develop a lifelong love of learning.
After 28 years, Victor turned over the reins to Peter Gilbert who created the magnificent Vermont Reads “one book, one state” program, now in its 22nd year. “The humanities keep us alive,” Peter once said. “They help us make order and meaning out of our lives, out of the narrative we’re in the midst of—our own.” Peter also launched the deeply-enriching First Wednesdays Program, known today as Snapshot.
Five years ago, I was honored to step into leadership and our team continues to innovate – broadly expanding our community grants program, launching an annual Fall Festival of the Humanities, and building strong partnerships with the Vermont Arts Council and with cultural organizations in all 14 Vermont Counties.
Of course, none of this happened just through the efforts of Victor (who passed away in 2019), Peter, or me – hundreds of Vermonters from broadly diverse backgrounds and lived experiences have served as trustees, staff members, scholars, teachers, community partners, and program hosts.
We are grateful for the work of everyone who has had a hand in bringing the humanities to life in Vermont communities over the past five decades.
Thank you so much for all you do as well. We look forward to the next 50 years on this journey.