Vermont Humanities

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary!

Snowy Mountains and blue sky by Kevin Wiegand
50 Years

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year and Happy Anniversary! Today, January 1st, 2024, we celebrate our 50th anniversary with deep gratitude for our extraordinary founding leadership.
Image of Victor with Ginger Lee
Victor Swenson with Ginger Lee

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.
Image of Peter Gilbert with Robert Frost book
Peter Gilbert

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.

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup signature

Christopher Kaufman Ilstrup
Executive Director

P.S. Give today at, and join us for a Farmers’ Night event at the Vermont State House on Wednesday, February 7, 2024 during Black History Month. Kekla Magoon, author of Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People, will be our Keynote Speaker, and she will be joined in conversation in the well of the House by Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo), Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities!

Vermont Humanities*** January 1, 2024