Continuity emerged as the theme of a remarkable forum of former board members held on October 13.
During their combined three decades of service on the humanities council, panelists Wright Lassiter, Sam Moore, Betty Sue Flowers, Robert Patten, and longtime executive director Jim Veninga pursued a vision that still guides Humanities Texas’s course today.
We balance large statewide endeavors with small community projects and council-directed programs with regrants for local initiatives. While the number of worthwhile ideas and opportunities still exceeds our limited financial resources, making the humanities accessible to all Texans remains our objective.
Board members then and now have valued the richness of the programs the council creates and supports. Betty Sue Flowers, for example, cited as a highlight of her tenure an extraordinary symposium in which Maya Angelou and Barbara Jordan considered the nature of evil. Wright Lassiter described the powerful inspiration of representing the council at teacher award presentations; just this week, current board member Kit Moncrief shared that experience when she joined Representative Kay Granger in presenting an Outstanding Teaching Award to Haltom City teacher Carolyn Hedgecock.
Even the purchase of the historic Byrne-Reed House, which we believe will transform Humanities Texas, represents an element of continuity. Board alumni who toured the Byrne-Reed House on October 12 reminded me that the council had relocated from Arlington to Austin in 1980 for many of the reasons which led to our recent move: to be closer to statewide organizations and to state government, and to facilitate a more active role for the humanities council in the life of the city and statewide community. As fate would have it, the council’s first Austin location was a rented house two blocks from our new location!
Finally, the dynamic composition of the board continues to bring us individuals from different regions and diverse backgrounds. In one of the forum’s most eloquent sequences, Wright Lassiter described a vision he had shared with the late Linden Heck Howell, chair of the board, to broaden the organizational reach by recruiting talented board members from around the state.
This same enlistment process had recurred an hour before the forum, as the board elected four new members who have already demonstrated their strong commitment to education in the humanities. Ricardo Romo, Catherine Robb, Mickey Klein, and George Fleming will succeed four distinguished retiring members, all of whom have played pivotal roles in the council’s resurgence: Norma Cantú, Jo Anne Christian, Jackson Curlin, and Bill Ratliff.
Three of the departing veterans were among the last class of board members elected by Dr. Lassiter and his colleagues. They can take pride in the fact that, as Dr. Lassiter observed, the seeds their council planted now bloom brightly.