Introducing the “Forty Years, Forty Stories” Series

Narratives, profiles, and interviews reflect VFH’s long history of connecting people and ideas

By Robert C. Vaughan III

Robert C. Vaughan III, president and founding director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Robert C. Vaughan III, president and founding director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

In the winter and spring of 1974, I traveled the Commonwealth to conduct community forums about the humanities and public life. Always striking out from Charlottesville, my destinations included Norfolk, Richmond, Newport News, Wise, Roanoke, Abingdon, Fredericksburg, Farmville, Northern Virginia, and Harrisonburg, which, taken together, are representative of the Commonwealth’s geographic regions, community size, and demographic diversity.

At these gatherings, usually two structured hours followed by informal conversation over coffee, I posed some basic questions: What is your perception and understanding of the humanities? What do you consider to be the major public issues facing Virginia in the next decade? Would you be willing to participate in programs bringing scholars, teachers, and the general public together to discuss public issues from the perspective of history, language and literature, law and philosophy, and religious and cultural traditions?

I certainly did not know that by posing such questions and moderating such interaction between universities and communities, I was engaging in what was to be my life’s work.

I’ve spent almost forty years now asking questions, incessantly, and assembling a committed Board and Staff who work with Virginians of all backgrounds to explore Virginia’s extraordinary histories, cultures, and stories. Our work takes many different forms now—websites, radio productions, digital editing and publication, festivals, conferences, institutes for teachers and others—but our purpose has remained the same: through scholarship and dialogue, we explore the past to discover our future.

When people and ideas connect, our days are more meaningful, our solutions more thoughtful and creative, and our futures more promising. We thrive and grow together.

Over the next year, we’ll explore the history of the Foundation in a twice-monthly series titled “Forty Years, Forty Stories.” When you read these stories, I hope that you get a sense of the various ways Virginians and VFH programs continue to raise issues, pose questions, and foster appreciation and understanding of the value of the humanities. The humanities broaden our perspectives and enrich our lives.

Robert C. Vaughan III is president and founding director of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

VFH - 40 Years, 40 Stories

About VFH

Since its founding in 1974, VFH has produced more than 40,000 humanities programs serving communities large and small throughout Virginia, the nation, and the world.

These stories celebrate our 40th anniversary by sharing a few of the ways VFH has helped connect people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement across the Commonwealth.