It was a vast community engaged in the Great Conversation that Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, co-founders of the Great Books Foundation, envisioned at the University of Chicago more than 70 years ago. As Hutchins said, “The democratic ideal is equal opportunity for full human development.” He believed that to grow as individuals, people need to read, question, and seek understanding together.
The Great Books Foundation continues to pursue the mission that our founders identified and that our participants and partners share: to celebrate reading, foster critical thinking, and build a more just and civil society. This mission is as critical now as it was when Great Books was born in 1947.
Great ideas and stories are the products of many diverse minds.
Tolstoy to Twain. Plato to Paley. Didion to Danticat. Immanual Kant to Martin Luther King, Jr. A.A. Milne to ZZ Packer.
It takes a caring community of readers and thinkers to keep great ideas and stories alive, to make them accessible to wider audiences and future generations. The Great Books Foundation relies on our dedicated volunteers and participants to nurture discussion groups. We secure government and private grants to develop and sponsor outreach programs and produce compelling materials. And, we count on our generous and loyal friends whose annual and planned gifts contribute to our work.
Today the Great Books Foundation’s mission—our mission—is threatened on several fronts. We face challenges from competing technologies, changing school curricula that de-emphasize critical thinking, decreased funding for groups that need it most, and the increasing cost to maintain a standard of quality that all our participants expect and we expect from ourselves.
The Campaign to Ensure a Future of Readers and Thinkers invites all those who value the power of words and the vitality of discussion to invest in lifelong learning, to help create literate and engaged citizens who will build a more just and civil society.
Transforming Challenges into Opportunities
We have identified the following three campaign priorities for their relevance to social and cultural realities, interest to supporters, and, ultimately, their potential to create thoughtful, literate, and engaged citizens.
—Robert Maynard Hutchins
- Now active in 14 states, Talking Service is our national reading and discussion program for returning veterans. The program helps men and women of the armed forces work through the isolation, anger, and fear they often face in rebuilding their lives. Your support to reach our goal of $500,000 will enable us to establish reading and discussion groups in all 50 states.
- A Junior Great Books Initiative recently helped third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students at Chicago’s William Prescott Elementary School significantly improve their reading comprehension, critical thinking, and writing. The school, once in danger of failing, made a dramatic rebound and today the program serves students in every grade, K-8. The kids love it, too! Your support to reach our goal of $1,000,000 for the Great Books Great Kids Fund will help us provide training for teachers and Junior Great Books materials for students in the neediest schools in the nation’s most challenged communities.
- In partnership with the Chicago Foundation for Women, Finding a Room of One’s Own supports young women through schools and community organizations that augment academic opportunities, career readiness, and life-crisis management. This program helps young women hone their reading and verbal skills and provides an open forum for the exploration and an understanding of challenges women face.Your support to reach our goal of $400,000 will enable us to train discussion leaders, provide materials, and expand the program to serve hundreds of young women in communities across the country.
Your Support Matters
By supporting any of these priorities or by making an unrestricted gift to the Great Books Annual Fund, you will be helping us ensure a future of readers and thinkers. With your support, we can reach new and underserved groups, upgrade and update services, embrace new technologies, and advance innovative, inclusive programs. Because you choose to respond, our enduring conversation will go on—today and for generations to come.
Making a gift online is convenient and secure. The Great Books Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization so your gift is tax deductible to the extent allowed. If you are interested in learning more about planned giving or making a leadership gift, please contact Joseph Coulson, President, at 312-646-7109 or use the form below.
All gifts are important. All gifts make an impact. Your gift will be gratefully received and wisely used.