David Tebaldi Announces His Retirement

February 2018

Dear Friends of Mass Humanities,

After a decade studying and teaching philosophy, in the late 1970s I found my calling in the public humanities and have been the director of a state humanities council ever since – the past 33 years here in my native Massachusetts. This fall I will retire.


State House – 1999: in front of the art installation with Doris Kearns Goodwin, Sheila de Bretteville, Susan Sellers, Governor Paul Cellucci, Margaret Marshall

I certainly have mixed feelings about stepping away. Mass Humanities has been my life’s work for such a long time and it’s been an enormously enriching and gratifying experience. The job has given me uncountable opportunities to work with a vast array of really smart, interesting, and creative people who understand and appreciate the civic value of the humanities and for that I will be forever grateful.

There are aspects of the job that I will not miss, of course, especially the perennial battles over the state and federal budgets.

There is much of which I am personally proud. Topping the list would be the nearly 800 graduates of our Clemente Courses in the Humanities in Boston, Brockton, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester; the enduring presence in our capitol of the State House Women’s Leadership Project; and Mass Moments, our popular digital almanac of Massachusetts history. I take pride too in having introduced some 600 fellow travelers to the history and culture of Cuba through our decade-long traveling humanities seminars program, and the $2,000,000 plus endowment we have established to support our outreach to underserved communities across the Commonwealth.

David Tebaldi in 1987

South Hadley – 1987

When I came to Mass Humanities, then known as the Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy (MFH&PP), the council had a staff of three and budget around $500,000 in the form of an annual grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the purpose of re-granting. Today, Mass Humanities has a staff of ten and a healthy combination of federal, state, and private funding totaling roughly four times that amount. Grant making remains central to our mission and our identity, but we also create and operate a variety of direct service humanities programs like those I just mentioned.

All of these accomplishments came about through collaborations, partnerships, and contributions of time, talent, and treasure from people like you. Thank you so much.

The most common question I am asked when the subject comes up is “Why are you retiring?” It’s time. I am in fact the last of my generation of state humanities council executive directors to hang up my spurs. I will be 71 years old in April.

The second question I get is “What are you going to do with yourself?” Read, walk, think, travel . . . and attend public humanities programs, of course! (One of the most frustrating aspects of my job has been the lack of time to attend so many of the thousands of fabulous humanities programs we funded through our grant program over the last three decades.)

Boston Public Library - 2016

Boston Public Library – 2016

I may even return to philosophy. (As Aristotle pointed out, philosophy is best practiced in one’s dotage.)

Mass Humanities is a strong organization with a diverse, united, and engaged board of directors and a talented, hardworking, and resourceful staff. An executive director transition committee has been meeting for some time now, and is working with a highly respected consultant on the search for my successor. I am confident they will have many highly qualified candidates from which to choose and will select someone wonderful to lead the organization into a future of ever greater accomplishments.

If you know of anyone you believe would be an outstanding leader for Mass Humanities, please encourage her or him to be in touch with Susan Egmont at Egmont Associates, segmont@egmontassociates.com. The position announcement and job description will be posted on our website beginning February 15.

Thank you for your friendship and support, and for your continuing contributions to civic life and the public humanities.


To support public humanities programming that encourages inclusion, consider donating to The David Tebaldi Fund.

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