Idaho Humanities Council Executive Director Rick Ardinger will step away from the IHC after 26 years to make way for a new director of the Boise-based, statewide nonprofit devoted to promoting greater public awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the humanities in Idaho. Ardinger announced his decision to his Board of Directors earlier this year, promising to do all he can do to ensure a smooth transition for the Council in the months ahead.
Ardinger joined the IHC staff in 1991, and became executive director in 1996. During his tenure, the IHC broadened its outreach not only by awarding grants for humanities projects and programs throughout the state, but also by sponsoring a number of flagship council-conducted initiatives to bring attention to the importance of lifelong learning in the humanities. During his time, the Council launched a successful $1 million fundraising campaign to establish an Endowment for Humanities Education with the Idaho Community Foundation, providing a sustainable source of support for the IHC’s annual, weeklong, residential summer institutes and workshops in the humanities for K-12 teachers. In 1997, the Council held its first annual Distinguished Humanities Lecture and Dinner in Boise, an event which over the years has brought to Boise a long list of nationally prominent novelists, journalists, historians—many Pulitzer Prize-winners--to speak before hundreds of IHC supporters every fall. Today, in addition to the annual event in Boise, the IHC also hosts annual Distinguished Humanities Lectures in Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Coeur d’Alene.
The IHC sponsors statewide reading and conversations programs, supports the work of the City Clubs of Idaho Falls and Boise, brings annual tours of Smithsonian traveling exhibitions to the state, hosts an ongoing Humanities Speakers Bureau, funds the statewide annual ‘Let’s talk About It’ program in partnership with the Idaho Commission for Libraries, underwrites Idaho Public Television programming, and over the years has produced a number of publications that have explored Idaho history and literature, Idaho’s Latino heritage, food and culture, an Idaho folk music CD, and most recently an anthology of essays about the meaning of wilderness in Idaho.
“Rick Ardinger has been our rock,” says IHC Chair Jennifer Emery Davidson of Ketchum. “It is hard to imagine the IHC without Rick at the helm, but we all knew this day would come eventually. Thanks to Rick, the IHC is a strong organization, and we’ll look to the future’s opportunities. When the time comes, we look forward to celebrating with him and honoring him for his many years of good service.”
Over the years, Ardinger also has served on the national board of the Federation of State Humanities Council, chairing the Federation’s Legislative Committee for five years.
“I’ve been lucky to work with great people in some of Idaho’s smallest communities over the years,” Ardinger says, “people who want to preserve local history, promote civil discourse, increase literacy, and find meaningful ways to make their communities better. We’ve supported the work of teachers and scholars, and it has been great to be part of it all for a good part of my life.”
The IHC is one of 56 humanities councils in the states and territories supported by annual grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The IHC receives no funding from the State of Idaho, but is working to grow its base of loyal donors and corporate supporters. IHC is one of the few humanities councils in the nation that owns its own office building, an historic home built in 1899, at 217 W. State Street, in Boise, near Idaho’s Capitol.
“I’ll be here for our Distinguished Humanities lectures in Boise and Coeur d’Alene this fall. I have a lot of people to thank for being great supporters of the IHC and of me over the years,” Ardinger says. “I hope to do that through the rest of this year.”