FSHC President Esther Mackintosh to Retire

July 30, 2019


July 30, 2019 [Arlington, VA]: The Board of Directors of the Federation of State Humanities Councils announces the retirement of Federation President Esther Mackintosh, effective once a successor is named. The Board will launch their search for the next president in August 2019 with the aim of filling the position by early 2020.

“I’m proud of what the Federation and the state humanities council community have accomplished together over the past several decades and especially these last few years,” Mackintosh said. “I think the stage is well set for the next exciting phase of the Federation’s life, with an exceptional staff and board and an ever-growing array of potential partners.”

The Federation was founded in 1977 as the membership association of the state humanities councils. Mandated by the founding legislation of the National Endowment for the Humanities, state humanities councils were created as nonprofit organizations in the early 1970’s. Originally located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with Steve Weiland as president, the Federation moved its headquarters to Washington, DC in 1986 and appointed Jamil Zainaldin as president. In 1998, Zainaldin was succeeded by Gail Leftwich Kitch, who served until Mackintosh, who had joined as vice president in 1986, was appointed president in 2004.

During Mackintosh’s tenure, the Federation has significantly expanded its national partnerships and has increased the resources made available to councils through grants from the Mellon Foundation, totaling more than $4 million over the past four years. The federal funding allocated to the state humanities councils has also increased by more than $12 million since 2004, due in part to the Federation’s advocacy efforts. During Mackintosh’s leadership, the Federation has forged strong relationships with the academic humanities communities and in 2015, the Federation and the National Humanities Alliance initiated a partnership to cohost the Federation’s annual conference, expanding it to include members of both organizations and other humanities professionals. Attendance at the conference has subsequently grown from approximately 350 participants to more than 600.

Federation Board Chair Bill Tsutsui said, in announcing Mackintosh’s retirement to the Federation’s members, “I cannot begin to list all the ways in which she has earned our deepest respect and most sincere thanks. She has been an inspiration and mentor for generations of executive directors, board members, and staffers, and she has nurtured the relationships, partnerships, and collaborations that have brought the Federation to a place of unprecedented organizational capacity, financial stability, public profile, and concrete impact.”

Mackintosh received her PhD in American Literature from Kansas State University in 1980 and worked in magazine publishing before joining the Federation. She will remain with the Federation until her successor is named, which the board anticipates will be in early 2020.

10 Responses

  1. Bob Benedetto

    What a blessing Esther has been to the Federation, to every Council, and to the humanities. She will be a hard act to follow, but and example for everyone who values the humanities for all! Bob Benedetti, former Chair of California Humanities and former Frderation Board member.

  2. Debbie Watrous

    The state council community has been incredibly fortunate to have Esther at the helm — a calm, thoughtful, kind, sure leader who’s truly one of the hardest working people I know. She has navigated the treacherous waters of Congressional appropriations, NEH leadership changes, and 56 “bosses” (state council EDs) who actually have been led by her wisdom at every turn. Congratulations on an impressive tenure, Esther!! Time to enjoy the cornfields, good books, lots of travel, and more baseball games!

  3. Carolyn Fuqua

    Hard to imagine the Federation without you, but so excited that you’ll be able to devote your intellect, grace, and decency to some other endeavor–most importantly, at least initially, a bit of rest! Many thanks for all you’ve done for the field generally and for the HI more specifically. Your support has meant the world.

  4. Peggy Prenshaw

    Thank you Esther for helping make the Humanities a public activity, one that has made a difference in our national life. And thanks, too, for a friendship that has continued over the years.

  5. Elizabeth Young

    Esther, thank you for all you have done for the state councils and the humanities in general. Your contributions lead the way for many good things to come for which you have set the path.

  6. Naomi F. Collins

    Esther has been the “soul” of the Federation from its earliest days. I witnessed her decades of dedication, professionalism, and commitment without which the State Councils would not be where they are today. Thank you, Esther, for all you’ve done and contributed to the field.

  7. Debra Holland

    I echo the sentiments of all who have written such glowing remarks about remarkable Esther. I have so enjoyed working with her on the nominations for the Federation board. She is smart, experienced, savvy and has such a great sense of humor! I will miss her incredibly… but, let’s all keep in touch. Aloha!

  8. Jamil Zainaldin

    Esther, your success as our voice is universally recognized, as are the ingredients of that success: integrity, absolute commitment to the the humanities and a life of learning, and profound decency in any and all your personal and professional relationships. Only one of you comes along in my generation’s working life, and how lucky we in the humanities are. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself so completely and unfailingly with the world! Jamil

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