Our History

Wyoming Humanities is one of 56 independent, nonprofit organizations that serve as state partners in the Federal/State Partnership program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a program mandated by Congress and funded through the NEH. We are also a member of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

To read about the history of the state humanities councils, read “Public Works: NEH, Congress, and the State Humanities Councils,” by Jamil Zainaldin in The Public Historian from February 2013, and “An Ongoing Experiment: State Councils, the Humanities, and the American Public,” an essay by Elizabeth Lynn funded by the Kettering Foundation in 2013.

Wyoming Humanities Historical Highlights

  • 1965 The United States Congress enacts legislation founding the National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts based on the 1964 Report of the Commission on the Humanities.
  • 1970 Six states (Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wyoming) become pilot models for the state humanities council concept. Many councils, including Wyoming, begin as grants to continuing/adult education programs at state land grant universities. The council is first housed at the University of Wyoming research Office. Early reports to NEH are signed by both “Roger Wilmot, Contracts and Grants,” and Audrey Cotherman, Continuing Education Department.”
  • 1971 The “Wyoming Council for the Humanities” is incorporated as a 501(c)3 independent nonprofit organization. Audrey Cotherman is the first executive of the council and determines that the council should continue to be housed at the University of Wyoming but become independent from the university, following the example of other state humanities councils. The first council office is in the university’s Continuing Education Department at 9th and Lewis streets.
  • 1980 David Tebaldi (currently the Executive Director for Massachusetts Humanities Council) joins the staff as associate director and becomes the second executive director shortly after. The council is firmly established on the university campus, with offices located at 1800 Willett.
  • 1986 Dennis Frobish is hired as the third executive director and offices are moved to four rooms on the third floor in the southeast wing of Wyoming Hall.
  • 1988 Bob Young is hired as the fourth executive director of the council.
  • 1994 The council offices are relocated to 1315 East Lewis Street, former headquarters of Child Development Services, Home Economics Department, College of Agriculture.
  • 2003 Marcia Wolter Britton is hired as the fifth executive director of the council.
  • 2006 Wyoming Council for the Humanities changes name to Wyoming Humanities Council.
  • 2010 The council opens an office in Jackson.
  • 2013 The council hires Shannon D. Smith as its sixth executive director.
  • 2016 The council rebrands as thinkWY | Wyoming Humanities
  • 2020 The council will celebrate its 50th Anniversary


Four of the six former executive directors of Wyoming Humanities

From left: Shannon Smith (2013-present), Bob Young (1988-2003), Audrey Cotherman (1970-1980), Marcia Wolter Britton (2003-2013)


Wyoming Humanities relies on donations from individuals and businesses to provide top quality programming to all of Wyoming’s residents. Interested in donating?

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