Press Release

Kristina A. Valaitis to retire as Director of the Illinois Humanities Council

For further information contact Deborah Epstein 312-607-6201,

CHICAGO, IL- August 28, 2013— Kristina A. Valaitis, Executive Director of the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), has announced her retirement effective next year. 

Valaitis has been a mainstay with the Council in various positions since 1979, and has served as Executive Director since 1993.    

“I have had the best job in the state,” Valaitis says.  “In helping take the humanities public, I have been fortunate to meet and work with people from all walks of life all over Illinois, who believe, as I do, that healthy communities and a robust democracy are enriched by a wide variety of programs bringing the humanities to communities throughout Illinois.” 

During her tenure, the IHC grew from serving solely as a grant maker to a producer of programs and initiatives that yearly engage over 600,000 people throughout Illinois.  Programs such as Museum on Main Street, the Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, The Public Square, and the Odyssey Project have encouraged informed exchanges about contemporary issues, and made rich experiences in the humanities accessible to downstate Illinois and Chicago neighborhoods.  

Deborah Epstein, IHC Chair, expressed her appreciation for Valaitis’ many contributions to the cultural life of the state.  “Because of Kristina’s stewardship through changing times, the IHC is in a strong position to consolidate our current programs and expand our reach.” Epstein announced that the board has retained Sheila Leahy with SAL Consulting, Inc. to conduct a national search. “We will be looking for a bold and imaginative leader who can help us build on IHC’s momentum and advance its mission as it begins its 40th anniversary year.” 

Along with the IHC, Valaitis has been active in many organizations. She serves on the boards of the Federation of State Humanities Councils and the Chicago Metro History Education Center, and is a member of The Chicago Network.  She has served as vice chair of the Northern Illinois University Foundation and of Donors Forum. She has been a member of Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, the board of the Illinois Center for the Book, and various task forces and committees of the Federation of State Humanities Councils, including service as a corresponding editor of Federation Review: The Journal of the State Humanities Councils. 

She has received the Volunteer Service Award from the Northern Illinois University Foundation, a Golden Anniversary Alumni Award from the NIU College of Liberal Arts, and the 2010 Outstanding Alumni [liberal arts] Award from the NIU Alumni Association. 

About the Illinois Humanities Council 

The Illinois Humanities Council is an independent, nonprofit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. The IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.  

Media Contact:
Deborah Epstein
Board Chair, Illinois Humanities Council