Missouri Humanities History – 

Founded by Congress in 1971, Missouri Humanities is one of the fifty-six state and territorial humanities councils that receives support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). 

The Missouri Committee for the Humanities was formed in 1971 and originally setup to serve as a grantmaker to humanist and cultural institutions in Missouri. Malcolm Van Deursen, Assistant Dean of the School of Continuing Education at  Washington University, and Robert Walrond, Acting Dean of the Metropolitan College at Saint Louis University, were among the committee’s founders and first executive directors. 

The Missouri Committee for the Humanities was formally incorporated as a non-profit called the Missouri Humanities Council in 1975 and received IRS 501(c)(3) designation in May 1977. Under the new structure, Robert Walrond served as the organization’s Executive Director from 1980 to 1986, followed by Christine Riley, who was the Executive Director from 1986 to 1997.


Barbara Gill became a Missouri Humanities employee in March 1980. She served as DeputyDirector from 1997 to 2003 with two stints as  Acting Executive Director. 

After Barbara Gill’s tenure, Michael Bouman, Jim Wiedam, and Geoff Gilerango each served as Executive Director or Interim Executive Director at Missouri Humanities during the early 21st century. Under their leadership we continued to award grants to support humanities programs across the state.

Dr. Steve Belko joined Missouri Humanities in 2015 and served as Executive Director until 2021. Under his leadership and that of our new Executive Director, Ashley Beard-Fosnow, our partnerships and community outreach have grown exponentially. We have also broadened our work in heritage programming, especially with Indigenous communities.

For over 50 years we’ve been dedicated to helping Missourians explore the people, places, and ideas that shape our society. Our focus for the future remains the same; for a more thoughtful, informed, and civil society. 

Missouri Humanities is a 501(c)(3) organization. 

Our Vision is for a more thoughtful, informed, and civil society.

Our Mission is dedicated to enriching lives and strengthening communities by connecting Missourians with the people, places, and ideas that shape our society.