Stiller Family Foundation Makes $1M Gift to Champlain College’s David L. Cooperrider Center For Appreciative Inquiry

David Cooperrider at the Stiller School of Business

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Champlain College's David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry in the Stiller School of Business has received a $1 million gift from the Stiller Family Foundation to plan and convene a national Positive Education Summit that will use Appreciative Inquiry to accelerate positive education from early childhood on up.

Dr. Lindsey Godwin, Professor of Management in the Stiller School of Business and Director of the Cooperrider Center, said the Stiller Family Foundation gift will fund the planning and implementation of a Positive Education Summit in 2018 which is expected to attract a wide array of stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, parents, students, scholars, government and business leaders, and international thought-leaders from around the world.

The Positive Education Summit's goal will be to unite the best in the field of education with the best in the field of positive psychology to accelerate the impacts of positive education for some 23 million preschool children, 50 million students in K-12 classrooms and 20+ million students in higher education, and also help further support schools as positive institutions that are also great places to work for all employees, Godwin said.

"Research shows that when students experience positive educational environments, learning is accelerated in math, reading, writing and science. Now, we have an extraordinary opportunity to create positive educational systems - beginning with our youngest in early childhood and continuing up through our college classrooms - that can lead to developmental flourishing and high achievement for all students," Godwin explained.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which is a whole system, strengths-based approach to change that has been applied in thousands of organizations worldwide - Apple, Johnson and Johnson, the UN Global Compact, the US Navy, the Urban School Food Alliance and the entire dairy industry, to name a few. AI works with the ‘whole system,' involving all stakeholders to not only identify what is working within the system and generate a shared vision for the future, but also collectively begin moving forward strategic initiatives that help bring that vision to fruition.

"Using this approach, the Positive Education Summit in 2018 will go beyond dialogue, and will help actually design and launch prototype models around the country to advance positive education in bold and innovative ways," Godwin explained.

Along with Champlain's Cooperrider Center, The Mayerson Academy in Cincinnati, Ohio, will be among the lead partners in convening the Summit. The Academy is the exclusive early childhood and K-12 education partner of the VIA Institute, an international leader in using character strengths to connect people with what is best in themselves.

Dr. Neal H. Mayerson, Chairman of the VIA Institute on Character and the Mayerson Academy, commented, "Thanks to the groundbreaking system change work of David Cooperrider, the generous support of the Stiller Family Foundation, and recent advances in positive psychology and character science, we are in a position to create a catalytic watershed moment through this Appreciative Inquiry Summit on Positive Education. We now have tools we can use to elevate teaching and learning that were unavailable 10 years ago, and whole system change technology that can help education in the United States and beyond implement these tools to improve learning and human development. A big thanks is due to the visionary and pioneering efforts of the Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry and its ardent supporter, the Stiller Family Foundation."

The Stillers' $1 million gift is the anchor gift in the Center's campaign to raise funding for the Summit and its subsequent projects. The Stiller Family Foundation gift continues the generous support for Appreciative Inquiry and strengths-based organizational management that found its global home at the Burlington-based Cooperrider Center in 2014.

Robert and Christine Stiller, the founders of the Stiller Family Foundation, said, "We are pleased that the Stiller Family Foundation is able to support this work. We have seen first-hand how powerful a tool Appreciative Inquiry can be in bringing about positive organizational change. By encouraging this unique collaboration among the Cooperrider Center, educators and thought leaders across the globe, the Foundation believes that its mission to improve early childhood education can be met. We look forward to the success of the Positive Education Summit."

In 2012, Champlain College received a $10 million gift from Robert and Christine Stiller through the Stiller Family Foundation, that was, in part, designed to support the new David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry within the Stiller School of Business, which offers a full range of educational programs and applied work for individuals, organizations and businesses. The Stiller Foundation has also been a strong supporter of the College's Single Parent Scholarship program.

"The Stiller Family Foundation's support for Champlain College has been transformational - first with the establishment of the Stiller School of Business and now for the Cooperrider Center," said Champlain President Donald J. Laackman. "This gift to support the Positive Education Summit has the potential improve outcomes for millions of young people as we begin the process of reinventing the educational system. We embrace the opportunity to position the Cooperrider Center at the forefront of this effort."

Co-created by Dr. David L. Cooperrider, University Distinguished Professor at Case Western Reserve University, Appreciative Inquiry has been embraced by a broad spectrum of business and social sector leaders and executives. The Cooperrider Center's goal is to "educate leaders to be the best in the world at seeing the best for the world, in order to discover and design positive institutions - organizations and communities that elevate, magnify, and bring our highest human strengths to the practice of positive organizational development and change."

"The Stiller Family's inspiring gift provides an unprecedented opportunity to help every child and young person fulfill their potential and achieve both well-being and success," Cooperrider said. "Thanks to breakthroughs in the rapidly growing science of the positive psychology of human strengths, this initiative will create action that is a generation ahead of current thinking. The gift of the Appreciative Inquiry Summit, in collective impact terms, is that it will bring together thousands of thought leaders and partner organizations to create a positive revolution for our kids, our society, and our common future."

Dr. Laurel Bongiorno, Dean of the Stiller School of Business and the Division of Education and Human Studies agreed, saying, "Our Positive Education Summit has the potential to change education as we seek to reframe the questions to, ‘What are our children and youth doing well, and how can we support their interests, learning, and development?' I'm very excited that the Summit will focus on all children and youth, from birth through college."
More details about the summit will be shared once the steering team convenes in 2017.

About the Stiller Foundation:
The Stiller Family Foundation is dedicated to helping people help themselves. The foundation was established by the family of Bob and Christine Stiller and their three children, reflecting their shared passion for improving people's lives in meaningful, sustainable ways. The majority of the foundation's work has focused on Vermont, and provides support to programs and organizations relating to personal development, education, and community development through organizations including Champlain College, the King Street Center, Burlington City Arts and Rebuilding Waterbury.

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit