Thirty-six  years ago, Dr. Harry Wilmer’s dream of an Institute for the Humanities in Salado became a reality when Liz Carpenter gave the first speech to that group, exploring the topic, “What is an Educated Person?”  Since that time, the Institute has grown in size and influence, bringing world class speakers to central Texas.

  The Salado Institute for the Humanities began in 1980 when Dr. Wilmer, his wife, Jane, and a small number of like-minded citizens, founded the Institute to create a public forum to foster discussion on important issues. The idea behind the Institute grew out of their desire to explore the concepts of the humanities in a non-academic environment.

  The first lectures began in April of 1981. Over the years, the Institute has gained a national reputation for its programs featuring world renowned scholars, writers, artists and scientists presenting lectures and seminars to members and the public. The Institute was an outgrowth of the International Film Festivals at the UT Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, which Harry created and directed while on the faculty there. 

  The Institute was set up as a non-profit, autonomous educational corporation for public programs in the humanities. It is dedicated to fostering curiosity and continuing education on the broad range of humanities topics; that is, anything that concerns the questions that all human beings confront during their lives. Its purpose is to increase knowledge, to stretch minds, to promote the exchange of ideas and to promote life-long learning.

  In the past, the Programs of the Salado Institute  consisted of seminars and lecture/discussions in the spring and the fall, usually organized around a single topic. In addition, there have been special events such as trips, tours, workshops and weekend-long symposia on topics of major interest. These programs were designed to allow Institute members the opportunity to ask questions, hear stories and discuss the ideas, history, literature and values that make up the human story. “The Institute serves as a forum for members to interact with outstanding speakers who challenge us to think beyond the everyday.”

 In 2017, the Institute ceased it’s regular lecture series as it held its final Wilmer Memorial  Lecture in April of that year. Since that time, the Institute has created a close association with the Salado Museum and College Park, nonprofit organization in Salado. While maintaining its independent 501(3)(C) status, the Institute has joined with the Salado Museum to co-sponsor lectures and other programs.  



Past Speakers

Over the years there have been programs on such topics as evil, dreams, creativity, stories, the cosmos, and technology, to name just a few.  The symposium on evil, which drew such luminaries as Rollo May, Maya Angelou, and M. Scott Peck, was filmed by Bill Moyers and made into a documentary for PBS.  The programs are varied in their approach, but the Institute’s consistent goal  is to be a place where outstanding speakers can challenge audience members to think beyond the everyday.

Institute programs are designed to convey stories, ideas and information about the history, literature and values that make up the human story. Since Liz Carpenter’s inaugural lecture, more than 250 of the country ’s leading scholars, writers, scientists, entertainers, educators, artists and leaders have come to Salado to share their knowledge. Among the many prominent speakers are: 

  • Nobel Laureates – Drs. Linus Pauling, Steven Weinburg, and Betty Williams
  • Philosophers – Drs.  Huston Smith and Martin Marty
  • Psychiatrist - Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
  • Theologian - Dr. Elaine Pagels
  • University presidents – Drs. Donna Shalala, John Silber, Robert Berdahl, Ruth J. Simmons 
  • Poets - Maya Angelou, Kathleen Norris, Betty Sue Flowers, Naomi Nye  
  • Astronaut - Story Musgrave
  • Economist - John Kenneth Galbraith
  • Playwrights -  Edward Albee and Horton Foote
  • Government leaders - The Hon.  James A. Baker, Rep. Barbara Jordan, Liz Carpenter, Admiral Bobby Inman, and Sen. Max Cleland, Sen. Bill Bradley
  • Psychologists – Drs. M. Scott Peck,  Rollo May, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Broadcast personalities - Cal Thomas, Bob Beckel, Bob Dotson
  • Historian - T.R. Fehrenbach, H.W. Brands
  • Best selling authors –Thomas Moore, Stephen Harrigan, Robert Bly, Tony Hillerman
  • Death and dying expert and author - Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
  • Physicians - Drs. Denton Cooley; Linus Pauling, Albert Sabin, Abraham Verghese, William Dement
  • Scientists – Drs. Seth Shostak, Frank Bash, Michael Collins, Dean Radin, Michio Kaku, Ilya Prigogine, Paul Berg
  • Actor/performers - Lee Marvin, Robert Carradine, Bill Mooney, Lucien Douglas, David Holt
  • Artist/photographer Keith Carter

Among many, many others!

For a complete listing of programs and speakers,  go to: program archive on this website.  For more information about the Institute call 254-760-1890. 

"At a time in human history when values are being questioned and basic assumptions are being reassessed, when moral conflicts rise unbidden in almost every area of life, we will continue to offer opportunities for enlightenment and understanding.” - Dr. Harry A. Wilmer, Founder, Institute for the Humanities