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Cheswick Center Records

Identifier: MSS095

Scope and Contents

The Cheswick Center records include some minutes and financial documents. The bulk of the collection contains case studies, publications, conference programs, and clippings representing its work. The collection is divided into two series: the records of founder Henry W. Sherrill and the records of former chairman Lawrence Butler. Each series is organized in approximate chronological order.


  • 1971 - 2009


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright laws of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

Biographical / Historical

"Not-for-profit governance is a team sport." Founded in Boston in 1971 by John Soleau and Henry W. Sherrill, the Cheswick Center devoted itself to the improvement of institutional management and board effectiveness, particularly in religious and educational venues.

With strong ties to the Episcopal Church, in which Sherrill served as a diocesan executive officer (and his father had served as presiding bishop), both Sherrill and Soleau understood the problems of nonprofit governance and believed in the concept of trustees as servants. Realizing the potential of institutions, they believed, was essential to the creation of a good society.

They lived their understanding of this guiding principle in their organization. More of a network than a full corporate structure, the Center had a loose structure of fellows and trustees. The Cheswick Center's work to improve nonprofit governance, including research and case studies, attracted grants and partnerships with the Lilly Endowment and the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities. Their publications on governance are heavily cited in literature on the topic.

Early projects involved working with congregations and churches to determine alternative uses for underused church properties, which attracted the attention of the National Endowment of the Arts. The idea of board members serving as mentors to new board members in their own organizations was a key development in later projects, along with the innovation of the board retreat as an appropriate venue to conduct such mentorship. Their belief that the form of board governance should follow the functional needs of the organization was a crucial evolution of Cheswick's thinking on governance. Board Information Systems (BIS), a project funded by the Lilly Endowment, provided a systematic way to think about and present information to boards in the most efficient and effective way.

The proliferation of organizations and institutes interested in studying board behavior and improving board performance, and Good Samaritan, Inc.'s donation of $1,000,000 to the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the study of governance demonstrated Cheswick's success in prioritizing the issues of nonprofit governance. It also placed the future of the organization in doubt, and challenged Cheswick to find new ways of participating in the larger conversation about boards in the nonprofit sector. Cheswick voted in 2011 to terminate its activities, with distribution of all residual funds to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF). In total, just over $53,000 was transferred to NHCF in two distributions, the last of which took place in January 2012.


1 Cubic Feet (1 record carton)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented by Rebecca Sherrill More, 2007-2009. A2008/09-041, A2009/10-023.

Related Materials

The personal papers of Henry William Sherrill are found at the Yale Divinity School Library, alongside the papers of his father, Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill.


  • Lance, James M. Conceiving Cheswick: An Informal History of the Cheswick Center.


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Cheswick Center Records, 1971-2009
Angela White
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Philanthropic Studies Archives Repository

IUPUI University Library
755 W. Michigan St.
Room 0133
Indianapolis IN 46202 USA