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Coolidge Memorial Foundation Names New Chairwoman to Replace Fairlee Man

Plymouth, Vt. — The director of a think tank at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Texas is the new chairwoman of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation.

Amity Shlaes was elected chairwoman of the board of trustees of the private foundation that promotes the legacy of the Vermont-born president. The foundation held its annual meeting Saturday and elected its officers.

She recently wrote the book Coolidge after five years of research that took her from Plymouth Notch to the Vermont Historical Society in Barre and Montpelier to Coolidge’s adopted hometown of Northampton, Mass. She is also a syndicated columnist for Bloomberg View, and a former editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal.

“I love Coolidge,” said Shlaes.

The book won strong praise from conservative commentators, including former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and commentator George F. Will, and critical reviews from the New York Times and Washington Post.

She succeeds architect Frank “Jay” Barrett, a Fairlee resident who resigned in June, criticizing the direction of the private foundation.

Shlaes said she first got interested in Coolidge after writing her book The Forgotten Man, about the Great Depression, and was so intrigued by the 30th president that she wrote Coolidge, which was published in February.

She said she did original research at the Vermont Historical Society in Barre, the Coolidge Foundation’s archives, as well as the official Coolidge Library at the Forbes Library in Northampton.

Shlaes said after her election that her first priority was fundraising, and that hiring a new executive director and other staff members would wait. “We need to support a wonderful staff,” she said.

“The Foundation is going to be fine, what’s past is past,” she said, refusing to comment on the departures of Barrett and executive director David Serra, who also resigned in June. Serra was the fifth executive director at the foundation in as many years.

Shlaes said her goal was to get more people to study and appreciate Coolidge, and to visit Coolidge’s birthplace, the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

She said she was thinking about the foundation hosting events in other parts of the country examining Coolidge’s legacy.

Saturday marked the 90th anniversary of the so-called “Homestead Inaugural” of Coolidge, who was sworn in as president by his father by the light of an oil lamp in the front parlor of the Coolidge home after the death of President Warren G. Harding.

Coolidge, who was vice president and living in Northampton at the time, was visiting his father in Plymouth at the time of Harding’s death.

Shlaes is the director of the Four Percent Growth Project at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Center in Dallas, Texas.

Also elected officers of the foundation were co-vice chairwoman Catherine Nelson and co-vice chairman Robert Cerasoli as well as Owen Stearns, secretary, and Christopher Coolidge Jeter, treasurer.

Nelson is vice president and general manager of the Rutland Daily Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, and Cerasoli is the former inspector general of both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the city of New Orleans..