The spring of 1972 marked the very genesis of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. It was then that a small group of Christian scholars met for a weekend retreat in Connecticut convened by Dr. J. Stanley Mattson, an American social and intellectual historian, then serving on the faculty of Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts.
As the participants reflected upon the relative absence of any credible Christian intellectual presence within the mainstream of contemporary higher education, as underscored by Harry Blamires (a former student of Lewis’) in his critical assessment, The Christian Mind, they agreed to pray and work towards the future establishment of an interdisciplinary, “mere Christian” community of higher learning that would be situated on or near a major secular college or university.
In June of 1986, it was this very vision that inspired Dr. Mattson to take leave of the University of Redlands in California, launching the C.S. Lewis Foundation for Christian Higher Education in September of that year for the purpose of achieving this objective.
One year later, following extensive travel, study, institutional visits, and interviews with many educators, both Christian and non-Christian, Dr. Mattson convened a group of Christian scholars and potential supporters at St. Andrew’s Priory in Valyermo, CA. For five days, twenty participants, including many of those involved in the initial Connecticut retreat in 1972, deliberated upon and ultimately adopted Dr. Mattson’s report and recommendations concerning the establishment of a prototype Christian “Great Books College,” with a school of visual and performing arts, to be named in honor of C.S. Lewis.
In 1984, wholly independent of this initiative, another group, under the leadership of Robert Cording of San Diego, formed a limited partnership, The Kilns Association, for the purpose of purchasing and restoring C.S. Lewis’ home in Oxford, England.
In 1986, the partnership was dissolved and a charitable company was formed under the same name for the purpose of carrying out the original plan. In March of 1988, The Kilns Association, lacking the financial resources needed to achieve its worthy goal then proposed that the C.S. Lewis Foundation assume full ownership and financial responsibility for The Kilns. After much thought and prayer, the Foundation agreed to do so but, out of deep respect for the key role The Kilns Association had played in acquiring the property, on the condition that the Boards of both organizations join together in pursuit of their common goal.
Since its founding in 1986, the Foundation has labored tirelessly to fulfill its mission through several principal initiatives, which include:
The C.S. Lewis Summer Institute
The C.S. Lewis Summer Seminars
The C.S. Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns