A Historic Virginia Resort & Conference Center

Airlie's Timeline

For more than five decades, global leaders and policy makers have visited Airlie Center for significant conferences that have shaped the future of social movements and institutions. The impact of our luxury resort in Virginia is rooted in the founding vision of Dr. Murdock Head, who purchased the picturesque Airlie Farm in 1956. Dr. Head's plan was to create one of the first conference facilities of its kind in the country, a center where individuals and organizations could meet in a distraction­ free and neutral environment to candidly exchange ideas on issues, ignite thought and inspire collective action around shared interests, purpose and values.

Dr. Head succeeded in transforming Airlie into an international conference destination by integrating modern meeting facilities and accommodations with the natural setting of the Airlie estate. By 1960, the new Airlie Center opened its doors and was heralded as a model of innovation and pronounced an "Island of Thought" by Life Magazine.

Upon this dynamic platform, Dr. Head initiated a range of programs dedicated to education, environmental research, public health, and social progress. Dr. Head spearheaded early conversations among participants in the Civil Rights Movement, establishing Airlie as a supportive venue for dialogue. Dr. Head's Airlie Productions, with studio facilities based at the Center, created hundreds of documentary films on a full spectrum of social and environmental issues, and received more than 20 Emmy® Awards, recognizing two decades of work.

From the Center's inception, Dr. Head advanced environmental leadership as a core priority at Airlie, both in the stewardship of the Center's natural resources, and in the focus of Airlie programs. In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson met with students at Airlie to promote the concept of an Earth Day, and returned to Airlie to commemorate the event in 1993. In the early 90s Airlie became the home base for Dr. Bill Sladen’s Swan research Program and its migration studies with Trumpeter swans and Canada geese, as featured in the film Fly Away Home (1998).

Today, Airlie remains committed to the Center's founding ideals of environmental stewardship and the open exchange of ideas in a distraction free setting. Airlie continues to update meeting facilities and accommodations while retaining the rural and secluded character of the Center's historic campus.

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1961

First Conference: The Challenge for the Minds of Men

Airlie hosts its first conference in 1961. Dwight H. Ingalls, president of Religious Heritage of America, Inc. and approximately 160 delegates gathered for a series of workshops and roundtable discussions.

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1962

LIFE Magazine: The Take-Over Generation

LIFE Magazine features 100 of the most important men and women in the United States, "The Take-Over Generation." This special issue edition highlights Dr. Head's many professional achievements and introduces the Airlie Conference Center.

NAACP LDF: National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons Legal Defense Fund; FIRST ANNUAL CIVIL RIGHTS CONFERENCE

Airlie was considered the only place south of the Mason-Dixon line that would host an integrated gathering when the NAACP LDF chose to hold their first Annual Civil Rights Conference there. The meeting addressed the implementation and enforcement of the landmark 1957 Brown vs. The Board of Education case, in which segregation in public schools was found to be unconstitutional.

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1963

The Civil Rights Movement and Airlie

From 1963 to 1969 Airlie leadership and local civil rights activists are active in desegregation of businesses and schools in Warrenton and Fauquier County, Virginia. The group met at Airlie, where they planned the desegregation of county restaurants. The meetings expanded into gatherings of black and white teachers, who came together to exchange ideas and break down racial barriers.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference

The SCLC and other US civil rights activists plan their Northern campaign for equality and jobs.

Kennedy Foundation: White House Conference on Mental Retardation

President Kennedy tele-addresses Eunice Shriver's Foundation for the Mentally Retarded in its first Conference on Mental Retardation.

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1964

Airlie Productions

Dr. Murdock Head forms award winning film company headquartered at Airlie. Airlie Productions produces more than 250 television programs and documentary films over the next three decades on topics ranging from heart disease, ecology, the disabled, women's issues and public policy.

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1965

The White House Fellows

The first White House Fellows gather at Airlie to learn of their selection into this prestigious program for leadership and public service.

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1967

NAACP and SCLC: Organizing the "Poor People's Campaign"

NAACP, SCLC, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Joan Baez, and other activists meet to organize the "Poor People's Campaign", that would later culminate in a two-week protest in Washington, D.C. in 1968.

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1968-1970

Airlie Productions

200 million world-wide viewers see Airlie Production's award winning trilogy "The Distant Drummer," a stark look at drugs in America from importation to addiction.

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1969

American College of Surgeons

ACS Committees on Trauma and Injuries create a new approach to Emergency Medical Services, developing basic definitions and guidelines for highway traffic injury care. Soon afterwards, the National registry of EMT's was created.

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; Nuclear Planning Group 6th Meeting

NATO Ministers of Defense from seven member states meet at Airlie House as part of a continuing process for improving the defense of the Alliance and plan nuclear defense strategy.
Statesmen in Medicine

UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Writers and executives from newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies meet at Airlie to discuss U.S. foreign policy.

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1970

National Council on Indian Opportunity

Over 150 urban Native American delegates attend a three-day meeting sponsored by the Office of Economic Opportunity and the National Council on Indian Opportunity, headed by Vice President Agnew to advance communication.

Senator Gaylord Nelson

Senator Gaylord Nelson reveals his plans to formally announce Earth Day in September to a group of students at Airlie and encourages them to become involved.

Earth Day

In recognition of Earth Day, Airlie launches an outreach campaign centered on the importance of community-based conservation practices. Over the next four decades, Airlie pioneers a range of sustainable initiatives at the Center, including the preservation of wildlife habitat, ongoing environmental research, the reduction in energy consumption, and the advancement of a more vibrant regional food system.

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1972

National Cancer Institute: First International Workshop for Therapy of Lung Cancer

First International Workshop on Lung Cancer, sponsored by the NCI, brings together an international multidisciplinary group of individuals interested in the problem of lung cancer, and lays the foundation for the formation of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.

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1973

IADC: Inter-American Dialogue Center

The IADC organizes a forum for government officials, academics, clerics, doctors, lawyers and economists to examine the problems of rapidly growing Latin American countries. The forum results in government action in the fields of primary health care, population growth, restraint and rural development in growing Latin American countries.

Statesmen in Medicine

Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine, accepts the Statesmen in Medicine Award at the fifth annual Award Dinner.

Airlie Productions

Airlie Production's documentary "America on the Rocks," made in partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and narrated by Robert Mitchum, presents an unabashed look at alcohol abuse in the United States.

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1974

National Science Foundation

NSF holds a Project Directors Meeting on pre-college science education and the development of audiovisual and computer-related educational technology.

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1975

AID: U.S. Agency for International Development and Airlie Productions

AID partners with Airlie Productions to make nearly 100 films about population and family planning.

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1976

The Smithsonian Institute and NASA explore cutting edge methods of energy and conservation.

Conference on Biomedical Research and the Public

At the request of U.S. Senators Ted Kennedy and Jacob Javits, scientists, lawyers, journalists, philosophers and congressional staff members collaborate to improve the research community's relations with congress and the public.

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1977-1983

National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

Four "Airlie Seminars" are held in which leaders, creators and advocates discuss and define the values of public radio.

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1978

MIT and Harvard

MIT and Harvard sponsor a gathering of American and German scientists and policymakers to address nuclear energy policy.

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1979

George Washington University and the Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies

Conference on "Asia and the Problems of the Détente".

NAACP LDF: National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons Legal Defense Fund; FIRST ANNUAL CAPITAL PUNISHMENT CONFERENCE

The NAACP LDF holds its first Annual Capital Punishment Conference at Airlie after the Supreme Court reinstates the death penalty in 1976. The conference featured panels and workshops to train defense teams in capital defense representation for prisoners throughout the United States.

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1981

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

IPPNW holds their first World Congress at Airlie; 80 physicians from 12 countries discuss the medical history and future of thermonuclear war. The Congress attracts press coverage, generates scientific research, and provides a foundation for building an international movement.

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1982

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Conference stresses the importance of public and private partnerships in community problemsolving. Participants at the meeting, including government, business, research and community leaders, identify current trends and issues regarding partnerships and suggest initiatives to support future partnership activities.

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1983

Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences

Conference members set new goals for national progress in the math sciences.

Japanese-American Assembly "Shimoda Conference"

This meeting follows the formal establishment of the United States-Japan Advisory Commission, also known as the "Wisemen's Group", jointly established by President Reagan and Prime Minister Nakasone in 1983 to address bilateral economic and security concerns.

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1985

Anglo Irish Agreement

Key Northern Ireland loyalist and Republic of Ireland parties meet at the behest of Padraig O'Malley to further peace efforts in Northern Ireland, resulting in the landmark Anglo Irish Agreement, and giving the Republic of Ireland a say in how Northern Ireland is administered.

Soviet Interview Project Conference

Conference details results of extensive research project in the early 1980's, focused on interviews of over 2,700 Soviet émigrés in the United States, and a better understanding of life in the Soviet Union.

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1986

RAND/UCLA and Columbia University

The RAND/UCLA Center for the Study of Soviet International Behavior and Columbia's W. Averell Harriman Institute for the Advanced Study of the Soviet Union sponsor an international conference on Soviet domestics, economics, security and foreign policy.

Ancient China and Social Science Generalizations

Western archaeologists have one of their first opportunities since the end of the Second World War to meet and exchange ideas with their counterparts in China.

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1988

The War Conference

Over 150 Gay and Lesbian leaders meet at Airlie in order to raise public awareness and plan national strategy for gay and lesbian civil rights. One direct outcome of the meeting is the creation of National Coming Out Day.

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1989

Multiple Versions Forum

National library representatives, archivists, and cataloguing and network systems experts convene to establish standards for constructing bibliographical records.
Airlie is host to the largest captive free-swimming swan collection on the East Coast.

Environmental Studies at Airlie

Dr. William Sladen establishes Environmental Studies at Airlie, a non-profit organization that conducts international research with swans and other waterfowl, and promotes wildlife conservation in the Piedmont Region. Dr. Sladen's Swan Research Program manages a collection of over 130 free-swimming captive swans of 9 varieties, on Airlie ponds and lakes and with local landowners as "wetland ambassadors".

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1990

U.S.-Japan Trade Meeting

U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and Japanese Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto lead meeting of U.S. and Japanese trade representatives to discuss antitrust violations, public works spending and relaxing trade restrictions.

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1991

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation sponsors an Urban Institute conference addressing social and economic barriers afflicting inner-city communities in the United States.

Sixth International TOVS Working Group (ITWG) Conference

International researchers gather to discuss data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) satellites and atmospheric sounding instruments, and the impact of these data on numerical weather prediction and climate studies.

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1992

Carter Center and Sasakawa Foundation: Agricultural Development in Policy Options for Sub-Saharan Africa

Former President Jimmy Carter and the Sasakawa Foundation sponsor an international workshop examining ways to raise productivity of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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1993

Environmental Studies at Airlie

Dr. Sladen and Swan Research Program teams with William Lishman, M.S.M., to conduct the first imprint on an Ultralite aircraft along a migration route from Toronto to Airlie.
The project was fictionalized in the hit movie "Fly Away Home" The technique is now being used to re-establish migrating flocks of endangered whooping cranes in North America.

Airlies Earth Day Tree

Twenty-three years after Senator Gaylord Nelson reveals his Earth Day plans to a group of students at Airlie, he returns and with Dr. Murdock Head plants a tree on property in commemoration of the first Earth Day.

Community Based Conservation in Perspective

Sponsored by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenburg Foundation, over sixty leaders and hands-on practitioners gather at Airlie to share best practices and on-the-ground challenges to international community-based conservation efforts.

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1995

American Council on International Intercultural Education and Stanley Foundation: Building the Global Community-The Next Step

Academic and governmental leaders define goals and strategies for international and intercultural education in community colleges.

Airlies Peterson Butterfly Garden

Airlie Foundation honors naturalists Roger Tory and Virginia Peterson for their pioneering efforts on behalf of environmental education with the creation and dedication of Airlie's Peterson Butterfly Garden during the 25th Anniversary of Earth Day at Airlie.

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1997

WHO: World Health Organization

The WHO Clinical Advisory Committee meets at Airlie to reach a consensus regarding a new classification of hematological malignancies.

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1998

The Local Food Project at Airlie

Airlie Center launches its Local Food Project in association with the U.S. Humane Society, featuring a ¾-acre organic demonstration garden on Airlie's property that provides fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits to the Airlie Center kitchen while educating guests about sustainable agriculture. Over the next decade, the Local Food Project garden expands to year-round production on four acres, and develops annual conferences and seminars focused on the growth of an ecologically sound food system in the Mid-Atlantic.

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1999

AIBS: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Scientists, engineers, lawyers, regulators and policy makers from five continents meet to explore establishing public policy with respect to radiation protection regarding low-level ionizing radiation exposure.

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2000

State Department and Institutes of Peace

Serb Kosovars and ethnic Albanians meet face-to-face for the first time at Airlie to further peace efforts in Kosovo. The talks result in "The Airlie Declaration", a pact against violence and an agreement to respect the outcome of upcoming free & fair municipal elections in Kosovo.

Wetlands International

The group gathers international swan experts and researchers every ten-years to provide a forum for swan research and facilitate collaborative studies.

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2001

Fund for Peace: Regional Responses to Internal War

"African Perspectives on Military Intervention" conference brings African opinion leaders from nations across the continent together at Airlie to discuss the criteria for military intervention in internal war. An agreement is reached to issue a conference statement on military intervention in humanitarian emergencies or internal conflicts.

State Department, National Institutes of Health and the Red Cross

Reacting to the September terrorist attacks, the State Department, NIH and the Red Cross hold a meeting on "Mass Violence and Early Intervention".

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2002

Ocean.US:Building Consensus-Toward an Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observing System

First workshop on the planning and implementation of the Integrated Ocean Observing System, IOOS, that will provide quality controlled oceanic data and research for the U.S.

Harvard and the Japan Forum

The Harvard Law School and the Japan Forum sponsor a symposium to facilitate understanding between the U.S. and Japan on financial and economic issues.

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2003

Computing Research Association

In partnership with the National Science Foundation, fifty experts in security, privacy and networking gather in a "non-traditional" conference to discuss major challenges affecting the future of secure computing.

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2004

AKE: Surviving Hostile Regions

A worldwide risk-management group hold a series of workshops to train journalists and camera-men slated to go in to war zones, in real-life terrorist scenarios on grounds of Airlie.

Greening the Hospitality Industry

Airlie, the U.S. Department of Energy, EPA and Virginia DEQ and Housing hold a conference on "Greening the Hospitality Industry" using Airlie's green initiatives as a model for other hospitality facilities.

New Perspectives on Food Security

The Glynwood Center, Airlie Foundation and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture partner to organize a conference addressing the security of the nation's food supply. The topics of the three-day meeting include the threat of terrorism, the food security benefits of sustainable agriculture; loss of biodiversity and the related health of the consuming public.

Airlie Receives Environmental Award

Airlie is the first lodging facility in Virginia to received the VA DEQ's (Virginia Department of Environmental Quality) highest award for environmental excellence and later received Green Seal certification as well.

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2005

The Local Food Project at Airlie's First Annual Conference

75 local food producers, sustainable agriculture advocates and policy makers gather for the Local Food Project's first annual conference, "Rethinking Design: Ecological Farms in the 21st Century"

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2007

Chesapeake Bay Program

The Citizens Advisory Committee of the Chesapeake Executive Council meets for two days to discuss the implementation of the Virginia Tributary Strategy.

CCID: Community Colleges for International Development, Inc

Following five Airlie retreats in the nineties, community college leaders gather for a sixth Airlie Center Retreat to re-ignite the spark for discussion on international study abroad programs.

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2008

International Center for Journalists

Iran 360 Conference: Exploring Politics, Economics and Society in a Global Hot Spot.

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2009

Virginia Food System Council

Airlie is a founding member of the Virginia Food System Council, featuring a network of local food system leaders working to advance a nutrient-rich and safe food system for Virginians at all income levels, while also sustaining Virginia's farmers and farmland.

Stanley Foundation

50th annual conference promoting peace and justice, 48 of which occurred at Airlie. Held first conference at Airlie in 1961 and has returned every year since.

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2011

50 Year Anniversary

Airlie celebrates 50 years as an "Island of Thought."

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2012

Airlie's Renovated Pavilion Awarded LEED Gold

Airlie's Pavilion receives a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. This milestone emphasizes Airlie's long-standing commitment to environmental initiatives.

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