Humanist Profile

The Humanist, November-December 2016 | Go to article overview

Humanist Profile


"Living the good life is a continual process, cradle to grave, of reinventing what it means to live in the place we belong with people we love, doing the right work on purpose."

--Carol Wintermute

Longtime humanist leader Carol Wintermute was born Carol Ann McKnight on October 16,1940, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her liberal parents were Quakers for a period of time but were religiously unaffiliated for most of their lives. By age eleven, Carol identified as an atheist.

Carol received a bachelor of fine arts from Denison University in Ohio in 1962. That same year she married Hank Wintermute, with whom she had two children, David and Kristin (who is executive director of The Humanist Institute and a board member of the American Humanist Association). Wintermute did her postgraduate work in psychology and completed coursework for a master's in family social science at the University of Minnesota in 1974. She also completed coursework for the independent study program for minister of religious education through the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1984.

Over her career, Wintermute was a visual aids librarian at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian, a research assistant in an experimental drug education program, a coordinator of an early childhood program for the St. Paul school system, an instructor at the University of Minnesota, and a branch manager for the American Red Cross.

Wintermute's involvement in humanism began when she joined the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She taught Sunday school there and later became the society's director of religious education, having written humanist curricula for children and adults. The society's minister, Khoren Arisian, invited her to become a student of the first class of The Humanist Institute (THI), an educational program that trains future humanist leaders through the study of humanist history, philosophy, ethics, and leadership skills. Upon graduating in 1987 she joined THI's board of directors. She served as THI's president from 1992 to 2002 and as co-dean from 2003 until June of 2016. Through her leadership, Wintermute was instrumental in professionalizing humanist education in the United States. …

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