The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

July - August 2008

Betty Bland

Inspired by the love bug that seems to be contagious among staff these days, Angel Fragassi, credit manager for the Theosophical Publishing House (TPH) since 1991, decided to marry her long-time partner, Thornell “Red” Hillard. It happened so quickly that we did not have time for a prenuptial party, but we swiftly got together a postnuptial celebration at the Bland cottage to mark this momentous occasion with joy and good wishes.

We were not as joyful about Barbara Prescott’s departure from the TPH editorial staff, but we sent her off with good wishes for her future endeavors. Fortunately, about the same time, Idarmis Rodriguez became available from her editorial post at Adyar, so we were able to make a smooth transition in that department.

Continuing with the theme of change, my administrative assistant, Anu Naresh, has been off for three months on extended medical leave. However, I am happy to write that Anu is expected to be back fit as a fiddle in September. During the first part of Anu’s absence, Kathy Kozak most ably filled in, but after Kathy moved to California in August, I enlisted the help of Juliana Cesano, our volunteer from Argentina. Although the constant shifting has been disconcerting, especially during this, the busiest time of our entire season, I was blessed with most able and willing substitutes.

The creation, printing, and distribution of board reports consumed much of the time for staff, but all went smoothly as we prepared for board meetings. Each summer our national center is abuzz with activity as preparations and the arrival of guests reaches a crescendo. Arriving first for an orientation session with our national treasurer Nancy Secrest, were Tim Boyd, our new vice-president, and new board members Wallace Rainey and Lyn Trotman, who were soon followed by the rest of the board. Quickly, all got into the rhythm of reviewing departmental achievements and budgetary matters, with lively discussion and enthusiastic visioning of the future.

board The Theosophical Society in America's current board of trustees with president and vice president. From left: Nelda Samarel, Betty Bland, Wallace Rainey, Barbara Hebert, Mo Michel, Elwin Barrett, Tim Boyd, and Lyn Trotman.

Although it is difficult to point out only one specific attraction at the Summer National Gathering (SNG), most memorable were our stellar speakers, Uma and Amit Goswami, Ravi Ravindra, John Algeo, and Joy Mills. Other highlights included the soaring notes of Carmelo de los Santos’ violin concert, the historical saga of Joy’s memoirs, the flowing beauty of Uma’s traditional Indian dance, and the uproariously funny presentations at Fun Night.

However, our most poignant moment was the presentation of the beautiful, almost life-size, portrait of Jiddu Krishnamurti, painted by Henry Schwartz, who gave it to the Society in the late 1920s. After Krishnamurti made his famous speech distancing himself from the organization, the portrait found its way back to Schwartz’s Oak Park Illinois, home, where it had resided for these many years. Now, through the kind donation of Vernon Schwartz, son of the artist, the lovely painting has returned to Olcott, where it will find a place of honor. This is a touching symbol of the healing which has occurred within the Society. Krishnamurti has come home.

A group photo of most (though not all) participants at the 2008 Summer National Gathering at Olcott

August, usually the slowest month of our season, continued at a rapid pace, at least for me. Before the ending of SNG, I was called away for another emergency trip to North Carolina for Butter Johnson, my ninety-five-year-old mother. From there, I went directly to New York to be present at the birth of Marilyn Rose, our second granddaughter. Both ends of the spectrum of life filled most of the month.

Two other events punctuated this last month of summer. The T-Mobile cell tower, a monopole mount for cell phone transmission, was installed behind the maintenance shop, and the leasing fees have already begun generating funds to help maintain our grounds. We expect the tower may lead to additional revenue from other cell phone companies as they ask to share space and locate antennae on the tower. But our big news is that the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library received a $25,000 state grant for assistance with the migration of their database to a larger consortium, thereby increasing the collection's access and visibility. This grant will enable the library to direct more effort toward completing its electronic record conversion. The library staff worked very diligently to obtain this grant, which we hope is only the beginning of finding additional funding. We are grateful for both sources of income as we look forward to a busy and productive fall season.