The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

May - June 2008

Betty Bland

In early May, we hosted the Interfaith Peace Prayers Group for a Friday evening of prayers and fellowship. The group is led by Mahzer Ahmed, a soft spoken Muslim woman architect who has dedicated her off-hours to building cross-cultural understanding through shared prayers from many faiths. Mahzer is also a board member for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and actively working for the success of the next planned Parliament to be held in Melbourne, Australia in 2009.

As our spring weather improved, a window of opportunity opened and the grounds and maintenance staff (with help from other Olcott staff members) were able to plant sixteen trees on May 6. This auspicious date marks the anniversary of when the first donated tree, a Silver Linden, was dedicated and placed in the ground in 1925. Also, since several members were anxious to see the original character of pond preserved, three Golden Weeping Willows were planted around the pond as the donors specifically asked that their donations go toward the replacement the downed willow trees.

May was also the time for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hubble Middle School to serve Wheaton and Warrenville. I attended along with my husband, David, who represented the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and was active in garnering support for this innovative project—a fully green school, one of the first in the nation to be designed and built to the U. S. Green Building Council’s “LEED for Schools” standards. (LEED stands for leadership in energy and environmental design.) Because of David’s involvement in the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce and other local community activities, the Society is becoming far better known in our area. Now it seems that wherever we mention the Theosophical Society, people respond that they have been hearing good things about us and plan to visit our campus soon. The more that each of us can become visibly active in our communities in the name of Theosophy, the greater impact we can have.

Another opportunity for bringing more notice to the Society was our hosting of an extern student from my alma mater, University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Jason Bowers, who was with us for ten days, discovered an interest in vegetarian food, yoga, and a broader base of interfaith understanding. We enjoyed hosting Jason and developed more local contacts through the Chicago branch of the UNCG Alumni Association.

The spring was a busy time of sending out and counting ballots both for the national as well as the international elections. Jeffrey Forth, our national secretary worked meticulously creating the mailings with specific instructions in order to ensure fair elections with voter validations while still providing for private ballots. At the specified date for counting, the tellers opened, verified, and tallied the ballots. In addition to the national secretary, there were four outside volunteers to assist in the process and to provide for crosschecking for the international election.

After a serious fall and ten-day hospital stay, my mother, Butter, is now back home and recovering. Butter’s medical situation prompted me to make several trips to North Carolina. And it was a good thing. Without my advocacy in the highly specialized but understaffed medical arena, I do not think she would have recovered nearly as well nor as quickly as she did.

My travels caused me to miss attendance at a most successful seminar sponsored by the Theosophical Order of Service (TOS). The Totally Responsible Person training, designed to enhance effective leadership and responsible functioning, was brought to us by Thomas White and Sanford Danziger who live and work in an intentional community guided by spiritual principles. About thirty staff, TOS volunteers, and other community personnel found the day-long session inspiring and empowering for their ongoing service work.

After twenty years of loyal service, Tony Lysy will be retiring from his post as Dean of the Olcott Institute. Tony is known here at Olcott and around the American Section for his broad base of knowledge and integration of information across many disciplines. His leaving will mark the end of the Olcott Institute; it would just not be the same without him. However, the department of education will try to fill in the gap and continue to creatively serve our groups and members.

Richard and NicoleOn a perfect June evening about forty-five staff and guests celebrated the upcoming nuptials of two of our staff members, Nicole Krier, marketing manager for TPH, and Richard Smoley, consulting acquisitions editor for Quest Books and now additionally, executive editor for Quest magazine. We gathered in our home (the Cottage) and drifted to the patio with good food, candle light, music, and just enough mosquitoes to keep us on our toes. We wish the beaming couple every happiness.

June ended with a Summer Solstice Storytelling Carnival and Campout sponsored by the Friends of Olcott and the Order of the Round Table. The stage set up at the back of the garages was the perfect venue for children of all ages to sit under the great pine grove to listen to an array of intriguing stories punctuated by interludes of live music. Crafts, games, and food added to the festivities. Additional stories and songs around the evening campfire satisfied our young guests, as I am told that they all went to bed without complaint—although there were a few giggles that were heard wafting through the night air. I loved seeing the circle of tents which reminded me of the family camping atmosphere of my earliest memories of coming to Olcott for summer conferences in the early 1970’s. May many more people, young and old, discover here a spiritual home, their true home.