The Theosophical Society in America

President's Diary

September - October 2005

Betty Bland

The fall programs began with a big bang this year by way of TheosoFest, a gala open house with speakers, vendors, and refreshments. As a part of our national center’s recent focus on outreach, the staff decided to hold this expanded version of the traditional fall open house. Diana Cabigting most ably coordinated all activities and volunteers, and thanks to publicity efforts by Pat Barker, Eileen Seto, and Ruthann Fowler, the “Fest” brought in almost a thousand people, many of whom were new to the Society. Moreover, the bookstore had the largest day of sales in its history. Everyone felt that it was a successful and enjoyable day, but it was still a lot of work. We are considering whether to make this a regular annual or triennial event.

Following closely on the heels of our TheosFest, the Autumn Fest of Wheaton provided another opportunity to promote Theosophy and the Society. TSA sponsored and staffed an informational booth among the displays and vendors arrayed around the town center’s park. We were quite pleased with the response of passersby and discovered that our visibility was still benefiting from the prior week’s publicity for TheosoFest. Both events were successful but also gave us many ideas as to how to improve our public relations endeavors.

The following week in September brought twenty-one participants to the Olcott Experience, an annual orientation and training for leaders in local groups. This was a far-reaching group that included members from Florida to New England and from the east coast to Hawaii. Planned activities, conversations, and Jeff Gresko’s good cooking brought these members together in a special way, forming new bonds of Theosophical friendship.

Several weeks later, in early October, a large box containing exotic tropical flowers arrived from Hawaii as a unique thank-you gift from Jan and Bill Schmidt for the impactful Olcott Experience. Now ordinarily I might not mention the receipt of flowers, even though they don’t arrive all that often. These flowers were amazing, with large heads and inflexible woody stems. I had to hunt down several unusually large vases and cut the stems to length with a small hacksaw, but their natural beauty overcame my deficiencies and their unwieldiness.

The flowers arrived just in time to adorn the platform, making even more festive the occasion of John Algeo’s Thursday evening presentation concerning the Harry Potter books "Harry Potter's Saga: Overview and Preview of the Future." We are always delighted to welcome John back to our platform as well as to benefit from his astute assessment of any text from a Theosophical perspective, and the flowers were the icing on the cake.

During the last few months, we have had several new people join our staff: John Cianciosi, a Quest Books author and former Buddhist monk is working as assistant to Mark Roemmich in the maintenance department; Christine Pomeroy has joined the publishing staff as administrative assistant; and Paula Finnegan has joined Quest magazine as coordinating editor. We are pleased to have them, all of whom are members, as a part of our team.

The major adventure has been my recent trip to speak at the Atlanta Lodge. Then, after a brief respite in which David, my husband, and I visited our Alabama godchildren, Sadie and Tucker Ayers, we flew out to Seattle to visit with Aino and David Kunz.  David Kunz determined that his treasure trove of archives which resided in the basement would be safer and more useful for research by being located and catalogued in the archives at the national center in Wheaton. So after several days of packing and loading a rental van, a dinner meeting with potential authors at Linda Jo Pym’s, and a day of meetings with the Tacoma Lodge, David and I headed out on the long drive back to Chicago. Four and a half days and almost 2,400 miles of mountains, hills, and plains later, we arrived home with a new respect for our traveling forbears.

October ended with a Tibetan Buddhist retreat which drew twenty-three participants from as far away as Texas. The retreat was led by Quest Books author Glenn Mullen, renowned Tibetologist and Buddhist meditation teacher, who has also agreed to lead a special tour of Blavatsky and Olcott’s Tibet from May 18 to June 5, 2007, in honor of the 100th anniversary of Colonel Olcott’s passing. Details will be forthcoming, but begin thinking of the possibility.