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Dianne Lev

Envisioning a New Future

How Philanthropic Leaders Support the Center's Work

Great leaders share many traits with bold explorers—courage to chart a course through unknown territory, sharp instincts, and an unwavering capacity to get things done. When I think of great leaders, I imagine them looking through a telescope, intuitively knowing when to shift the view so the finer details come into focus. This balance of holding the distant with the immediate is what permits explorers and leaders to transform uncertain possibilities into new realities for us all.

The Center for Spirituality & Healing is an international leader in integrative health and wellbeing, forging new pathways in higher education, research, public engagement, and care-model innovation. Within each of these four realms, the Center has experienced true philanthropic leadership from the following partners, who understand the risks and rewards of investment and can shift their focus to ensure maximum impact from great ideas.

Patrons of Education: Dorothy and Mike Perry

The Perrys’ creation of a charitable gift annuity to create scholarships is a recent gift, but both Dorothy and Mike have a long history with the University of Minnesota. Mike graduated from the Law School in 1964 and Dorothy, a nurse, received her certificate in Health Coaching from the Center in 2009. Directing resources to the University and the Center felt like a natural move for the Perrys, whose history with the Center has been gratifying, both professionally and personally. “We chose the Center because our lives have been enriched by participating in some of what the Center offers: the Health Coaching program, Purpose Project, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshops, and lectures on topics ranging from resilience to self-compassion, happiness, and vulnerability,” Dorothy explains.

The Perrys’ legacy gifts will provide scholarships for students who take Center courses decades from now. Yet their intention, reflected in a gift today, is timeless: “Our vision is that everyone who avails themselves of classes and offerings through the Center will discover healing, wholeness and spirituality.”

Community Engagers: Fairview Health Services

In fall 2011, the Center had begun to formulate its Wellbeing Model and invited Fairview Health Services to join us in exploring the perspectives of compelling thought leaders. Fairview, eager to help introduce strategies for health and wellbeing with patients and employees, became the first co-sponsor of the Wellbeing Lecture Series.

Response was enthusiastic, and soon 21 other forward-thinking collegiate units and organizations signed on as sponsors. Now, after two years, Fairview has helped to disseminate the ideas of wellbeing experts such as Brene Brown, Charles Duhigg, and Kristin Neff to thousands of Series attendees.

Rulon F. Stacey, Fairview’s president and CEO, is a national healthcare leader who is eager to connect Fairview’s future involvement with his vision for a more deeply engaged, vibrant workforce. “The Wellbeing Lecture series is a great opportunity to bring people together and discover ways we can work collectively to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities,” says Stacey.

“The Center does an excellent job of bringing high-quality, thought-provoking speakers to this lecture series. Perhaps just as important as the lecture, however, is the opportunity to connect with and learn from others with similar goals of helping our communities thrive.”

Pioneers of Research: Benjamin and Andrew Baechler

Identical twin brothers Andrew Baechler and Dr. Benjamin Baechler are well-known for their passion for integrative healing modalities and their entrepreneurial prowess. Their company, Eniva Corporation, is a fast-growing health and wellness organization that offers specialized and evidence-based nutritional products.

In 2009, Andrew and Dr. Ben made a gift to the Center to support faculty-led research projects. Three faculty leaders received small grants to explore new territory for the course of one year. Dr. Miriam (Mim) Cameron and a group of medical professionals created a free web-based constitutional self-assessment tool based on Tibetan healing principles.

Dr. Annie Heiderscheit studied the effects of music and video-based nature imagery on patients’ levels of anxiety or serenity. Dr. Ruth Lindquist's work explored ways to help patients more effectively integrate mindfulness practices into their lives.

“We’ve always known the Center’s research focus aligned with our goals to help establish a body of evidence that advances wellbeing,” says Dr. Ben, an assistant professor and Family Medicine physician at the University. Adds Andrew, Eniva’s CEO, “Our gift is truly an investment in the Center’s capacity to help pose hard questions and follow the necessary trails to find answers.”

A Model of Innovation in Care: Anu Family Services

When Amelia Franck Meyer came to a 2012 Wellbeing Lecture to learn about Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s research on positivity, the CEO of Anu Family Services knew she had discovered a fresh course for her work.

Anu, a non-profit serving youth who live in out-of-home settings, was expanding its vision. The national foster care framework was shifting from safety to permanent placement to child wellbeing, and some associated with the system were beginning to broaden the focus of their work. They were starting to ask, ‘Are the kids okay?’ and ‘How can we tell?’ “At the Wellbeing Lecture, I made an immediate connection between Dr. Fredrickson’s science of positivity and Anu’s approach to trauma informed parenting,” says Amelia. “So I stopped Mary Jo Kreitzer at the reception after the event and asked to meet about applying the Center's Wellbeing Model to youth. The partnership began to race forward from there.”

Anu became a co-sponsor for the 2013 Wellbeing Lecture Series and collaborated with the Center and the UMN Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare to develop a youth wellbeing indicator tool and resource guide. Says Amelia, “The Center's evidence-based Wellbeing Model is a vital tool for exploring our central question—‘Are the kids okay?’—and developing resources so that we can ensure that as often as possible that answer is ‘Yes.’”

Become a Wellbeing Leader

These stories are examples of the kinds of innovation that is possible when philanthropic resources encourage us (the Center) to gaze into the telescope, explore the horizon, and then shift into action, whether that be educating future professionals, conducting breakthrough research, engaging communities, or designing integrative care models. The Perrys, the Baechlers, Fairview’s Rulon Stacey, and Anu’s Amelia Franck Meyer are some of the powerful voices of leadership who look deeply into their own telescopes, see the blurry brightness of a distant future, and hold their gaze as it slowly comes into view.