Opening the Door Between Two Worlds: Peggy Brevoort
In many cultures, a labyrinth is regarded as a door between two worlds, an ideal place to ask questions, seek inspiration and gain wisdom. In much the same way, Bastyr University trustee and benefactor Margaret (Peggy) Brevoort has devoted her life to connecting disparate worlds, to serving as a conduit between tradition and innovation. It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that this insightful, ahead-of-her-time woman now spends her leisure time constructing intricate labyrinths and helping others to do the same.
Brevoort and her husband, Bill, are nothing short of legends in the world of natural products. They were the first to manufacture Chinese herbal formulations in the United States at a company called East Earth Herb, Inc. (now A.M. Todd Botanicals).
The Brevoorts recently named Bastyr in a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. University officials are excited about the impact such gifts can have on Bastyr's future.
"We are extremely grateful to Peggy and Bill Brevoort for this extraordinary act of generosity," Bastyr President Dr. Daniel K. Church said on behalf of the board of trustees. "Because their gift is unrestricted, it will allow us to allocate resources in keeping with programs and priorities that evolve over time."
"Planned giving of this nature is of profound benefit to the University," President Church continued, noting that "it also creates an enduring legacy for donors and their families."
Of all the organizations the Brevoorts could choose to support, why Bastyr?
"Our professional lives have been devoted to natural products," Peggy says. "We believe very strongly in working with nature instead of against her to enhance health. Bastyr teaches (this to) practitioners who in turn teach patients and help create a healthier, more peaceful world."
The Brevoorts have been involved with Bastyr since the 1970s when they first started their business and made "conscious decisions to live simple, healthy lives."
They continue to dedicate their time, talents and financial resources to "areas where you can really see change," and they believe strongly in the wisdom of leveraging to generate the greatest benefit from their efforts.
"Bastyr is educating future generations to make a difference," Peggy says. "None of us is getting one second younger, and we need to make sure that the University continues to turn out these fantastic practitioners. An investment in Bastyr is really an investment in our own health, along with the future of the planet. We need to make certain that this medicine remains in the forefront and doesn't disappear again."
A Single and Compelling Path Leading to the Center
Born in New York City, Peggy's fascinating journey has taken her to the Oregon coast, the South Pacific, a yoga ashram in British Columbia and now, since her official retirement in 2000, to the Big Island of Hawaii, where she is "done with the cold and damp and can garden year round."
Peggy married Bill Brevoort in 1961. After graduating from Columbia University, Bill landed a job teaching fine arts at the University of Oregon and the couple moved west. Part of the "back to the land" movement that gained popularity in the late 1960s, the Brevoorts grew their own food and lived a simple, rural life. "People were just beginning to discover that what you put in your mouth matters," Peggy recalls.
The couple began to learn more about natural foods, herbs and Chinese medicine as a natural outgrowth of their lifestyle. They founded East Earth Herb in Oregon in the early 1970s and began importing Chinese herbs, which they sold to individuals, health food stores and natural food co-ops.
Along the way, the Brevoorts, then with a young son and daughter in tow, spent a year at a yoga ashram in British Columbia. There they becamevegetarians, learned to meditate and lived without telephones or TV (Peggy continues to think of television as a "disturbing form of energy.") It was a long way from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan where Peggy and Bill grew up. And while it was "very isolated," Peggy says it was also "enormously valuable…a very special time for us to pause and adjust to a simpler lifestyle."
In addition to beginning a threeyear term on Bastyr's board of trustees, Peggy Brevoort also serves on the board of the American Botanical Council. She was named Woman of the Year by the Association of Women in Natural Foods and also received the Natural Business Communication's Leadership in Business Award. Brevoort has lectured extensively on the subject of natural products to groups across the globe.
Recreating Chartres in Kohala
The Brevoorts now live on 10 acres on the Big Island of Hawaii's northern Kohala coast, traveling back and forth to the mainland for family and business reasons. Once again opening a door between the worlds she inhabits, Peggy has constructed a 41-foot replica of the famed labyrinth from the Chartres Cathedral in France among the lush tropical plants in her Hawaiian backyard.
She believes labyrinths offer "a wonderful analogy for our spiritual journey. And unlike a maze – which confuses you – a labyrinth always follows a single path that leads to a center."
An amateur astronomer, Bill Brevoort now has his telescope pointed skyward when at the couple's cabin, located 5,000 feet above sea level near South Point, on the Big Island of Hawaii – a perfect place to view the constellations and contemplate the larger world.
British astronomer Sir Martin Rees once likened telescopes to time machines, observing that "they reveal galaxies so far away that their light has taken billions of years to reach us. We in astronomy have an advantage in studying the universe, in that we can actually see the past."
True visionaries, the Brevoorts have devoted their lives to opening doors between earth and sky, convention and innovation, past and future. With labyrinths and telescopes, they have studied the earth and learned about the stars, gaining wisdom and enlightenment from both ancient cultures and future civilizations. As they continue to learn about what Sir Martin Rees called "the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmos," the Brevoorts have blazed a trail to help the rest of us "at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat."
Every Gift Tells a Story
We find that every gift tells a story about the donor and the recipient. Scholarships sometimes come from those who once struggled financially. Endowed chairs often come from those who witnessed a faculty member demonstrate a lifetime of commitment to research and teaching. And facilities that cannot be built with budgeted dollars alone become reality through private generosity. Read the stories here of Dwayne Clark and Peggy Brevoort, who are just two of Bastyr’s many loyal supporters. They know that giving to Bastyr University is a good investment — for them and for Bastyr.
Áegis Living CEO Dwayne Clark
At the Redmond headquarters of Áegis Living, the multi-million-dollar company Clark founded in 1997, he does his walking on a reflexology path that he created for his staff. The path is just one manifestation of how deeply he cares about the people who surround him, from his employees and the residents of his senior living facilities to impoverished strangers in distant parts of the globe.
A longtime supporter of natural medicine in general and Bastyr University in particular, Clark recently donated $100,000 to establish a healthy aging research program at the school.
"Dwayne stepped up and asked how he could jumpstart a healthy aging program here," says Dr. Timothy C. Callahan, Bastyr's senior vice president and provost, noting that University officials have been engaged in an ongoing conversation about gerontology with Clark and other Áegis Living executives.
The Dwayne J. Clark Center for Healthy Aging – named to recognize Clark for his support of and commitment to Bastyr – will begin as a preventionminded "constellation of activities," as opposed to a building, Dr. Callahan says. Under his leadership, Bastyr has worked to secure grant funding through the National Institutes of Health that "will coalesce around a number of themes, one of which is gerontology and healthy aging."
Dr. Callahan also hopes to secure funding for research projects and clinical work, including advanced direct care for seniors. Both he and Clark would like the center to involve Bastyr students with elderly patients.
East-Meets-West Fusion of Ideas Enhances Aging Process
"I'd like the center to focus on the numerous forms that healthy aging can take," Clark says, and to "use a balanced approach that is proactive instead of reactive."
Clark employs this same philosophy at Áegis Living in numerous ways, going "beyond the boundaries of traditional medicine" to incorporate acupuncture, massage, exercise, nutrition, reflexology, stress management, companionship and laughter. For instance, Clark has developed a program at Áegis called Living4Life that is affiliated with both Bastyr and the University of Washington.
Living4Life applies the latest scientific, social and health breakthroughs in designing individualized wellness plans for each resident. The goal is to "elevate the mind, body and spirit through nutrition, exercise and community engagement."
Áegis' newest property, Bear Creek Lodge, due to open in Redmond in 2010, will include on-site holistic health centers offering naturopathic care. Multi-generational programming will encourage residents and youth to build relationships. Community and social activities will provide regular opportunities for heart-healthy, stressreducing shared laughter. Áegis salons offer hair styling, manicures, pedicures and skin care, along with saunas, warm water therapy pools and consultations on sex and romance, areas often overlooked in senior populations.
Bringing Natural Medicine into the Mainstream
"Aging well means so much more than not smoking and watching your cholesterol," Clark says. As opposed to the conventional practice of "going to the doctor when we're dying, Bastyr focuses on living and preventive measures to help us age in a healthier way."
A self-described "huge supporter" of Bastyr, Clark is married to Terese, a nurse who has studied alternative medicine extensively. The couple visited 500 spa facilities around the world before opening one of their own, Spa Agio, in Redmond. Clark recalls a particularly memorable massage he received while traveling in Africa. The massage was administered with "a knotted stick while the masseur told folklore stories," he remembers. "The rhythm of the story made you feel safe, like a child again. It took all the pressure off and created a real emotional connection."
One of his goals is to help natural medicine become more mainstream and, once again, Clark puts his money where his mouth is. He has offered to provide housing for students of both Bastyr University and the University of Washington Medical School at the newest Áegis Living site in Redmond to facilitate an East-meets-West fusion of ideas. The idyllic setting will include organic gardens, a salt water pool, a reflexology path and more.
"Our partnership with Áegis at the Bear Creek facility is yet another example of Dwayne's corporate ethos and his incredible generosity," Dr. Callahan says, observing that "the multi-acre setting is amazing."
From Potato Soup to Princess Di
Life for Dwayne Clark hasn't always been quite so idyllic. As a teenager, he was poor and his single mother worked as a cook to support the two of them. At one point, she was struggling to feed her son and had no choice but to steal a dozen potatoes from her employer. For an entire week, mother and son lived on the potato soup she made. The soup made an indelible impression on young Dwayne, and he vowed to never forget where he came from and what they'd had to do to survive.
Clark was particularly close to his maternal grandmother and when she developed Alzheimer's disease, he often visited her at what he describes as "a sad old folks' home." Seeing her in this setting inspired his interest in senior living alternatives. Clark's mother, now 85, came to suffer from Alzheimer's
as well and now resides in an Áegis community. Clark describes her as a "loving and courageous woman who fought for her country in World War II, tracked elephants in India, herded sheep on an Idaho ranch" and raised four successful children.
He is also quick to credit his mother for her role in shaping his own unfathomable success. "The greatest gifts she gave me were confidence and the power of positive thinking," he recalls fondly. "Because we were Irish Catholics, she always told us that we were just like the Kennedys. I couldn't help thinking 'so where's our yacht and our big house in New England?!'"
His company now boasts annual revenues of $175 million and manages real estate assets over $2 billion.
His remarkable journey has taken him to the summer palace of Travancore Maharajas and to dinner with Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Deeply appreciative of the "spectacular things" he's had the opportunity to see and do, Clark remains surprisingly down to earth and reflective. He candidly discusses "wrestling with the demons" that success at this level can bring, yet he continues to find ways to keep his perspective, often in unexpected places.
"My wife and I were in a shanty town in India," he recalls, "and we met a family of four who lived in a structure that was no larger than six by eight feet. Yet they invited us in and offered us tea and food and laughter."
Clark is visibly moved by such experiences and quietly alludes to his satisfaction at being able to help change the lives of this family and others like them, without elaborating on the details of his generosity.
The awards and accolades he has accumulated for both his business acumen and his philanthropy are legion. Most recently, Clark received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Seattle Senior Services for his groundbreaking work in "highlighting new attitudes about seniors and senior care."
A far cry from warehousing the elderly in "sad old folks' homes," Áegis Living provides seniors with luxurious living spaces and resort-style amenities. Áegis communities also include such innovative features as stress-free "neighborhoods" to assist residents who are struggling with dementia. Clark recently developed an Áegis community exclusively for those of Asian descent and – now on the drawing board – is one for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents.
There is little question that Dwayne Clark is devoted to transforming the way we age. He remains tireless in this quest, committed to treating all people with enormous dignity and respect, to "making life better" wherever he goes. Whether he's behind the wheel of a race car, helping a poor family in the shanty towns of India, or at the helm of the life-altering organization he has created, Clark remains a formidable driving force behind what he so aptly calls "a work of heart."