Kushi Institute’s 2015 Summer Conference Report Back
Preserving the Legacy and Furthering the Dream
Photos by Nancy Adler www.nancyalder.com
The Kushi Institute (K.I.) 2015 Summer Conference was an enormous success. Like the 2014 Conference, the two-week event was held at the K.I. campus in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts. Instead of a big tent like the year before, everyone ate outside in the newly renovated Courtyard Kushi (named after the Courtyard Marriot in Brookline, MA, where frequent meetings with Michio took place.) Nature seemed to be supporting the Conference. The late July and early August weather was clear, sunny, and perfect.
The theme of the Conference was Preserving the Legacy and Furthering the Dream. The Conference was essentially a tribute to the legacy and vision of Michio Kushi, the founder of the Kushi Institute (Michio lectured at the 2014 Conference and participated actively in K.I. development until his passing in December 2014 at age eighty-eight.) It was Michio’s suggestion that the Conference take place at the K.I. in Becket, a suggestion that led to the overwhelming success of the 2014 and 2015 events.
So as to get ready for the 2015 Conference, the K.I. purchased new picnic tables, umbrellas, and lanterns for the Courtyard. The K.I. offered live music during meals, a talent show, and set up a night café for socializing after the evening keynote in the library.
The week prior to Summer Conference, a truckload of new mattresses arrived courtesy of a donation arranged by Maria Ahverdyan, 2015’s Summer Conference coordinator. They were valued at $138,000, and our staff promptly removed the old mattresses and installed the new mattresses in all rooms in the Main House and North Hall dormitory. The old mattresses were donated to local summer camps. Maria also initiated an online Kickstarter campaign that raised over $13,000 for revitalizing the campus with a focus on enhancing the comfort of all of our guests. We purchased new comforters, blankets and pillows for every single room. The week before Conference was designated as Service Week. A team of volunteers, coordinated by Operations Manager Bill Shugrue and Program Director Kris Tyler, cleaned, painted, and spruced up the K.I. buildings and surroundings. The result of their efforts was a clean, cozy, well lit, and comfortable environment for the Conference and future K.I. programs.
As a result of the dedication of the K.I. staff, management, and faculty, all aspects of the program were outstanding. Housing and transportation, coordinated by Nancy Segal, Bob Mattson and Larry MacKenny, were pulled off without a hitch. Faculty and staff were housed at K.I. or at the nearby Lakeside Lodge and Courage House. Maria ensured a smooth flow of events with a diverse faculty and complex logistics. The kitchen, under the direction of master chefs Joel Liu and Simone Parris, backed by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, delivered consistently delicious, aesthetically beautiful, and healthful macrobiotic meals.
The Summer Conference faculty was world-class. In 2015, K.I. Resident Faculty, Bettina Zumdick, Chris Jenkins, and Amber Maisano, were joined by a U.S. lineup that included Denny Waxman, Lawrence H. Kushi, Gabriele Kushi, Angelica Kushi, Susan Krieger, Jane Stanchich, Lino Stanchich, Gale Jack, Sheri DeMaris, Christina Pirello, Judy MacKenney, Larry MacKenney, Les Bolland, Dr. Cottrell, Anthony Dissen, Warren Kramer, Virginia Harper, Sommer White,M.D., Phil Jannetta, David Sergel, Jessica Porter (who also served as host), Bill Spear, Kezia Snyder, Masumi Goldman, Sachi Kato, Jeffrey Reel, Olaf Fischer, Sandy Pukel, and Evan Root.
International faculty included Wieke Nelissen, founder and director of the Kushi Institute of the Netherlands, Patricio Garcia de Paredes, director of education at the Kushi Institute of Japan (KIJ), Ginat and Sheldon Rice from Israel, and Nicola and David McCarthy, founders of Big Life Organics in England. David and Nicola’s 13 year-old daughter Kerry, was a lively presence on campus. She organized the talent show together with Jessica Porter.
The K.I. also held a two-week “Super Level” track during the Conference. Students participated in the K.I. Level One curriculum while attending special presentations by Guest Faculty.
The Conference culminated on August 7 with a number of special events. The first was a special Commemorative Ceremony held at the Aveline Memorial Peace Park. Speakers included Lawrence H. Kushi, Michio and Aveline’s second son, and Midori Kushi, Michio’s second wife. (Aveline passed away in 2001.) A special panel, “Remembering Michio,” followed the event. Long-time students and friends of Michio shared their fond memories and reminiscences of this great teacher. Panel members included Evan Root, Judy MacKenny, Sandy Pukel, Patricio Garcia de Paredes, Phil Jannetta, Weike Nelissen, Christina Pirello, and Bill Spear. The panel coincided with publication by the K.I. of the book by the same name. Remembering Michio features original essays by 70 of Michio’s students, family, and friends. It is available from KushiStore.com and from Amazon.
The Remembering Michio panel was followed by the annual Aveline Awards presentation. The Aveline Award is presented each year for outstanding contribution to macrobiotic education and the health and well being of humanity. The 2015 Award was presented to Weike Nelissen; Evan Root, one of the Kushi’s first students in Boston and manager of Erewhon natural foods; Bruce and Crystal MacDonald, directors of Natural Import Company and natural food pioneers in Asheville, NC; and Waddy Fyler, who, over the past thirty years, has supported the Kushi Institute and the macrobiotic association of Connecticut, and who, as a symbol of macrobiotic longevity at ninety-two, continues to develop projects while driving up and down the East Coast.
A Gala Dinner followed the Award Ceremony. The Gala fundraising auction raised $30,000 as Conference participants enjoyed a sumptuous dinner prepared by head chefs Joel Liu, Patricio Garcia de Parades, Sachi Kato, and Simone Parris. The auction featured spirited bidding, and among the many items donated were airfare and a 10-day holiday for two at a five-star hotel on Mauritius, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. A special dinner cooked by the authors went for a much more modest bid. In addition about $8,000 was donated for special projects, including expanding the K.I. Store inventory and new computers for the office.
Plans are underway for the 2016 Summer Conference, scheduled for the first two weeks in August. The 2016 theme will highlight sustainability and the future. Many of the Resident and Guest faculty from the past several years will be presenting, as well as several special guests. The K.I. is in discussion with Tom Monte, the well-known macrobiotic author and teacher, about presenting a workshop and keynote, and with Mayumi Nishimura, former head chef at the K.I. who went on to become Madonna’s private cook, about a series of special classes. Check KushiInstitute.org for ongoing developments and updates. We hope to see you in August.
– Edward Esko and Alex Jack
Alex Jack and Edward Esko serve as Executive Director and Associate Director of the Kushi Institute. They also serve as K.I. senior faculty. Alex and Ed have traveled extensively teaching macrobiotics and have authored numerous books, essays, and articles.
Thank you to our awesome 2015 sponsors for making this unique event possible! The Kushi Institute proudly endorses the following companies and their quality products!