Support IONS

Donor Stories

Jan Ögren

“There were other people out there who saw the larger picture. That’s what Edgar Mitchell talked about when he looked at Earth from space and saw it as a whole, without frames or boundaries. That gave me hope.”
–Jan Ögren

IONS’ “Big-Picture” View Inspires Therapist’s Bequest

Becoming an IONS Circle Member was a transformative experience for family therapist Jan Ögren. At her first Circle retreat, she found inspiration for her novel, Dividing Worlds, in which the protagonist helps create a shift in global consciousness based on the theories and research that have characterized IONS’ work.

As a psychotherapist, Jan works with consciousness-shifting every day. She sees her practice the same way former astronaut and IONS founder Edgar Mitchell saw Earth from outer space: her clients are living members of a complex universe of relationships, not isolated individuals.

When she joined IONS in the 1970s, Jan was a student of neurobiology exploring the biological basis of consciousness. “I was studying neurology, physiological psychology, and cognitive psychology,” she recalls, “and I found that people in those different disciplines were not talking to one another. Then I discovered IONS, which was blending these fields and getting people to talk across disciplines. It was wonderful.”

Before IONS Jan felt her big-picture interest ran counter to the conventional scientific focus on the particular and the specific. Through IONS she discovered that “there were other people out there who saw the larger picture. That’s what Edgar Mitchell talked about when he looked at Earth from space and saw it as a whole, without frames or boundaries. That gave me hope."

After earning her masters from Sonoma State University in the 1980s, Jan had to choose between academic research and applied knowledge as a practicing therapist. “I chose application, though I’m still fascinated by neurology.” And she does use her scientific background with her clients: “I help people rewire their brains,” she says. “Those who have a core belief that they’re worthless will manifest that physically. When they change that belief, they walk better, feel better, eat better, and take better care of themselves.”

Like IONS, Jan believes in the value of exploring new ways to help create healthier paradigms. Fifteen years ago that drive led her to public speaking and writing; her new book, Dividing Worlds, is now available. (For more information, go to

Jan and her partner, Dean Watson—a computer architect for Blue Shield of California—have made IONS and other causes the beneficiaries of an estate plan they created a few years ago. She says their bequest to IONS “is for the future. IONS is pointing toward a direction we need to go.” When she remembers her feeling of isolation before discovering IONS, she adds, “IONS let me know that I am not alone.”

Steve Curtiss

“I could taste, smell, and see my dreams in brilliant colors. I was going through a spiritual journey when I first discovered IONS.”
–Steve Curtiss

A Physical Therapist’s Dreams Lead to Visionary Bequest Plan

Steve Curtiss drives sixty miles every day from his home in Hood River, Oregon, to Portland to work with brain-injured and other patients facing long-term hospitalization. A physical therapy assistant at Portland’s Vibra Specialty Hospital, Steve feels his 120-mile round-trips are worth it. Along with bringing relief to victims dealing with the complex fallout from stroke, disease, and trauma, he applies what he’s learned about mind-body connections, a subject that drew him to IONS in the late 1980s.

“Back then, I couldn’t afford to subscribe to IONS’ publications,” he says. Nonetheless, Steve, who also is a massage therapist and shamanic practitioner, was intrigued by IONS’ scientific studies of spirituality and health, dreams, and reality. “At that time I was experiencing highly vivid dreams,” he recalls. “I could taste, smell, and see my dreams in brilliant colors. I was going through a spiritual journey when I first discovered IONS.”

Steve found the Institute’s scientific approach to spiritual matters compatible with the writings of anthropologists Michael Harner and Hank Wesselman, both of whom he admires. Harner’s guide to the art of shamanic healing, The Way of the Shaman, helped shape Steve’s work as a physical therapist.

Steve began formal studies in physical therapy at age 39, and after graduation, he worked in skilled nursing facilities. In 2006, however, he became his mother’s full-time caretaker on a 20-acre forested property near Hood River, which has been in the family for 75 years. When his mother died in 2008, he began thinking of the long-term future of this special property. He hopes it will become a satellite retreat house for IONS and realizes that transfers of real estate to nonprofit organizations raise many questions. Can the receiving organization afford to maintain the property? Will the property serve the organization’s mission? Does local zoning allow for nonresidential use? “I’m talking with IONS about the possibilities,” Steve reports. In the meantime, Steve has included IONS as the beneficiary of one-half of his retirement plan. Retirement plan gifts are as simple as real estate gifts are complex; in this case the plan’s custodian simply passes the designated percentage on to IONS, free of estate and income taxes.

Motivating both gifts is Steve’s admiration of IONS: “The Institute bridges the spiritual and the scientific in a way I agree with, a way that has helped me to become a better person and a better therapist.”

George Kemnitz

“IONS provided a form of spirituality that was not dogma-based and that was consistent with my inner spirit.”
–George Kemnitz

George Kemnitz’s Donor Story

George Kemnitz of Mill Creek, Washington, tells the story of African villagers living by a river who found a young boy struggling in the waters, saved him, raised him, and sent him to school, where he prospered. Over the years, those same villagers kept rescuing young children from the river. One day a village elder asked, “Why are these children being swept into the waters?”

“That’s what IONS does,” Kemnitz says. “It asks about the cause of a problem, not just how to deal with its effects.”

A 22-year member and contributor of Rotary International, he feels that Rotary effectively helps people in need without regard to politics or religion. He has also joined the IONS Visionary Circle, which honors those who remember the Institute in their estate plans. George has included a bequest to IONS in his will and made IONS a beneficiary of his retirement plan.

Leading up to his gift to IONS was a forty-year journey that took him from a life of certainties as a fundamentalist minister to one of openness as a practitioner of Bohmian dialogue—a form of free association within a group that facilitates understanding instead of debate. Along the way, IONS provided the bridge for George to act not from within an institutional ministry but from a place of “curiosity and non-judging inquiry.”

“I was a minister for twelve years and a regional director within my church—a pretty big deal—when I resigned,” he explains. Disillusioned with church politics, he sought spirituality without dogma or authoritarianism. “As I healed from that experience, I found IONS. It provided a form of spirituality that was not dogma-based and that was consistent with my inner spirit.”

George tells his story in his prose poem, “My BIO-rhythm”:

Entering this world in 1942, I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
then in Pasadena, Chicago, Washington, DC, and now Seattle.
After college, my first career was a dozen years in the ministry.
That ended with a complete separation, and retreat,
from organized religion, dogma, and authoritarianism.
My next career, for 28 years, was in the world of
business, retail sales, management, and training.
Now, as I’ve closed out that part of my life,
I find myself reconnecting to spirit once more,
but this time on a different level,
entering a world of magic and mystery,
through openness, curiosity, non-judging,
inquiry, deep listening, reflection, silence,
playfulness, humor, and the poetic—
valuing difference, partnering differences,
with humility, gratitude, and grace,
through cooperation, imagination, and creativity,
with a passion for dialogue (of the Bohmian-type),
learning, connecting, and contributing
in the sacred Circle,
toward that which is to be,
Now, I am.

Ruth Lofgren

“I find IONS exploration of the interface of science and spirituality consistent with my convictions.”
–Ruth Lofgren
PhD Microbiology

Ruth Lofgren’s Donor Story

Ruth Lofgren, a retired microbiologist whose classes on beneficial bacteria drew crowds at the University of Michigan Medical School in the 1950s and who at age 91 can still deliver a speech that wins a standing ovation, has become IONS latest charitable gift annuitant.

(Gift annuities provide fixed guaranteed payments to donors for life, leaving what remains in the account to benefit IONS at the donor’s death. Because of her age, Ms. Lofgren is receiving payments of 11.3 percent of the face value of her gift.)

Ms. Lofgren finds IONS’ exploration of the interface between science and spirituality consistent with her convictions. “You get to a place were conscious reasoning reaches its limits,” she says. “You then enter the realm of mystical experiences.”

Ms. Lofgren, whose unhesitating speech and clarity of expression reflects her years at the teacher’s podium, speaks about her life as a university instructor, science teacher to troubled children, environmentalist, world traveler and peace advocate:

“I was very lucky at the University of Michigan. A professor asked me to develop a course for liberal arts students on good bacteria, the ones that produce cheese, beer, wine, and fertile soil. The course was fun to teach and very popular.” When her university teaching career ended with early retirement from City University of New York in the mid-1970s, she took a position teaching science to children with serious emotional problems at a Quaker school in San Antonio, Texas. The experience lasted about a year and a half, until special education funds shifted to the public schools, and the Quaker school closed. Still, she observed close up the healing power of the natural world on students prone to violence, many of whom lacked parental guidance and some of whom had undiagnosed neurological disorders. Lofgren helped children who typically expressed their rage by breaking windows, hitting classmates or worse to find release in positive interactions with nature. “When I saw a child on the edge of a fit of violence, I’d send him outside out to gather grasshoppers for the terrarium,” she recalls. “That would often resolve the problem. We are a part of the natural world. We benefit by interacting with it properly.”

Lofgren’s belief in the power of positive interactions with nature led her in retirement to the edge of Mitchell Lake, fifteen miles from downtown San Antonio. She found herself the unhappy recipient of excess treated sewage, pumped from San Antonio’s antiquated water treatment plant. As volunteer Water Chair for the League of Women Voters, she joined the Waste Water Advisory Committee to the San Antonio City Council, and over several years, she monitored the planning and completion, in 1987, of a new water treatment plant, which has ameliorated Mitchell Lake’s sludge problem. With its adjoining mudflats and wetlands and its position along the Central Flyway, the restored lake is now one of the birding hot spots of South Central Texas, with more than three hundred waterfowl and shorebird species recorded there. Lofgren recently coauthored a book on the lake’s history, Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge: An Illustrated History, with historian Dwight Henderson and illustrator Rita Schimpff.

Over the years, she has traveled worldwide, visiting Asia, Central and South America, and Western and Eastern Europe. In January, San Antonio’s peaceCENTER, an interfaith group working toward peace through prayer and education, named her their first ever “Peace Laureate.” Her acceptance speech brought her a standing ovation.

Bill Kalahurka

“One reason I love IONS is the way it was born. Edgar Mitchell, a no-nonsense, analytical scientist on his way back from the moon who has a moment of cosmic consciousness that changes his life.”
– Bill Kalahurka

Bill Kalahurka’s Donor Story

It happened twice to Bill Kalahurka, experiences of cosmic consciousness so powerful that he remembers vividly the time, place, and circumstances of both.

“The first time, I was an exhausted 21-year-old in college,” recalls the Kansas City businessman, who describes himself as slightly more left-brain than right-brain, but a seeker of “whole-brain” answers to the perennial questions of existence. “I had an experience I can only describe as awe-inspiring. It was either a spiritual incident or a manic episode, but whatever it was, it was very powerful, a feeling of bliss and of knowing.”

The second time occurred when he was a husband, entrepreneur, and father of three. Eight years ago, he sat down on a park bench overlooking a pond, closed his eyes to meditate, and felt an overwhelming sense of peace that went far beyond the familiar calm such reflection often generated.

Kalahurka is grateful for the encouragement IONS gives to the spiritual explorer within him. That is why he has included IONS in his will. “I talk about things like this with my Kansas City IONS group, and they understand,” he says. “They have the same kind of seeking, open-minded attitude toward life. One reason I love IONS is for the way it was born. Here was Edgar Mitchell, a no-nonsense, analytical scientist, on his way back from the moon, and he has a moment of cosmic consciousness that changes his life. He begins researching right-brain ways of knowing, while using his left-brain scientific training to investigate their validity.”

But if deep spiritual experiences were behind Kalahurka’s IONS bequest, practical encouragement was its proximate cause. He recalls talking about planned giving with former IONS staff member Deborah Miller some years ago. “It dawned on me during our conversation that I could do that for IONS. It was so simple.” Kalahurka had already included his church in his will. He added a bequest to IONS for a specific dollar amount. “I had been a member of IONS since the early eighties. It was natural for me to want to keep on giving to the cause beyond this particular body-mind’s presence.”

He had long ago dealt with the what-about-my-kids question. “Some people think you’re shortchanging your children if you leave something to a good cause in your will. You’re not. There’s no way I’m going to cut my children out of my will, but when I give away funds now, I don’t ask my kids for permission. If you love a cause, there’s no reason not to include it in your will. Expressing what you value deeply is part of your children’s inheritance and is an excellent way to teach philanthropy to your offspring.”

Bill and Betti, his massage therapist wife of thirty years, have a son who is studying for his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Texas and two daughters pursuing acting careers. Kalahurka has recently begun a new venture himself: opening a college bookstore near the University of Kansas. “It’s exhilarating, scary, and challenging,” he says. “Just the way I like it.”

IONS is pleased to list Bill Kalahurka as a member of the Visionary Circle, which honors those who have included IONS in their estate plans.

David and Dee Smith

“We found Noetics to be immediately interesting and are attracted to its non-doctrinaire way of embracing spirituality. Noetics is global, and invites everyone to participate to the degree they wish.”
– Dee & David Smith

Smiths’ Bequest—One Part of a Larger Plan

You might think that the hurricane weather in Slidell, Louisiana, would send residents scrambling to get their estate plans done. But you would never know it from the serene demeanor of Slidell residents David and Dee Smith. “Hurricanes are simply part of living on the Gulf Coast, just as tornadoes and earthquakes are a part of living elsewhere,” David says matter-of-factly. A retired federal ecologist, David is intimately familiar with the coastal states and their vulnerability to storms.

However, common sense and a desire to prepare for the future—not tumultuous weather—led the Smiths to draft a comprehensive estate plan. Because they have no children who would inherit their estate by default, they needed a plan both to distribute their assets as they wish at death and to protect them during their remaining years. “Wills are the kind of thing people tend to put off,” Dee said. “We didn’t want to wait for an emergency to force us to do our plan.”

As specified in their plan, one of their goals is to benefit the Institute of Noetic Sciences. “I found noetics to be immediately interesting,” says David, who became a member in the early ‘90s. He was especially attracted to the Institute’s nondoctrinaire way of embracing spirituality. Dee likes the idea that “Noetics is global and invites everyone to participate to the degree you wish.” The Institute is pleased to list David and Dee Smith as members of its Visionary Circle.

Jane Herrberg

Jane Herrberg

In the early '80s, after fifteen years at School Sisters of Notre Dame, a Catholic religious order specializing in education, IONS Visionary Circle member Jane Herrberg told her superior she wanted to leave and start a new community. That community took the form of Parents and Friends, Inc., in LaPorte, Indiana—founded by Jane to serve adults with developmental disabilities. She was its executive director for nearly twenty years.

"While I was working there, I became acquainted with IONS," Jane explains. "I thought Edgar Mitchell's account of his awakening to a wider consciousness was what I wanted for myself and for those I worked with. Live, learn, and grow; this is how I define my calling."

Jane's inclusion of IONS in her estate plan was in part triggered by the death of a friend who had a stroke at age 53 and died the next year. "That had an impact on me." Her IONS bequest is, Jane says, a logical extension of her life. "My life has been one of service to others."

Jane is working on a memoir that traces the arc of her life from wanting to change the world to wanting to change herself. Her IONS experience is part of the story, in particular a 1994 IONS workshop, "Life, Death and the Survival of Consciousness," which helped her to understand "the dream of a journey" her dying mother had recounted in the last days of her life. "IONS helped me interpret what my mother was saying: If you want to die well, live well. I am living my life fully and so preparing for the transition to the other side."

Addie Finseth

Adelaide Finseth Shares Family Inheritance

IONS member Adelaide (Addie) Finseth provided a gift from her family inheritance to support the Institute. From her first IONS conference in 1986 she appreciated IONS for testing intuitive insights about health with logical scientific analysis. "IONS brought together intelligent people who were logically examining the connection between healing and consciousness.” Addie, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, said she could not walk until she added a holistic, organic approach to a regimen of Western treatment. Until recently she ran the medical office of her late husband, San Francisco hand surgeon Dr. Fred Finseth, blending logic and intuition in her professional work. “When I’m dealing with people, I try to be aware of the interchange of energy. . . The key is being grounded in myself, knowing who I am and who they are. Then I have more compassion and am more effective.” In sharing her inheritance with IONS, Addie feels contributing the fruits of her late father’s investments does not dilute his or her mother’s legacy to her. “My father earned that money,” she said cheerfully. “I’m just its steward.” Addie said that her father, a retired estate planning and business attorney, had supported good causes most of his life. “My real inheritance from them was a sense of compassion.”

Anne Highland

Anne C. Highland Continues Her Quest for Peace

The late Anne C. Highland (1942–2006) left 10 percent of her estate to IONS. A longtime IONS member, she was a Philadelphia clinical psychologist and mother of three who encouraged forgiveness as a means of healing the wounds of personal and political conflict. After attending an IONS-sponsored peace conference in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in 2002, she reflected on her trip in an article she wrote for Friends Journal, a Quaker monthly. “Ten years after the end of the fighting in the Balkans, the wounds of the people are still open and bleeding.” She related recognizing similarities between the Balkans and the United States, where Vietnam veterans suffer psychological devastation, inner city residents live with ceaseless battles, and many contend with violent communication daily. “It is clear that the issues of international war also have parallels on a personal level whenever there are wars in a workplace or in a family.”

CharlieBrush Fred Finseth John Forkner Marybeth Smith Ray Benton Virginia Collier Wink Franklin Sandra Wright

In Memory

We celebrate the sacred intentions of our legacy contributors who have graced IONS with their financial treasure. We honor those Visionary Circle members who have passed away over the past few years. We celebrate their life, we witness their sacred intentions, and we bless them deeply for providing abundance for IONS. Their gift will live on, leaving a legacy that ensures the quality programs IONS has produced and supported since 1973 will continue to enrich the lives of future generations.

Stay in touch with IONS