Meet Our New President-Nancy Secrest

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Nancy SecrestAs I’m sure you all know, Tim Boyd has been elected as the president of The Theosophical Society in America. That is really a full time job to say the least; hence Tim has stepped down as president of the Theosophical Order of Service in the USA. He does remain on the TOS board. As the newly elected president of the TOS-USA, I’ve been asked to write a bio so that everyone can get to know me a little better.

I am a life member of The Theosophical Society in America having joined in April 1970. I initially joined the Oakland Study Center in Michigan which is now defunct. I transferred to the Detroit lodge and served for a time on their board of directors. I was also a member of the Ojai lodge when I lived at Krotona, the Olcott Staff Study Center when I worked there, and was a founding member of the Chicago Study Center. I have been a member of the Portland, OR lodge of the TSA for the last 21 years.

I began my spiritual quest when I was twelve years old. I read books on many religions and spiritual traditions, and visited churches and philosophical groups trying to find the ideal I knew was out there.  One day, when I was in my early twenties, I was given a copy of At the Feet of the Master, and I was home. Theosophy fulfilled every aspect of my search. I know many of you have had similar experiences.  We love to share the stories of how we found Theosophy, and sharing those stories strengthens the bonds of friendship and unity.

Professionally, I began working in a bank because, as a single mother, I needed a job. I was in banking for 20 years working my way up from teller to a department manager. I quit when I was 40 becauseI wanted to do something “more meaningful” with my life. (I have since learned that it’s one’s attitude toward life rather than one’s occupation that makes life meaningful). I had visited Krotona, a theosophical center in California, as a student a couple of times and loved it. After careful reflection I spoke with the then VP and resident head at Krotona, Felix Layton, about living and working there. I became Felix’s secretary, worked in the information department, helped in the accounting office and managed the guest house. I enjoyed my time at Krotona and made many friends. As it turned out, I was only there a year when the National Secretary position opened at the headquarters of The Theosophical Society in America. I applied for the job and was hired. I spent 2-1/2 years as National Secretary, learning a great deal.

I met Morry Secrest at a TSA summer school in Lake Geneva, WI. We were married in the Olcott library at TSA headquarters in December of 1990, and I moved to Washington State where Morry lived. At that time, he was president of the Portland, OR lodge. I soon became active there. In the years following, I served as a board member, as President and as treasurer of that lodge.

I also went back to school, graduated in May of 1994 and passed the CPA exam in November of 1994.  John Algeo appointed me to the position of assistant national treasurer for the TSA in July of that year.   I worked hand in hand with Austin Bee who was national treasurer and one of my favorite people in the world. A few years later, upon Austie’s death, I became the national treasurer of the TSA. I still hold that position.

I’m an accountant, a CPA, by profession, and am usually asked to serve groups or organizations that  I join as treasurer or in some financial capacity. It goes with the territory. That’s how I first became involved with the Theosophical Order of Service in the mid-1990s. My husband, Morry, was on the TOS board then, and he helped Jean and Joe Gullo with the editing of For the Love of Life, our magazine.  Jean and Joe were looking for a new treasurer as Leonard Cole who had served the TOS in that capacity for so many years wanted to retire. Morry suggested me and Jean and Joe offered me the position. So began a deeper relationship for me with the TOS.

Now, as president of the TOS-USA I will work hard to guide the TOS to even more effective service to humanity, the planet and all of its creatures.  Much needs to be done. We need to find more and better ways to expand our service to fill the gaping hole of need in this country, and, in union with TOS organizations around the world, internationally.

Since getting my degree, I have worked both for a housing authority in WA and as finance director for a nonprofit in OR. Both agencies provide housing to low income families in order to keep them from homelessness. Both run homeless shelters focused on families and the organization, Human Solutions, where I worked in OR, also provides assistance with energy bills, other social services, employment and educational assistance and even financial management classes. The result gives a very well-rounded approach to keeping at risk families from becoming homeless in the first place while helping those who have fallen into that hole to climb out of it. We tend not to think about it or we think that it couldn’t happen to us, but so many of us are only one paycheck away from homelessness. All it takes is the unexpected loss of a job or a sudden accident or illness. I am very proud to have worked for that organization and am still affiliated with them.

Many of you have similar stories.  Our lives are filled with service that we sometimes don’t even recognize. We struggle within our TSA groups to identify what we can do as TOS service projects, sometimes overlooking the many opportunities for kindness and service that we take up every day. 

All of us are kind and caring people.  Don’t discount the many acts of kindness that you do daily!  Even a smile at a stranger can turn someone’s life around though you may never know it.

Yes, we want our groups to do service projects together. Yes, we want to help others.  Everyone wants to think of some new and unique TOS project. That’s great.  How do we do that? Grow where you are planted. Start wherever you are. Pay attention to the details. Infuse every act with kindness. Pay it forward. Put love in the soup, even if it’s a hot, spicy soup that may burn someone’s mouth (i.e. tough love).

It all adds up.  Just think – if everyone did this we wouldn’t even be talking about service projects.  There would be no need for them. There would be no need for a TOS, and that would be a joyful thing.

A few years ago, TOS-USA changed from a department-oriented to a more project-oriented structure.  It was felt that this particular change would allow more people to get involved in the work of the TOS on a hands-on basis. It does seem to be working.

Jean Gullo had long had a dream of being able to financially help other groups or organizations with their service projects.  We have been able to do that with campaigns to assist the Golden Link School in the Philippines, the Chushul Orphanage in Tibet, the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian reservations in this country as well as the St. Francis Wolf Sanctuary in Montgomery, TX. TOS Action Groups have also been started in the Chicago, Ojai and other areas and assist their local communities with excellent activities.

This year, we are currently exploring plans to donate scholarship funds to a Native America nursing college and are helping one of our members with a “Trees for Vets” program he started. You can read more about these projects in this newsletter or visit our website, www.theoservice.org.

Our website allows visitors to see what’s happening in the TOS and also gives them the opportunity to post their own submissions. We also continue with the publication of our magazine For the Love of Life that was started by Jean and Joe Gullo so many years ago. I am pleased and proud to be a part of the continuing tradition of the TOS in the USA and hope that I can serve it well as President. Don’t hesitate to contact me to offer your help.

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