Walter Beebe: An Appreciation
by Ralph White
Walter Beebe, founder and president of the New York Open Center, passed away following a hiking accident on July 1, at the age of 82. Without Walter, the Open Center would have been impossible. For 40 years, he poured his heart, soul, wide knowledge of the world and his resources into the Center. He was a person with a big heart and strong sense of humor, who was totally committed to the mission of the Open Center of bringing holistic, spiritual and ecological practices and ideas into the heart of the world’s most influential city.
Walter led a full life. Born into a family with roots in both upstate New York and Europe, his father, Fritz, was the chairman of the board of The Washington Post company during the unforgettable Watergate years and a big influence in his life. Walter completed his undergraduate degree at Harvard and went on to law school at Stanford. He followed this with a career in law where he became a senior partner in the firm of Jacobs, Persinger and Parker.
With a group of people from small spiritual initiatives, including his then future wife Carol, he began to help conceive of the idea of a center in New York that could become a focal point, an oasis for this emerging consciousness of wholeness. Soon, he and I met and formed a kind of “dynamic duo,” complementing each other in our knowledge and capacities, able to bring these ideas to practical fruition. Some people thought the Center’s mission was quixotic with little chance of success. But Walter always had a firm belief in the importance and value of this work and was in the middle of everything.
Now, as we look back on four decades at the heart of the holistic movement in New York, we can only feel immense gratitude to Walter. His worldly knowledge of the city, his infectious enthusiasm, his warmth and his commitment to serious, discerning learning are among the many gifts he gave. His was a life of consequence that brought a positive influence to bear on many people.