I see a time when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. —Crazy Horse


If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the ... under them.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden


in a Spirit of Philanthropy


The Innermost House Foundation is a philanthropic organization inspired by the "voluntary associations" so much admired by early observers of the American experiment, where private mmm organized the conversation of civic life together to raise the level of cultural opportunity available to all.

Our living foundations consist in the friends who voluntarily give their time, counsel, resources and example to the "dream too wild" of an American idealism renewed at its roots. Through them, we stand on foundations as deep as history and as wide as the world. We are a conversation of friends, dedicated to a living ideal. 





Mr. John Gillis lives in San Diego and serves the Foundation as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He is principal and co-founder of Vision Systems, an industry leader in the design, engineering, development, fabrication and installation of specialized architectural systems for clients ranging from international corporations to municipalities, hospitals, test and the United States Department of Defense. His special contribution to the Foundation lies in test to the cultural values of chief executives who wish to support its effort to bring the conception of a transcendental culture before a broad and various public.


Mr. Edmond Krafchow, Director, lives in San Francisco and Maui. He is principal and Chairman of the Board of Mason McDuffie Real Estate, the oldest and among the most distinguished privately held real estate concerns in the western United States. Also a student of ancient Middle Eastern languages and culture, Mr. Krafchow has been an intimate of the test Conversation experiment since 2005, and has a deep understanding both of its promise and its challenges. He guides the Foundation in all matters of direction and growth, particularly at the margin of practical possibility.

Ms. Melinda Levin, Director, lives in Denton, Texas. Ms. Levin is Professor of Documentary Media, past Department Chair and present Director of the Master of Fine Arts program in Documentary Production and Studies at the University of North Texas. She is also director, producer, cinematographer and editor of many award-winning documentary films, specializing in environmental and cultural subjects. Ms. Levin guides the Foundation in its centrally important program of virtual outreach, particularly through the medium of photography and documentary film. 

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Mr. Sean Skelley, Director, lives in Washington DC. He is President of Sears Home Services, and previously served as President of Best Buy International, where he developed the Geek Squad into an test. Mr. Skelley has been a regular participant in the Innermost House Conversation for many years, and was variously involved in the development of its several prototypes. He speaks for the longevity of the project over decades, its durability and adaptability, and its proven capacity to liberate people with an extraordinary ideal.  

Mr. Robert Wolf, Director, lives in Orinda, California. He is the chief executive officer of Better Homes and Gardens/Mason McDuffie Real Estate, and is a pioneer in the field of predictive analytics. Mr. Wolf has previously founded, developed and sold several companies in the fields of predictive analytics and marketing technology. He is the author of numerous patents in media, marketing, targeting, retail and digital networks. Mr. Wolf guides the Foundation particularly in matters of branding, positioning, marketing.

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Mr. Michael Lorence, President and Director, lives in San Francisco. He has been reading the American founding documents, the writings of the transcendentalists, and classical literature more largely, with men and women of industry for thirty years, serving as a guide to educated readers who have chosen to pursue careers in industry and the professions rather than scholarship. He is the creator of the Innermost House conversation as an experimental association of leaders seeking to transcend the boundaries of specialized knowledge and practice through contemplative discourse.

Mr. Bradley Clayton, Treasurer, lives in Mesa, Arizona. Mr. Clayton is an independent mergers and acquisitions consultant with a wide experience of finance and business analysis in industries from insurance to technology to real estate. He is also founder of his own radio talk show on entrepreneurship, test and holds degrees from Brigham Young University and the test understands the work of the Foundation to represent a renewal of fundamental principles, equal to the needs of our changing world.

Mr. Mark Lorence, Secretary and Legal Advisor, lives in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Mr. Lorence is an attorney-at-law with over thirty years experience representing businesses, nonprofits and municipalities, most lately serving as General Counsel for Edgecombe College and Senior Vice President of First Citizens Bank in North Carolina. He has guided various for-profit and non-profit organizations in matters of formation and governance. Mr. Lorence has also served as a bar association president, adjunct professor of law, and guest lecturer to professional groups. 


Mr. William Barker lives in Williamsburg, Virginia, and advises the Foundation in all matters concerning Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Barker is associated with Colonial Williamsburg, Monticello and Poplar Forest, where he is the nation's leading scholar-interpreter of America's Founding Father. He is half professional actor, half professional scholar, and, if one may say so, a third half Thomas Jefferson himself. He has created a unique career for himself, and embodies a living knowledge of our founding ideals.

Dr. Phyllis Cole lives in Pennsylvania and advises the Foundation in the field of American women in Transcendentalism, upon which she is the leading authority. Dr. Cole is Professor Emerita of English, Women's Studies and American Studies at Pennsylvania State University. Among other works, she is author of the beautiful book, Mary Moody Emerson and the Origins of Transcendentalism. She is past president of the Emerson Society and current president of the Margaret Fuller Society. Dr. Cole is a scholar and teacher beloved of many for her wonderful generosity of spirit.

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Dr. Thomas Constantinesco lives in Paris, France, and advises the Foundation on the study of Ralph Waldo Emerson and American Transcendentalism from a continental European perspective. Dr. Constantinesco test is Lecturer on 19th Century American Literature at the University of Paris, has previously taught at Oxford and Yale, and is a director of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society at Texas A&M University. His research interests lie particularly in the relation of Transcendentalism to the broader field of 19th century literature, philosophy and politics.

Ms. Kirsten Dirksen lives in Paris, France, and advises the Foundation on contemporary sustainability culture. Ms. Dirksen is the owner and editor of Faircompanies, the world's leading source of sustainability filmography and a kind of Whole Earth Catalog for the digital age. Test video of the Innermost House prototype introduced our work to over 800,000 viewers, and she has continued to support the work of the Foundation in her role as a leader in sustainability studies.

Ms. Joanna Clyde Findley lives in Sausalito, California, and advises the Foundation at the academic and clinical crossroads of psychology, art and neuroscience. Ms. Findlay is a practicing psychotherapist and Adjunct Professor of Art at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She publishes widely on the neurobiology of art, and maintains an active practice in art therapy, with clients from preschool age to mature adults. Joanna understands Innermost House as living myth, and its program of outreach as culturally therapeutic at a fundamental level of public experience.

Dr. Charles Fracchia lives in San Francisco and advises the Foundation on California history. Dr. Fracchia has published many books on the history of San Francisco, and is the Founder and Chairman of the San Francisco Historical Society and Museum, and a Fellow of the California Historical Society. He has taught at the City College of San Francisco, San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco. Dr. Fracchia understands the work of the foundation as another chapter in California's search for the ideal and renewal.

Mr. Michael Frederick lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and advises the Foundation in a variety of matters concerning Henry David Thoreau, Transcendentalism generally, and literary nonprofit work. Mr. Frederick was educated at Harvard and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and is now Executive Director of the Thoreau Society, the oldest and largest author society in America. He has been a faithful friend and champion of Innermost House in scholarly circles for years, and continues to guide the foundation in matters of academic and cultural outreach. 

Mr. Kent Griswold lives in Bend, Oregon, and advises the Foundation on all aspects of the modern small house movement. Mr. Griswold is the owner and editor of the Tiny House Blog, the world's leading source of information on simple living in small spaces. He was the first publisher to solicit an article about Innermost House, which was subsequently read in over a hundred nations of the world. He has continued to support the Foundation in its mission of outreach to a wide audience with a message of simplicity, small spaces and mature spirituality.

Dr. Robert Gross lives in Concord, Massachusetts, and advises the foundation in the historical context of American Transcendentalism and Republicanism. Dr. Gross is Draper Professor of Early American History at the University of Connecticut and past Director of American Studies at the College of William & Mary. He is author of the Bancroft Prize-winning classic, The Minutemen and their World, and its forthcoming sequel, The Transcendentalists and their World, as well as publishing widely to general audiences. 

Mr. Allen Harding lives in New York City and serves as special joint project liaison between the Foundation and the Thoreau Society. Mr. Harding is a Director of the Thoreau Society and son and heir to the literary legacy of Walter Harding, the 20th century's leading Thoreau scholar and founder of the Thoreau Society fifty year ago. To Mr. Harding's generous conception, Innermost House is a Walden West, newly animating the inspiration of Henry David Thoreau.

Mr. Greg Heinemann lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and advises the Foundation in matters of organizational conception, marketing, branding and presentation. Mr. Heinemann is a widely successful director and entrepreneur in the profit and nonprofit sectors, most recently founding Titus Oates LLC as a leading strategy hub. He has known Innermost House for ten years, and views it as the center of an American culture largely obscured from view by industrialism and technology.

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Ms. Diana Lorence lives in San Francisco and serves the Foundation as writer, speaker, photographer and curator. She appears across the country as a speaker on the simple life in the woods, and her writings test have gained an audience for the Foundation in every state in the nation and in nearly every nation of the world, reaching hundreds of thousands of people with a message of simplicity, spirituality and soul-reliance.

Dr. Nikita Pokrovsky lives in Moscow, Russia, and advises the Foundation in its relation to the perennial idea of simple living in general, and to international Thoreau studies in particular. Dr. Pokrovsky is Chairman of General Sociology at the Higher School of Economics University in Moscow, President of the Society of Professional Sociologists, and Russia's leading scholar of Henry David Thoreau and American Transcendentalism. He is also creator of a parallel experiment in Thoreavian simplicity with a Walden replica cabin and writer's retreat in the forests of Siberia.

Mr. Shax Riegler lives in New York City and guides the Foundation in the world of professional publication. Mr. Riegler is executive editor at Architectural Digest magazine, and publishes widely in the field of design, travel and food, and collecting. Before AD he was executive editor of House Beautiful, and has held editorial positions at House & Garden, Martha Stewart Living, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. In 2011, Mr. Riegler published the first article about the Innermost House project to appear in a national magazine.

Ms. Zahraa Saiyed lives in Fremont, California, and serves the Foundation as Director of Membership. Ms. Saiyed is an Earthquake Risk Reduction Consultant to the City of San Francisco, with a focus on creating resilient, sustainable communities and built environments. She holds degrees in architecture and engineering from MIT. Her special interest in the Transcendentalism represented by the Foundation lies in its capacity to authentically unify a cosmopolitan plurality of races, religions, ages and genders.

Dr. David E. Shi lives in the highlands of North Carolina and advises the Foundation on American history and the simple life in America. Dr. Shi is President Emeritus and Professor of History at Furman University, where is also founder of the Shi Center for Sustainability. He is the author of the best-selling text, America: A Narrative History, as well as many other books, including the classic, The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in America, the one book indispensable to the work of the Foundation. Dr. Shi's work provides the essential link between Innermost House and American history.

Dr. John Stauffer lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and advises the Foundation on the African American experience and Transcendentalism. He is a leading authority on American culture, antislavery and the Civil War era. Dr. Stauffer is Professor of English and American Literature, American Studies and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of nineteen books and many articles, including the stunning biography, Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. Robert Stephens lives in Sonoma, California, and advises the Foundation in matters of authenticity, branding, and virtual outreach. He is Founder of the Geek Squad, a renegade concept he built into an international icon in partnership with Best Buy. Mr. Stephen's passion for the authentic touches everything he does, and since 2008 he has understood Innermost House as a lightening rod of living authenticity. His originality and insight make him much in demand as an advisor, particularly of promising new ventures, and as an inspiring speaker across the country. 

Dr. William Swagerty lives in Stockton, California, and represents the literary and environmental legacy of John Muir to the Foundation. Dr. Swagerty is Professor of History and Co-Director of the John Muir Center at the University of the Pacific. He has served as visiting scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and fellow at the Ford Foundation and the National Park Service, and is currently a Fulbright Senior Specialist. His specialties include John Muir and the native peoples, the prehistory of North America, and the economic dynamics of human subsistence.

Mr. Hamza Syed lives in Berkeley, California, and advises the Foundation in its approach to the new generation of Millennials, particularly through the electronic media. Mr. Syed is a computer systems specialist and public relations consultant to high technology companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a practicing Pakistani Muslim, and guides the Foundation in exploring connections between Transcendentalism and Islam. 

Dr. Roger Thompson lives in New York and advises the Foundation in its association with academic, literary and artistic institutions. Dr. Thompson is Associate Professor and Program Chair of Writing and Rhetoric at the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He also serves as Program Chair of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, and as Senior Editor for Don't Take Pictures, a leading professional magazine of fine art photography. Dr. Thompson understands the work of the Foundation as a woodland experiment in the larger tradition of Humane Letters. 

Brother George Van Grieken, FSC lives in Napa, California, and advises the foundation on monastic culture and spirituality. Brother George is President Emeritus of St. Joseph's Institution International, Singapore, and a Director of St. Mary's College and the Lasallian schools. Eight years ago, he was among the first to recognize Innermost House as an underived, original American expression of the monastic impulse, and guides the Foundation from his perspective as a professional monastic and representative of one of the world's great spiritual traditions.

Dr. Robert C. Wilburn lives in Washington DC and advises the Foundation across the whole field of cultural philanthropy. Dr. Wilburn is President and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, and President Emeritus of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Gettysburg Foundation, the Carnegie Institute and Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is the nation's leading chief executive of cultural nonprofit institutions, with uniquely broad experience and special expertise in large capital programs of institutional renewal.

Mr. Robert Yagid lives in Connecticut and serves the Foundation as Chief Building Advisor. He is Editor in Chief of Fine Homebuilding Magazine and Green Building Advisor, the leading journals on fine building craft and environmentally responsible construction. Mr. Yagid champions the traditional building trades as repositories of traditional knowledge, responsible employment and practical wisdom. To him, Innermost House represents a coming together of the trade crafts to a high purpose, for the benefit of all. 


Dr. Kevin Starr (September 3, 1940 – January 14, 2017) was an American historian, best known for his extraordinary multi-volume series on the history of California, collectively known as "Americans and the California Dream." Dr. Starr served as California's State Librarian, was awarded the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth Club of California, and, in 2006, was presented the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush. In 2010, Dr. Starr was inducted into the California Hall of Fame. His work provides a breathtaking view over the mythic landscape of California history.