LEXINGTON, Ky. – A spa industry pioneer who has dedicated more than 65 years to defining and enhancing the spa experience will be honored during the 2005 International SPA Association Conference & Expo, Sept. 30 – Oct. 3 in Dallas, Texas, United States. Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door, will be presented with ISPA’s 2005 Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award on Friday, Sept. 30.
“As ISPA celebrates its 15th anniversary, it is an honor for us to recognize a woman who has dedicated more than six decades to improving humanity through the spa experience,” said ISPA Chairman Kate Mearns. “Deborah Szekely’s sincere passion for the spa industry, as well as her many contributions to its growth, are an inspiration to us all.”
Szekely has been involved with ISPA from its inception. She kicked off the first ISPA Conference in September 1991 with an inspirational keynote speech that led to her being named “Honorary ISPA Chairman for Life.” Szekely is also an honorary member of the ISPA Foundation Board and long-time member of the association.
“I have had the good fortune to be able to make a difference,” said Deborah Szekely. “The spa world is always on the cutting edge and always presents each member opportunities galore.”
In 2002, ISPA changed the name of the Humanitarian Award to the Alex Szekely Humanitarian Award, to ensure that the late Alex Szekely’s vision for ISPA and humanity continue to resonate for years to come. Deborah Szekely accepted the award on her son’s behalf in 2002 and has since presented the award to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of the Cooper Institute and Aerobics Center and Ruth Stricker, founder of The Marsh, a Center for Balance and Fitness.
Some of the criteria considered for potential recipients of this award include their contributions toward integrative medicine, active promotion of preventive health and appropriate lifestyle behavioral changes that contribute to longevity and quality of life. Szekely’s life work typifies these criteria. She is known worldwide as the founding “godmother” of the mind/body/fitness movement. In 1940, Szekely and her now-deceased husband Edmond Szekely founded Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja Calif. and in 1958 she established Golden Door in Escondido, Calif.
Szekely has devoted her life to public service. A daughter of immigrant parents, Szekely is the founder of a work-in-progress, the New Americans Immigration Museum and Learning Center. The museum is the first to recognize the shifts in population, the recent tidal wave of immigrants, the importance of connecting new immigrants with the values of their newly adopted country and with their peers, to honor their journey and the culture of their country of origin.
In 1991, she founded Eureka Communities, a national leadership training program for CEOs of nonprofit organizations. She served as Eureka’s president through Dec. 1995 and is currently chair emeritus. From 1984 to 1990, Szekely was president of the Inter-American Foundation, an independent agency of the United States government created by Congress to support self-help efforts of the poor throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. As a U.S. diplomat with the IAF, Szekely worked in all but three countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and authored program innovations that reached a larger percent of the needy populace, while increasing cost effectiveness and accountability of U.S. development efforts.
Szekely has received many awards for community service. In 2002, the former Presidents of San Diego Rotary gave the title “Mrs. San Diego” to Szekely, the fourth woman in their history so honored. The San Diego Union-Tribune, in reprinting her speech acknowledging the honor, titled her “San Diego Icon.” Other awards include the Morgan Award for Community Service from LEAD and Humanitarian of the Year from The National Conference for Community and Justice.
In its 15th year, the ISPA Conference & Expo is the spa industry’s proven resource for education and networking. For additional details on the Conference, visit http://www.experienceispa.com/cms/cms/articles/.
ISPA is recognized worldwide as the leading professional organization and voice of the spa industry. Founded in 1991, ISPA’s membership is comprised of more than 2,500 health and wellness facilities and providers from 73 countries. ISPA strives to advance the professionalism of the spa industry by providing invaluable educational and networking opportunities, to promote the value of the spa experience to society and to be the authoritative voice of the spa industry.