Series: (Series N2009- 3, Koreshan Unity; Papers, ca. 1887-1990.)
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Fort Myers News Press Article 18 Oct 1971
Praised for Foresight in Education
Koreshan Unity Founder’s Birthday Noted
By PRUDY TAYLOR
More than 75 people attended the luncheon and panel discussion held Sunday at the Koreshan Unity art hall in Estero to commemorate the birthday of Dr. Cyrus R. Teed, founder of Koreshan Unity. Dr. William P. Danenburg, assistant dean of the University of South Florida in Tampa, conducted the discussion with followed luncheon in the gardens. The discussion focused on the educational influences of the Koreshan Unity and its school, the now defunct Pioneer University.
Members of the panel were Mrs. Hedwig Michel, president of Koreshan Unity and editor of its newspaper, “The American Eagle;” Dr. Danenburg; Bill Hammond, Lee County science and environmental education coordinator; Martin Gundersen of Fort Myers, past president of the Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; Howard D. Fine, a student from Elmhurst University in Elmhurst, Ill., who has been studying the Koreshan Unity and Elliott J. Mackle Jr., a student from the University of Miami who has recently published his master’s thesis dealing with the early years of the Koreshan Unity.
Mrs. Michel, introduced by Dr. Danenburg as the “First Lady of Estero;” led the panel by outlining the 102 year history of the Koreshan Unity and its founder.
Dr. Teed, she said, was a strong defender of women’s lib and believed in equal rights for men and women. He used women as department heads and leaders in the Koreshan movement. She cited as an example, Annie G. Ordway, the first president of the Pioneer University.
“We are the heirs to a legacy of great volumes,” she continued. “The seed we are sprouting here will branch out into many fields of learning. The book cases here offer a lifetime of learning. The plants in the garden have matured and shed seeds.
“The spirit of the pioneers is kept alive by Mother Nature. We are thankful to have students from all areas of study. In the 10 years of state ownership, the land has been improved and continued honor has been and will be given to the pioneers.”
In his remarks, Dr. Danenburg credited Mrs. Michel with helping make the University of South Florida accessible to area students, explaining her cooperation in working as a liaison during the establishment of a center in Fort Myers.
In commenting on Dr. Teed’s foresight in the field of education, he said, “We should pay tribute to the Pioneer University and its founder for the idea of adult education and the philosophy of a lifetime of learning.
“Educating women was a very unique thing in that time of history. And the idea of providing education for those beyond their teens was a very revolutionary concept. Today there are more adults in school than children.
“The seeds planted at the Pioneer University - even though it is long since gone - are still here and are very valuable and useful so we do owe a great debt to Dr. Teed and his followers for the seed they planted here in Estero.”
He also credited Dr. Teed for his interest in environmental education adding that today this is considered “one of the newest concepts in Florida and the country - the idea of conserving the natural assets we have which calls for educating adults and children.”
He then introduced Bill Hammond who spoke on the relationship between environmental education and the Koreshan Unity.
Praising Mrs. Michel for her persistence, Hammond said it was largely through her efforts that environmental education training programs had been initiated in Lee County.
He also recognized Dr. Teed’s foresight saying, “In addition to women’s participation in education, I think it was foresight in the way that Pioneer University was set up which permitted and encouraged a blending of disciplines.
“It has helped us with environmental education to meld people together, to work within a multi-discipline facet. Social science teachers, math, language arts, and science teachers will all bring their students down here. This is a role which I think is consistent with the aims of the society when it first began.
“I see in the next three years a very heavy use by Lee County students- and students from other counties as well- in utilizing the facilities and resources the Koreshan Unity has left here.”
Martin Gundersen discussed the stewardship of land and resources saying, “As architects, we were concerned about the very rapid land development. We have a situation here where people are gobbling up land and resources. We felt there must be ways to utilize the land without damaging or destroying it.
“We went to the director of the college of architecture at the University of Florida in Gainesville. They were interested in a program to train students. The Southwest Florida Planning Team resulted. This had, at one time or another, 16 students and probably a dozen teachers-from the college of architecture, from geography, environmental engineers and ecologists.
“The area we selected for the pilot study was Estero Bay. The west side is Fort Myers Beach which probably approaches overdevelopment more than any other area around here,” Gundersen said. “The other side is still virtually virgin mangroves - two entirely different things on either side of the bay. When the students began to study this, they ended up at Koreshan Unity. Students lived down here and used it as a base of operations.”
Fine, who has been making a study of the Koreshan Unity and Utopian communities, said that in the 1800s there were approximately one thousand such communities. They were formed because their members dissented in some fashion with the mores of the day.
Fine said the Koreshan Unity is one of a handful that has survived and is “rather unique - with possibly 10 others - in that there is restoration work going on.”
Mackle, a member of the home building and development Mackle family, was the final member of the panel. He explained how he was led to make the Koreshan Unity the topic of his master’s thesis.
Mackle also related the Koreshan Unity to the communes of today saying, “in the 1800s we had a choice of going on with cooperation or individualism. We chose individualism and some people would say it has been a disaster.
“Many young people today are turning back to cooperation. I wonder if eventually we are going to have the choice again. If so, this would be the best place to start and to study,” he concluded.
TEXT BELOW PICTURE: Panel participants during birthday observances honoring Dr. Cyrus R. Teed, Koreshan Unity founder, were Elliott J. Mackle Jr. (left) a student in American Studies from the Unviersity of Miami; Bill Hammond, Lee County environmental education coordinator; Martin Gundersen, architect from Fort Myers and past president of the Southwest Florida Chapter of the American Institute of Architects; Dr. William P. Danenburg, assistant dean of the University of South Florida at Tampa; Mrs. Hedwig Michel, Koreshan Unity president and editor of its newspaper, “The American Eagle,” and Howard D. Fine, a graduate student from Elmhurst University in Elmhurst, Ill. The panel, which was held Sunday afternoon in the art hall of the Koreshan Unity in Estero, dealt with the impact of Dr. Teed and the Koreshan Unity on the field of education. (News-Press photo by B. B. Duffey)