Alumni Profiles

A Lifetime of Adventure

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Photo courtesy of Richard Spiegel ’64

Richard Spiegel ’64 has lived in Hawaii for the past 44 years. “The Big Island sits over a ‘volcanic hot spot’ in the middle of the Pacific tectonic plate, where lava has been erupting from Kilauea Volcano continuously for 33 years. It is humbling and inspiring to live on top of nature’s living, scintillating force of creation and destruction.” But the life he’s created in Hawaii is not where his journey began.

In 1967, Spiegel passed the bar exam in Washington, D.C., “I had no intention of practicing law; however, in 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, riots erupted in D.C., and I responded to the humanitarian call for lawyers at the court.” A year and a half later, Spiegel abandoned his law practice and embarked on a road trip, a trip that resulted in Spiegel living a “chop wood-carry water lifestyle with no electricity, no running water, five miles from the nearest neighbor, for four years on the Washington/Canadian border.”

Cutting firewood in the winter of 1974, Spiegel’s chain saw jumped back and cut him between the eyes. In the bloody rush to the hospital, in the first winter snow, their truck skidded off a cliff, rolled three times and, “…as luck would have it, I survived,” he says. “That ordeal delivered me to Hawaii to heal. Been here ever since.”

On the Big Island, Spiegel founded West Hawaii Mediation Center, a nonprofit helping people resolve their disputes through collaboration instead of the adversarial competition of the courts. He left WHMC after his wife died and coauthored the handbook, Coming to Rest, a precursor to green, or natural, burials. In 1994, he turned his beekeeping hobby into Volcano Island Honey Co., a vertically integrated, certified organic apiary based on living the values of integrity, sustainability and social and environmental responsibility.

Spiegel’s terroir, artisan honey, was sold nationally, at places like Neiman Marcus and Whole Foods Market, and internationally in Japan and Singapore. He was featured in National Geographic Traveler in 1998 as “Hawaii’s Honeyman,” and in 2007, Saveur Magazine named VIHC honey one of the top 12 honeys in the world. VIHC was also featured on Discovery Channel’s Epicurious as well as the Wolfgang Puck show. Spiegel sold his company four years ago.

At 75, he and his wife Candice live on their homestead, 2,400 feet up the north side of dormant Mauna Kea Volcano where, among many activities, he teaches beekeeping. His courses explore how “our intentions and actions as individuals and farmers affect the earth, humans, other living things and future generations.”

– Linda Mecca Green ’08

Helping Fellow Veterans

Photo courtesy of Michael Dowens ’01

Michael Dowens ’01

With nothing but a backpack and an American flag on his person, Michael Dowens ’01 trekked through towns from Washington, D.C., to East Brunswick, N.J., with one goal in mind: bringing awareness to war veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) trauma.

Dowens heads the nonprofit organization, Unbroken Warriors, a group that works to provide war veterans suffering from PTSD with the proper resources and treatment they need at no cost to them. Unbroken Warriors was born in 2016 when Dowens came to recognize and accept his own issues with PTSD. After serving two separate terms in the Navy, he saw how much money he needed to get the right treatment and decided to pay it forward. “I started this organization to help veterans get the same kind of help that I received,” he says.

While Unbroken Warriors holds multiple fundraisers each year, Dowens’ lone walk from D.C. to New Jersey holds special meaning. An achievement completed twice, he walks through every township in between the two states with no breaks and no rest. “It was pretty hard, but I raised $30k doing it. Blisters on my feet, utter exhaustion, you name it. I was sick and I couldn’t eat because my body wouldn’t let me eat. I was hospitalized for two days afterward,” Dowens says. “The publicity garnered from the walk is what launched Unbroken Warriors,” he says proudly.

Dowens finds satisfaction in the work he’s doing, not only by helping others, but also by filling his desire to serve. “One of the biggest things I struggled with when I got out of the military was the lack of comradery and the need to serve again,” he says. “When I do these long walks, it makes me feel like I am serving because every penny that we make goes to helping veterans.”

Dowens credits Albright for helping him learn to work with people from all walks of life; skills he carried with him into the Navy. “My first experience at Albright was being with people from all different cultures,” he reflects. “I’m not a very social person, but interacting with all different types of people at Albright helped me to open up during my term.”

Through his work, he hopes to combat the stigma around PTSD trauma for war veterans. “A lot of people don’t understand that PTSD physically changes your brain,” he says. “We want to help veterans going through it to understand what is going on with them and their body.” To find out more, visit www.unbrokenwarriors.org/.

– Jenna Paiano ’18