Major Gift in Memory of Beloved Activist 'Transforms' Nonprofit, Will Help Treat and Prevent Burnout

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ON JULY 13, 2020, Houston caregivers and creatives were shocked to learn activist, Feldenkrais instructor and beloved “bonne vivant” MaryBeth Smith had died suddenly of complications after spontaneous blood clotting events unrelated to Covid-19.


Even in the midst of the pandemic, the news felt unreal. How could someone so full of life, who dedicated so much of her time to healing and advocacy, be taken away so abruptly? Two years after her untimely passing, Smith’s friends and colleagues received some amazing news: The Huffington Family Foundation has endowed a fund for The Jung Center of Houston’s Mind Body Spirit Institute (MBSI), with a $500,000 gift in memory of Smith.

Born Mary Elizabeth Davison on May 17, 1955 in Joliet, Ill., Smith loved baseball, science and music, and earned her Master of Music at UTSA in 1991. She founded Feldenkrais Center of Houston in 2002, and taught classes at The Jung Center for many years, introducing her clients of all ages and body types to the physical and mental health benefits of the gentle movement practice called the Feldenkrais Method.

The Jung Center's Alejandro Chaoul leads a meditation at HAWC.

The HAWC group participating in a MBSI training series

Smith left this world too soon, but thanks to the generosity of Terry Huffington and her family’s foundation, her spirit lives on. “This gift transforms The Jung Center,” said the center’s Executive Director Sean Fitzpatrick in a statement. “At a time when the basic needs of those marginalized for their race, color, gender, sexual orientation, and other markers of different are soaring, the pressures on those serving them have never been greater.”

Among the many organizations in Houston serving such communities is the Houston Area Women’s Center, whose staff identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color, and who recently concluded a nine-month MBSI training series led by Founding Director Alejandro Chaoul. MBSI offers individual and group classes, along with consulting and professional training designed to alleviate stress and the potential for burnout, and provide practical tools for nurturing physical, mental and spiritual health.

Thanks to support from the MaryBeth Smith Memorial Fund, MBSI’s programming will remain a fundamental part of The Jung Center’s services.

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