Mohonk Consultations was founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1980 by the late A. Keith Smiley, Helen Vukasin and others associated with The Mohonk Trust (TMT). Based at Mohonk Mountain House it grew in part from a long-standing Smiley family tradition of Mohonk meetings that incorporated a diversity of perspectives. Since 1883 Mohonk has served as a gathering place for those seeking solutions to global, national and local problems. The beauty of the natural surroundings of Mohonk, along with the Quaker tradition of peaceful inclusiveness, has provided a unique atmosphere for the useful exchange of ideas.
A Conference Legacy
Some historic meetings at Mohonk significantly influenced public policy, including the Mohonk International Arbitration Conferences held between 1895 and 1916. It is generally considered that the formation of such groups as the American Society of International Law, the New York Peace Society, the World Peace Foundation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace emerged from these conferences. The far-reaching idea of a permanent international tribunal of arbitration also developed during this period of conferences. This idea led to the International Peace Conferences at The Hague, Netherlands (1899, 1907) and the permanent Court of Arbitration, popularly called the Hague Tribunal. After WWI, the Hague Conferences served as a model that contributed to the formation of the League of Nations and later the United Nations.
The International Affairs Committee
Other sources of inspiration for the founding of Mohonk Consultations stemmed from Keith’s work on the International Affairs Committee of TMT with his wife, Ruth H. Smiley and Helen Vukasin
as they led the Committee’s pioneering work in foreign student programs and international development and environmental issues. Their efforts included interactions with the United Nations’ Agency for International Development and the United Nation’s CODEL [Coordination in Development, Inc.].
Under Keith and Helen’s leadership, the International Affairs Committee also collaborated with such groups as the International Peace Academy that held meetings at Mohonk with UN delegates and staff to support peace initiatives of the UN.
Helen Vukasin worked with him since 1976, first under the Mohonk Preserve, International Affairs Committee, then with CODEL (Coordination in Development), in New York. She is a founding member of the Board of Mohonk Consultations, and chaired the Board 1995-2001.
Founding of Mohonk Consultations
In 1978 TMT was reorganized and renamed as the Mohonk Preserve with its resources focused on stewardship of Shawangunk land. Keith, Ruth and Helen envisioned a separate organization that would address relationships between people as well as with our environment. Thus in 1980 they created Mohonk Consultations, Inc. This new organization aimed at broadening efforts to maintain the quality of the social and environmental life in the wider Hudson Valley region, and used an egalitarian procedure that involved including decision-makers in carrying out the projects they plan.
Our activities over the last 35 years have addressed a wide span of concerns. These have included consultations with business, government and education leaders in the Hudson Valley; collaborations with local colleges on social and environmental projects; dialogues between local farmers and their communities to preserve family farms; and the creation of a model farm in 1994 to demonstrate sustainable agriculture (the Phillies Bridge Farm Project, now an independent CSA).
We offer forums and conferences on issues vital to the Hudson Valley, from environmental values and crime prevention, to controlling sprawl and protecting fresh water. A Distinguished Achievement Award is given annually, which recognizes the outstanding work and value of over 40 individuals and organizations in a four-county region of the mid-Hudson River Valley (1984 – present). Please see our Programs for more information.
The Mohonk Testimonial Gateway set within the earth’s frame symbolizes our continuing mission of hosting gatherings to enter dialogues for exploring issues of importance to our region and the world in a beautiful, nonpartisan setting. It evokes the Mohonk legacy of the many diverse people who, in passing beneath its stone arch, have climbed the mountain to participate in historic conferences in the special ambiance of the Mountain House. Dedicated on October 14, 1908, the Gateway served for decades as the main east entrance to the Mohonk domain.