Dr. Barbara Hebert was the fifteenth president of the Theosophical Society in America, serving from 2017-2023. She has a doctorate in counseling education, and specializes in working with children.
Early years and education
Dr. Hebert has lived in Covington, Louisiana for much of her life. She earned a M.Ed. in Counselor Education at Southeastern Louisiana University, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education at the University of New Orleans.
NOTE: Since this is an article about a living person, some details about her personal life are being withheld.
Dr. Hebert has worked an English teacher; as assistant professor at Northwestern Louisiana State University; as Director of the University Counseling Center at Southeastern Louisiana University (2006-2014); and as Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center–Hope House (2014-present). in her work as a private practitioner, she uses play therapy with troubled and abused children. She has given presentations at state and national counseling conferences on topics such as wholeness and self-healing.
Dr. Hebert is a third-generation Theosophist. Her grandmother was especially active in lodge work and in supporting national organizations such as the Mothers' Research Group and its periodical, Mothers' Occult Digest.
Barbara Hebert became a member of the Theosophical Society on January 31, 1976, and has been a life member since November 14, 1987. She has been active in the Covington, Louisiana lodge for much of her life. About 1978-1982 she worked intermittently on the staff of the Theosophical Society in America in Wheaton, Illinois, serving in the Department of Information; as registrar for four conventions; and working in the typesetting department.
From 2002-2005 and 2008-2014 she served as a district director of the national Society, and during 2005-2008 and 2014-2017 was vice-president. The committees in which she participated include Editorial Review, Financial Advisory, Audit, Ethics, Resolutions, and Theosophical Investment Trust. In 2017 she was elected as president, and served in that role until 2023.
Term as President of the Theosophical Society in America
As president, Dr. Hebert faced financial and organizational challenges with broad experience, compassion, and humor.
Early in her administration, she and chief-of-staff Christopher Dixon worked extensively with The Fetzer Institute. They became acquainted with other organizations that are similar to the TSA in their missions, and received supportive grants.
Stabilizing the financial base of the organization was always one of the president's chief goals. With aid from The Fetzer Institute, she established the position of Director of Philanthropy, with David Forsell taking on that role in September, 2020. He was very successful in expanding our membership outreach, fundraising, and legacy planning. Increased donations facilitated increases in staff salaries, which had been mostly unchanged for some years. The TSA began offering free will-writing software, and established the White Lotus Legacy Circle of members who have committed to include the TSA in their estate planning.
A major challenge was presented in 2020 by the emergence of the Covid-19 epidemic. Dr. Hebert and the staff managed to keep most major functions operating smoothly throughout the crisis. Many people were able to work remotely, and all programs and meetings were conducted using Zoom software. Some staff members were furloughed in April, a few for as little as two weeks, until the TSA's PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan came through after intense efforts by the Financial Director, President, and Chief of Staff. The loan was forgiven and turned into a grant when the TSA met all necessary requirements. During the Covid years of 2020-2022, the annual convention was conducted remotely. In-person programming and convention resumed in 2023.
The president has worked with department heads to ensure that plans and procedures were in place for orderly succession, and that policy was validated with the tragic death of head librarian Marina Maestas in 2020, and the retirements of other department heads. Rubyliza Gaba now heads the library. Nick Peters took over for retiring Mark Roemmich as head of the Maintenance Department, and Juliana Cesano replaced David Bruce as National Secretary in June, 2023; her position running the Quest Bookshop was filled by Jason Morrow.
New Asana software was implemented to facilitate task reporting and project planning. Each department was asked to define up to five 3-year goals with specific objectives to be reported in Asana and to the board of directors.
Dr. Hebert worked with The Kern Foundation bankers to change the fiscal year, which greatly simplifies administrative work related to Kern grants.
Use of social media was greatly expanded. Remote classes, workshops, and lectures have proven highly successful, and the department supporting webinars was expanded.
The lobby murals were restored by professional conservators from Parma Conservation in 2021. In other projects to improve the physical infrastructure, one of the houses on campus was remodeled extensively, and carpeting was replaced in two large offices used by the Member services and Accounting Departments.
The IT Department engaged in extensive work to reorganize servers and backups.
The Olcott Arboretum was established in 2019, with a Level 1 Accreditation conferred by Arbnet. The TSA has been working with Bartlett Tree Experts and the Morton Arboretum to identify all the trees on campus and expand planting of new trees.
The Theosophical Society's YouTube channel offers several recordings of lectures by Dr. Hebert. For a current list, see this link, which includes many episodes of video blogs. Here are some titles of her lectures presented at the TSA headquarters:
- "Perspectives from C.G. Jung: A Guide to Traveling the Spiritual Path" presented on February 25, 2015.
- "Reincarnation: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Implications" presented on October 12, 2017.
- "Laughter and Spirituality: Good for the Body, Good for the Soul" presented on January 18, 2018.
- "Four Essential Steps for Living a Spiritual Life" presented on May 10, 2018.
- "Social Justice and Spirituality" presented on October 4, 2018.
- "Living Without Fear" presented on March 28, 2019.
- "The Law of Karma Simplified" presented on April 25, 2019.
- "Conscious Parenting: Tools to Help Your Whole Family Thrive" presented on September 26, 2019.
- "Living a Limitless Life" presented on January 16, 2020.
- "Finding Enlightenment in Times of Darkness" presented on October 26, 2020.
- "Self-Care Tips for Navigating Challenging Times" presented on November 5, 2020.
- "Who Can Change the World?" presented on April 29, 2021.
- "A Spiritual Approach to Improving Mental Health" presented on January 26, 2023.
Other videos are available on DVD at the Henry S. Olcott Memorial Library.
- "Moving Toward Wholeness: Mandalas, Jungian Archetypes, and Self-healing" presented in 2006.
Dr. Hebert has not yet written any books about Theosophy, although she contributed articles frequently to Quest magazine, as well as to professional journals.
- Laramie, Moon, ed. Theosophy and Social Justice". London: Martin Firrell Company Ltd, 2019.