(Bio crafted by the star.)
Swanee Hunt is old. Because of that, this bio is very impressive.
She was a major player in Colorado’s mental health reform of the mid-1980s. Coming from a family riddled with mental illnesses, she has always been comfortable with people suffering from chronic and severe impairment. Out of her family experience and commitment to social justice, she and her husband, Mark Meeks (pastor of Capital Heights Presbyterian Church), founded Karis Community, a residential program for young adults, in Congress Park.
In response to her persistent advocacy (read stubbornness), Mayor Federico Peña appointed her co-chair of a task force to coordinate services for individuals experiencing mental illness The outcome was the creation of the Mental Health Center of Denver. Subsequently, she was named volunteer of the year by the National Mental Health Association.
She turned her eyes to the enormous challenges of finding permanent homes for mentally ill citizens. In response, Governor Roy Romer asked her to create and chair the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Housing and the Homeless — a cohesive initiative of municipal, state, and federal government players, as well as representatives from the business and nonprofit communities.
In her 16 years in Denver, through Hunt Alternatives Fund shesupported more than 400 community-based organizations addressing a knot of issues including violence prevention, job creation, public education, and leadership development.(That included Bayaud Industries, when David Henninger was a strapping young man.) Extending her experience in philanthropy, she co-founded the Women’s Foundation of Colorado, with a very strong Colorado Springs contingent, boon of reconnaissance by her new husband, Charles Ansbacher (Colorado Springs Symphony Conductor for 20 years, and visionary behind the creation of the Pikes Peak Center.) Two decades later, she built on her philanthropic experience, with her sister Helen LaKelly Hunt galvanizing very high net worth donors to fund women and girls through yet another new organization: Women Moving Millions.
From 1993 to 1997, Swanee served as President Clinton’s Ambassador to Austria. While running an embassy with employees from 14 parts of the US Government, she calls her most important work attempting to stop the 3½ year genocide in the neighboring Balkan states. To that end, she hosted negotiations between two warring parties, and sponsored international symposia with top leaders in the region. First Lady Hillary Clinton key-noted her conference for 320 women leaders from 39 countries (half from post-communist states). Swanee called it Vital Voices, Women in Democracy.
Strands of her Colorado life came together after Vienna, as she brought together her emphases on mental health, women, grassroots change, and public policy. In Boston, the second life stage of Hunt Alternatives has included using the arts to enrich impoverished neighborhoods, addressing sex trafficking by combating men’s demand for illegal purchased sex, increasing the skills and collaboration of 64 leaders of American social movements, and advancing women on both sides of the aisle at the highest levels of the US government. Now living in Washington, DC, she is best known for her Institute for Inclusive Security, through which she has worked with women leaders and related policy makers in dozens of war zones. All in all, her work spans more than sixty countries. She sleeps well.
Dr. Hunt has lectured in universities as far flung as Beijing, Dallas, London, Monrovia (Liberia), Mexico City, Moscow, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Washington DC, and many more. She is the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecturer in Public Policy, founder of the Women and Public Policy Program, and senior advisor at the Carr Center for Human Rights, all at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her fourth book, Rwandan Women Rising, chronicles how women in that country became 64% of the Parliament, half the Supreme Court, and half the President’s Cabinet — and how their leadership helped stabilize a country reeling from a genocide that wiped out ten percent of the population in 100 days.
Swanee has three graduate degrees — in counseling, religion, and pastoral care. For the latter two (from the Iliff School of Theology), half her work was done through the University of Denver’s Doctor of Psychology program, and she trained as a chaplain intern at Fort Logan Mental Health Center.
She is honored to be paying homage to Bayaud Industries; otherwise, Swanee has far too many awards (although one of her favorites is the National Women’s Hall of Fame, at Seneca Falls). Her Witness Cantata (chamber orchestra, choir, and five soloists [including boy soprano]) has been performed a dozen times and her photographs exhibited in five countries. But her heart is in Colorado, where she drinks in the views of South Park from her family ranch at Kenosha Pass. She was married for 25 years to international conductor Charles Ansbacher. Their world includes three children, and a menagerie of cat, parrot, horses, bison, and grandchildren.