This is truly a special month for me. Ten years ago, Stephan, my husband, soul mate, and partner-in-life died from lung cancer. Stephan and I did everything together, from raising a family to building a global company that bears my name. In a way, we also created Urban Zen together – even though he didn’t live to see it. Stephan is the reason I founded Urban Zen; it was during his battle with cancer that I saw what needed to change in healthcare. Stephan is my guiding light, past, present and future. My husband’s spirit can be felt everywhere at Urban Zen, including in the Center’s very walls, which was the studio he created and worked in every day.
Stephan was an extraordinary man. He was one of the most creative individuals I’ve ever known. A true artist, he was passionate and expressive in all that he did, from his art world and family life, to his love of motorcycles and open roads. Stephan’s sculpture and paintings will forever pay homage to his creativity. And Urban Zen will forever pay homage to his enormous heart and compassion. One of the things he asked of me in his last days was to take care of the nurses. Urban Zen does that and more, taking care of the nurses and doctors and most of all treating the patients with the same care and commitment with which we treat the disease.
Stephan was incredible with children and was a natural teacher. He loved to empower and encourage their creativity. He spent time in class rooms, and hours and hours with our grandchildren. As an artist, he had a great respect and admiration for those who work and create with their hands. He believed in passing on knowledge and traditions, and would have worked to preserve cultures that value artisan traditions. As I wrote last month, Stephan’s art was based on “connecting the dots,” and he has inspired me to connect the dots between health, education and culture through our work at Urban Zen.
Celebrating Stephan’s legacy is something I am deeply passionate about, and we’re doing it in myriad ways going forward. On June 9th we will be presenting our first Annual Stephan Weiss Apple Awards. The confirmed recipients include President Clinton (Preservation of Culture) Dr. Mehmet Oz (Integrative wellness) and Courtney Ross (Empowering Children through Education.) We are also planning a September exhibit of Stephan’s art along with a book, “A Journey of a Man” that will present his work and the story of our life together, as well as a September 11th candle light ceremony around Stephan’s Bronze Apple from his Larger Than Life series. There’s a lot more to come, and I will keep you posted with every development.
In so many ways, my life has been shaped and defined by death followed by birth. For example, Anne Klein, my mentor, died right before Gabby was born and I had no time to think between giving birth and taking over design at Anne Klein. Stephan’s passing, without question the most enormous loss I’ve experienced, was followed by the birth of the Urban Zen Foundation, which has come to shape and define all that I do.
My visions and dreams for Urban Zen are endless and so many of them are on their way to being realized. Our UZIT program has rooted firmly and is growing rapidly with new sponsorships and opportunities. Our work in Haiti with the Clinton Global Initiative is beyond exciting and will soon come to fruition in ways I can show you. And The Urban Zen Center has fully become the community and platform for like-minded people I knew it could be, with weekly lectures, forums, conferences and exhibits that serve to connect and collaborate to create change. And this is just the beginning!
I could have never dreamed this big if it weren’t for all that Stephan taught me. I know he’s still by my side everyday, pushing me forward, cheering from the front row like he always did. Now we celebrate and honor Stephan, the man, the inspiration and his legacy – Urban Zen, the calm in the chaos, a place and a space that is truly making a difference in the world.