Sojourner Salutes: Robert and Lexie Potamkin

This couple goes above and beyond the the traditional idea of philanthropy.

By Dipika Rai Photography by Ross Kribbs November 20, 2018 Published in the Holiday 2018 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Lexie Potamkin has written five spiritually focused books, been ordained as a minister, and met the Dalai Lama four times. So what is her own religion? Laughing, she says, “I consider myself an ‘inclusiastic’”—her made-up word for someone who embraces all faiths, all races, and all ages.

That penchant for inclusion extends to the wide range of causes that Lexie and her husband, Robert, champion. There is hardly an area in which they have not made a difference, contributing generously to cultural, educational, community, spiritual, and medical programs in the Roaring Fork Valley and supporting more than 20 local nonprofits in all. Nationally, the Potamkins are also members of the United Way’s Million Dollar Roundtable; that organization advocates for education, financial stability, and health in communities around the world.

This dedication to humanitarian causes and creating better lives through charitable giving goes a long way back. Thirty years ago, Robert, who is co-chairman of Potamkin Automotive, co-founded a prize for research into Alzheimer’s and related neurological diseases. Since then, the Potamkin Prize has spurred significant advancement in the field; one recipient even went on to win a Nobel Prize. Then in 1999, Robert established a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School for minority students of exceptional promise.

In 2004, Lexie and Robert together founded the exceptional Fisher Island Day School in Florida and have remained dedicated to education since moving to Aspen 16 years ago. Here, they have supported the Aspen Education Foundation, Aspen Country Day School, and Buddy Program, and helped bring Goldie Hawn’s MindUp curriculum to local schools. Recently, Lexie developed a national website for teens, parents, and teachers that depicts the effects of smoking pot on still-developing brains.

“The Potamkins are generous in every way to the Aspen schools, with their time, energy, and resources,” says Cynthia Chase, executive director of the Aspen Education Foundation. “It is people like them who make our public school what it is today.”

Recognizing that education and mindfulness is just as important for adults, too, Lexie has served as a trustee and longtime board member of the Aspen Chapel and co-founded the all-embracing Aspen Center for Living Peace, which promotes contemplation and dialogue aimed at both personal and societal well-being. She has been instrumental in bringing Buddhist monks from southern India’s Drepung Loseling Monastery here each summer for community outreach, and the couple has hosted monks at home for the past 25 years.

Their support for the chapel also reflects the couple’s emphasis on inclusion. “This is such a uniquely collaborative community,” says Robert. “Where else would you find a spiritual space that holds Jewish and Christian services, and hosts Buddhist monks and Hindu discourses, all under one roof?”

Says Nicholas Vesey, minister at the Aspen Chapel, “The Potamkins’ key contribution is being willing to commit to making things happen whenever they see a need.”

Always gracious hosts, the couple has held annual fundraisers in the garden of their home on Castle Creek for groups as diverse as Bridging Bionics Foundation, Aspen Junior Hockey, and admission personnel in town for the high school’s annual College Fair.

“Lexie and Robert have the kindest, most giving hearts, and they have helped us bring our vision to life. We are truly blessed to have them in our small mountain town,” says Amanda Boxtel, founder and executive director of Bridging Bionics, which provides access to technology that helps people with mobility impairments.

What keeps this couple’s dedication going and going? “At our core, we are all connected,” says Lexie. “The more you give, the more you receive. There is no other way to live and be.” 




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