Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Pyramid on the Prairie, a book by the late Craig Miner, will be discussed by Brian Riordan in a program at 7 pm on Friday, July 13, at Watermark Books and Café, 4701 E. Douglas in Wichita. The book has a remarkable history.

In 1975 began a unique partnership between Dr. Hugh Riordan, a psychiatrist committed to a holistic approach to health, and Olive Garvey, the octogenarian businesswoman willing to back his vision. Their combined efforts resulted in the creation of the Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning, which pioneered its alternative approach to medicine despite fierce criticism within the medical profession, staunch resistance from the insurance industry, and outright skepticism from the public.

This is the story of the first quarter century of Dr. Hugh Riordan’s work, written in anticipation of the Clinic’s 25th anniversary in the year 2000 by Kansas historian, Craig Miner. His research included poring over years of correspondence and newsletters and conducting hours of interviews with Dr. Riordan, Mrs. Garvey, and the Clinic staff. Death claimed Oliver Garvey in 1993, Hugh Riordan in 2006, and Craig Miner in 2010. The families of all three agree that the story should be shared, as intended, and this book is the result.

The Foreword of Pyramid on the Prairie, written by Dr. Riordan’s widow, provides a further explanation:

Anyone who has driven along the northern edge of Wichita, Kansas, has likely been struck by the sight of seven geodesic domes and a white pyramid rising from the prairie. This collection of unusual buildings is home to an alternative health center established by two remarkable people: Hugh D. Riordan and Olive W. Garvey.

My husband, Hugh, was a physician ahead of his time; Olive was a generous philanthropist who understood the value of his foresight. In 1975, he and Olive conceived of The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning. Today, it is well known and highly regarded for its patient-centered, nutritional approach to healing.

About a decade ago, Hugh commissioned Dr. Craig Miner, the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History and former chair of the history department at Wichita State University, to undertake the writing of a history of The Center. At the conclusion of Dr. Miner’s efforts, however, Hugh was reticent to have it published. Hugh died in 2005 and the manuscript lay idle for five years, until it turned up recently while I was going through Hugh’s extensive personal papers.

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