Vaira Pelekis was born in Latvia. After graduating from the University of Geneva, Switzerland with an M.D. degree, Vaira worked as a pathologist in the Laboratory of Pathology at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. Since her retirement in 1995, she has been an active member of the Baltic Program Fundraising Committee. She organized the Latvian Book Club supporting the Baltic Studies Program. Vaira is also active in other philanthropic activities including the local Latvian Lutheran Church, the Latvian Association, and the Occupation Museum in Riga.