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Robert Russell Vance

August 2, 1939 – August 13, 2018


My dear Bob passed away today, Monday, August 13.


On July 11 I enrolled him in Hospice at Home, due to his increasing physical decline and I cared for him since then.  Last Sunday morning he awoke with extreme difficulties. The Hospice nurse came and felt he probably had a ‘neurological event’ the Saturday evening before, perhaps while sleeping.  She took him to the Venice Hospice House at 6pm that night.


I visited him 90 minutes later. He was very calm but not very responsive. I shared my reflections as I showed him four photos — his parents, his brothers Neil and Denny, our doxies Star and Matilda and finally Bob and me. I also read two poems I had written (about the dogs!) and a love letter highlighting and thanking him for the special times we shared as a team in our community service/civil rights efforts, followed by our strategic planning consulting, and finally in our various nature adventures.  We had had these discussions before and had agreed that history had given us a fine ride! – and that hopefully we made the world a little better.  He died peacefully five hours later, 1:30 am, early Monday morning.


I’m grateful for the wonderful life and marriage we had.  I could ask for no more. Our home was one of peace, love, respect, creative planning and always in anticipation of our next birding or butterflying adventure.  He was always kind to others and was a terrific partner in our life work together!


Many of you, our colleagues over the years, wrote letters to him or telephoned him in the past 10 days.  He was so pleased to hear from you and I’m grateful that you reached out to us.  You shared your appreciation of his life and brought us great joy.


My sister, Cecily, has been with me for two days and as an R.N. has given me guidance during this journey. Other friends locally have compassionately reached out to me.


Bob has donated his brain to the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank to both confirm (or not) the diagnosis and to contribute to their research.  We will be spreading his ashes in our Butterfly Garden and the Gulf of Mexico where he proudly completed 990 SCUBA dives to collect hundreds of vertebrate fossils.

          Grace and Peace, Cynthia


Hey CV – we knew Bob’s journey was close to completion, and yet there were tears over our morning coffee today as we started receiving notes from colleagues around the planet…seems that the anticipation of a death is food for thought, but the actual endpoint is poignant with sadness – the Mystery adds the existential whack that makes it all very real and very now.


We, Eunice and I, send our deepest condolences as we remember the overlap of our journeys in the Order and in Facilitation. (Can’t say that we shared scuba diving for sharks teeth, serious birding or tennis with you guys, but we have many memories in common…) Bob’s support of Eunice as they served together on the Panchayat cared for her in many ways. His co-facilitation with Sherwood at Citibank in Miami and Lagos kept him on his toes as he insisted to adjust the methods to meet the clients actual needs, not just “turn the ToP crank” using the standard constructs. No one else could have been the first Chair of the IAF… a role that Bob filled with infectious confidence. We all knew that something new was happening, and Bob added calm inspiration to the mix that helped move us from the idea of a new organization to the reality of operational details. Yea! Thanks, Bob for the focused work, thoughtful reflections and laughter along the way and most of all his no nonsense kindness especially to me (Eunice).


And, Cynthia, take your time now to let his absence settle in, and build a great collage of pictures to celebrate your journey together…we will look for some shots to send your way.


Blessings on the road ahead, hope to see you soon, our guest room is ready. Grace and Peace,

          ~~ Sherwood and Eunice Shankland


So it is true. My mentor and friend, Bob Vance, has joined the chorus. I suppose there have been postings to prepare us for this, but somehow we have dropped off the LISTSERVE, except for those George Holcombe has been forwarding. I will send a personal response to Cynthia but just wanted to add Linda and my expression of deep appreciation for the guidance and friendship we have known from both Bob and Cynthia these many years. From the first time they showed up in San Francisco when I was a basket case to the latest stay with them when they were still in Miami. It has been an honor to be a small part of Bob’s (and Cynthia’s) life journey. We will miss ya Bob!

          ~~ Milan and Linda Hamilton❤️


Remembering the beginnings of out times together fifty years ago at 3444! Bob officiated at my first marriage. Around then, I was in Property and made you a key to Bob’s apartment. I inscribed on it, ‘Seventh Mansion’. Celebrating those five decades of you and Robert. With love and best wishes,

          ~~  Ken Fisher


Cynthia, I’m so deeply appreciative of how you cared for Bob in his last days and also for yourself. It’s a profound way to live out the experience of just being … so aware of the Mystery itself!


I’m also reminded that we three go back a long way. My first memory of you was when you were Cynthia Sturge living (I think) on Claremont Avenue. Somehow I recall Bain Davis being in the mix over in Jersey. I was at UTS two years behind Bob. I remember that Bob enrolled in a weekly practicum I was leading that was a movie followed by dessert in professor John Bachmann’s living room and an EI-inspired four level movie conversation. Back in the days of 16 millimeter! We were young and energized and inspired and could not have known what our lives had to offer in the Order. Take care of yourself and journey on,

          ~~  Marshall Jones


Half of a precious team has made the transition back to the Mystery. May Bob’s journey serve to remind us of the temporality of the bonds of love and wonder found in the uniqueness of blessed relationships. And may you, my dear, tend your spirit like the tender shoots and blossoms of your beloved flowers in your garden. Our beloved community hopes for spirit sustenance to be a mainstay of your journey filled with memories of your life together.


I remember Bob as one who never seemed to take himself too seriously and approached life with a certain air of bemusement which not only lightened the task for others but was a perfect foil for your gift of humor. There was a time in the Inyan Wakagapi Human Development Project where we crossed paths with the two of you that Bob had the occasion to offer a collegial admonishment to us regarding our mission. It was delivered with the utmost kindness which also demonstrated his caring nature.


Please know that as you continue on your path you are loved by family, friends, and colleagues who are with you in spirit and in fact whom you can call on any time to share and partake in your new status in life.


               We are the people of God in history

               Who are and were and evermore shall be,

               Out of the depth, we hear the mystery,

               “Finish our work! Finish our work!”


In sincere gratitude for encountering a small part of the life of a cherished human being who continues to imbue with love all that remains…

          ~~  Dawn Collins


Cynthia, You and Bob were always, individually and as a couple later, a ‘presence’ in the Order.  I join you in celebrating Bob’s life and death! Grace and peace,

          ~~  Rod Rippel


Dear Cynthia, Bob Vance was a courageous and gentle man who through his decisions opened doors for all of us in the realm of personal decision and fulfillment. Every time a new bird comes to our back yard tree I think of you two and the wonder of life you pursued. I have a strange memory of the time Bob and Neil’s father visited. I had not realized Bob and Neil were brothers, but then saw them walking with their father down the hallway was struck by their stride and gate. It was as if the same animator was in each of them. It was a revelation in Spirit and genetics at more than a level of looks. Also after my heart issues it was Bob who dramatized the importance of exercise by walking up on the second floor of Kemper every day for extended
time while the rest of us glued ourselves to our desks. Bless you and thank you for being his partner.
~~  George Packard


International Association of Facilitation (IAF) Memories


Bob Vance, the first Chair of the International Association of Facilitators, died on Aug 13, 2018.   Bob, one of the founders of the IAF, helped to initiate the global body of facilitators along with colleagues from the Institute of Cultural Affairs in 1993-1994.  His calm presence and skillful facilitation style were perfect for guiding the organization through those early years of establishing it as an international body.


Tributes from two early IAF members and facilitators attest to Bob’s prowess as a leader and mentor of the organization:


From Gary Forbes, Arizona

“I learned a lot from Bob and always cherished the opportunity of working with him. He was always prepared (he always seemed to have a sheet of paper in front of him, with his key talking points), always setting a realistic context, always empowering whoever was around the table, always willing to give full credit to those who actually did the work, handling tough issues in such a discreet and successful way, and putting in the road work to weave together a real team of collaborators. Bob was a valued mentor figure in my own professional life and I’ve always recognized it and appreciated it.” 


From Mirja Hanson, Minnesota

“Birthing the International Association of Facilitators was the most unforgettable partnership venture with Cynthia and Bob. Bob was an instrumental leader in the handful of years leading up to the official formation of the association. It was a gigantic team effort with Bob playing a unique role as a steady and effective spokesperson for the underlying intents of the organization. Bob served as articulator-in-chief for the emerging consensus with his compelling logic and personable messaging: ‘The organized entity would not be an ICA alumni group but a resource for practitioners from all backgrounds and walks of life that believed in the values of participatory engagement and adhered to a related code of ethics.’ As the first Chair, he led the board (then called the ACT, the Association Coordinating Team) in collaboratively launching a dynamic, self-sustaining professional network worldwide.”


Bob not only was a skilled organizational leader, he, along with Cynthia, established a successful facilitation practice. ln 1986 Bob and Cynthia formed their company Strategics International, Inc, in Miami, Florida. Over 22 years, their service included more than 500 strategic planning and facilitation training retreats serving many hospitals, police departments, airports, small businesses and not for profits. In working with 77 departments of Broward County government, they designed and conducted a five-course facilitation training lab spanning seven years, creating a cadre of 100 in-house facilitators which still serve the county. At IAF conferences Bob and Cynthia presented their participative planning format: “Shared Vision and Action Planning,” a one-two day format that many attendees used in their professional practice.


After moving to Venice, Florida, Bob became an avid SCUBA diver, (990 dives) collecting more than 3,000 vertebrate fossils in the Gulf of Mexico. He was also a birder and as a citizen scientist, identified and tracked butterfly species with members of the North America Butterfly Association. To this end, Bob and Cynthia took great joy in hiking and identifying animals in the hundreds of national, state and local parks and reserves across North America and Central America.  Their lives as a team both professionally and in their exploration was one great adventure and thankfulness for the wonderful colleagues they worked with over the years.



With deep appreciation for all of the memories and reflections.  For us it is mainly around the pre-IERD days and LENS activities in Area Chicago when we were in Lorimor and Kansas City, and Panchayat treks.  His spirit is still strong among us!  Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Dick and Gail


Dear Cynthia, We so very much appreciated your letter about Bob and your last hours together. What a colleague he always has been! You and the other Vances are much in our thoughts and concern. If there is any way that we can be of help to you, please let us know. Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Doris and Charles Hahn


Dear Cynthia, Your news of Bob’s death caught Lee and I by surprise.  It is a natural thing to assume one as gentle and caring as Bob and with his tireless exploration of wonder in life would be present forever.  He is.  I certainly will not forget the compassion you both extended to the Early family when our oldest child Diana broke her back.  We were numb with worry, but our daughter continues thriving to this day.  “Bob and Cynthia Vance Unlimited” helped guide us through our darkest moments.  We are grateful. And we celebrate Bob’s full and completed life with you, Cynthia and with our colleagues.  Grace and peace is yours.

          ~~  Leah Early


Dear Cynthia, I am saddened to hear of Bob’s passing. I hope the memories you shared throughout your missional marriage including those of his final days bring you comfort. Sending love and prayers.
~~ Joyce Sloan


Cynthia, We were grieved to hear of Bob’s death but join you in celebrating his life. We especially appreciate his sense of wonder and mystery in life. His active engagement in fossil hunting, bird watching, and insect analysis complemented his fascination with the philosophy of time. And of course, his love for you and for Star Princess.

We also appreciate the two of you leading the formation of the IAF (which now has become a global organization with multiple conferences and certification processes). From the 70 of us who signed that original flipchart, the Association has become a significant organization attending to the standards of the profession around the world.


We remember fondly the time you and Bob took us fossil hunting in the river that required wet suits. It was our first time in wet suits, and I still chuckle over Bob’s description of the two types of people who use them…. We also recall the time in California when we went with you on a birding trip. Bob noted that a particularly rare bird had been sighted just down the coast, so off we went. To our astonishment, it was not a TYPE of bird that was spotted, but a particular bird of that species. That’s when we recognized the intensity of birding, and the wonder it discloses.


It’s been a joy to know Bob and we will miss him. And we intend to keep tracking you in your music. Grace & Peace.

          ~~   Ann and John Epps


I’m so sad, Cynthia.  I didn’t know what to think when you messaged the other day—actually thought it was a hoax, but so glad that I was able to respond with stories of our past.  Off and on, I have thought of you two, particularly when I heard about one of your adventures—birding, butterflies, diving and more recently, when we traded Facebook postings.  I have so many indelible memories of Bob and you from (my God) nearly 50 years ago.  If there was one period in the Order I truly treasure, it was those brief years we worked together and cared about one another.  You guys were the definition of Priors.  I recall Bob and me taking a week’s trip, from Arizona to Washington state, sniffing out new locations for HDPs, talking mostly strategies for the future.  It was a privilege to be his, and your, colleague but mostly—your friend.   You know I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Take good care of yourself.

          ~~   Frank Knutson


Dear Cynthia and colleagues, I remember Bob well, although I did not work with him. This a very sad moment as we acknowledge the passing on of a very fine man, who gifted us with a certain steadfastness and gentle qualities. Dear Cynthia, we are thinking about you as I write. May peace be in your heart even as you grieve.
With love,
~~  Isobel Bishop


Dear Cynthia, I am always flooded with memories of our beloved community when I hear news like Bob’s passing. What a great man and colleague he was! I think you create a special bond with the person who taught your RS-I, and Bob, along with Fred Buss, taught mine on the Westside in December of 1966. Later I got to work with him a bit in the summer programs. The second memory is when you and he came to Litibu to do birding. We all so enjoyed your presence. On behalf of George West and myself, we send our deepest gratitude and our deepest sympathy to you for being a life partner and caretaker for our colleague Bob. May the grace of God sustain you, along with Neil and Faith. Grace and Peace, and Love,

          ~~  Jack Gilles and George West


Dear Cynthia, I feel so sad to hear of Bob’s passing, and send wishes and prayers for your comfort and joy. As I was savoring memories of colleagueship with you and Bob this morning, I remembered the Richgrove HDP house, which had been abandoned to bats and pigeons for many years before the ICA team reclaimed it. Every window was broken, and for some reason, my strongest memory of you had to do with a glass cutter and how to measure to replace panes. It is 100 degrees in the San Joaquin Valley today. I’m sure you remember how poorly insulated that house was. I, too, am grateful for the wonderful life and marriage you and Bob had. May your birding and butterflying adventures continue to bring you joy. Love and blessings,

          ~~  Jann McGuire