Vance Sherwood Engleman, of Sewickley, died at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital from respiratory failure, a complication of the congenital disease Beta Thalassemia. Elizabeth Engleman, his former spouse, was near throughout his recent years of illness.
Other survivors include his sister, Sue Butler of Dallas, Texas; niece Robyn Ray, also of Dallas; nephew Jeff Musgrave of Austin, Texas; stepdaughter Lisa Landers DuBose of Lake Wales, FL; granddaughters Bethany and Bailey DuBose of Lake Wales, FL. He was preceded in death by his stepmother Loretta Engleman of Dallas, Texas; mother Gwen Hixon of Dallas, Texas; and father Gordon Engleman of New Albany, IN.
Vance was born June 8, 1936, in Dallas. He graduated from Sunset High School and completed his undergraduate work at Texas Wesleyan University. went on to earn a Master of Divinity at Claremont School of Theology, followed by ordination as a Methodist minister and appointed to a three-year term as campus minister with the Wesley Foundation at Oklahoma State University.
Mr. Engleman later joined the faculty at the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago. The institute was developed to promote church renewal and religious studies in an existential context. He made 14 trips to India in that position.
He adored small animals and children. His beloved domestic cats, Sophie and Jasper, were always found in the Ashram of his Sewickley home.
Mr. Engleman was active in Among Friends, a job search networking forum which helps members find employment. He also was a regular presenter and highly popular speaker at five chapters of PAPEN (Pennsylvania Professional Employment Network). His first presentation to the network was made in 1994; his last was just weeks before his death.
Mr. Engleman established Options International in the Pittsburgh area in 1982 after a two-year term in Washington, D.C., as a White House Fellow.
He was also a regular member of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Association of University People whenever health permitted.
Mr. Engleman was the chairman of The Executive Committee (TEC) of Pittsburgh for six years. The organization is dedicated to increasing effectiveness and enhancing the lives of presidents and CEOs of small- to medium-sized companies.
In each endeavor, he concentrated on bringing humanity back into focus.
In 2003, Mr. Engleman published “In Search of Profound Humanness. A Collection of Writings to Stir the Senses,” following his 1988 publication of “The Journey.”
He became a self-taught Gandhi scholar. A full 100-volume set of complete writings and works of Mahatma Gandhi is in repository in Engleman’s Ashram.
Mr. Engleman had just completed a term as President of Pittsburgh Society of Artists. His photographic images of children from around the world are known to local patrons. He served on the board of directors for five years.
Vance’s Gandhi Collection
Here are two pictures from the dedication of Vance’s Ghandi collection, which was carried out at the beginning of the Peace Conference conducted at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX , this past week, Oct. 11 &12, 2006.
Beth Engleman conducted a conversation on Vance’s life with a number of his friends earlier and then we went to the room where the collection is on display and dedicated them. The Peace Conference featured Arun Gandhi and representatives of the major religions in which we had presentations, workshops, q&a sessions on how we live peace.
— George Holcombe
Vance’s Books on Gandhi – Librarians on left, Wanda Holcombe, Beth Engleman, and George Holcombe
I first met Vance in 1964. I was finishing high school and he was the Methodist Campus Minister at Oklahoma State University. We participated in a church camp function the summer before my first year in college. I frankly don’t remember much about that first encounter except that I do recall he came off a little gregarious, arrogant and obnoxious. Part of my view was predicated on the notion that as a high school senior, I pretty much knew it all. In many ways, my view of him has never changed.
I was pledging a fraternity and due to sleep deprivation, I’d sneak off to the Wesley Foundation, where Vance was the Assistant Director. I’d hide out in the basement on a nice comfy sofa and catch a few winks before my 10 o’clock class. Often I would run into Vance. I don’t remember the conversations we had, but I do remember I couldn’t really escape him. Whatever he was talking about, it always seemed relevant and urgent. After a few of these chance encounters, I was beginning to wonder if the sleep deprivation was a better course.
In my sophomore year I began to spend more time at the Wesley Foundation, taking a couple of courses that Vance or some of the other campus ministers led. One day Vance announced that I was “ripe” for a special weekend course in Chicago, called RS-I, at the Ecumenical Institute. He said I would learn about some great theological thinkers and that it would change my life. Never having been further north than Tulsa, this seemed like a cool idea. So, about 28 of us trekked up old Route 66 in a seven-car caravan and had ourselves quite a weekend. It was, as Vance predicted for me, a life-changing event.
As my sophomore year progressed, I moved in with a couple of guys in an apartment the Wesley Foundation owned next door. Those were great days and times. I am still friends with people I met there: Rob Work (with the United Nations Development Program), Ron Stevens (head of Untied Way in Santa Fe, NM), Carl and Faye Caskey, and others. It was a “heady time” in 1966 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. We had our share of relevant dialogues, encounters, and a lot of fun. (Everything was “relevant” back then.)
I was chosen as a student “leader” of the Foundation. This meant I would have a “one-on-one” with one of the campus ministers periodically. It was my lot to be assigned to Vance. One night a week we had dinner and talked about critical stuff; then we would throw a football around in the park until dark. I think the idea was that he was supposed to be “nurturing” me. Frankly, I think my listening to him benefited him as much as me. But, I was young and impressionable in those days, so I didn’t mind.
Then came Vance’s fatal faux pas. In those days, in the absence of an actual religion department in the university, the campus ministers served as religion teachers. Vance, full of 21st century theological wisdom and carrying a pedagogical bravado that at least kept you awake in class, uttered some profundity in class one day - not profanity, mind you, but something deep that bordered on heresy. Accounts differ as to what it was, but something along the lines of saying it was okay to question the existence of God or eternal life. This is in itself isn’t bad pedagogy, except that one student in class was the current reigning Miss Oklahoma, champion of all things virtuous of our proud state. That wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself except that her father just happened to be on the board of trustees of the university, and a statewide lay leader of the Methodist church.The next thing you know the Bishop is not about to reassign Vance back to OSU to warp us innocent students. Carl, in protest, said he wouldn’t return if Vance wasn’t come back, and that is how Carl wound up in Minnesota.
The students of the Wesley Foundation, though, would not be pushed around by the power structures. We organized ourselves into teams and went to visit every district superintendent, the Bishop and the university president, in an effort to save Vance, and Carl, from re-assignment. It was the first real “protest” I guess you could say I was ever a part of, an effort to save Vance Engleman. I’m proud of what we tried to do. But, it was to no avail. Vance and Carl moved on. I recall that Vance had a summer internship somewhere, but to no one’s surprise by the fall of 1966, Vance had joined the staff of the Ecumenical Institute on Chicago’s Westside. Just between you and me, there is probably a pretty good chance he would have gone there on his own, but the Bishop’s shove made it all that much sooner.
We kept in touch for the next two years long distance. I made frequent trips to EI myself, attending additional seminars. And, following my graduation in June 1968 I also joined the staff of EI. That fall, all of the single guys were assigned to live in the “program center”, a couple of blocks off the main campus. Vance and I were down the hall from each other’s “cell”. Our good friend, Charles Allen Lingo, was among that group as well. Visiting Vance’s little room was always something. This was during the days when he really expanded his infamous broom collection. I always thought he was a little wacky with his brooms. He became famous among the museum aficionados for them.
Vance was noted for being a rebel. It seemed like he and Charles Lingo were competing against each other to see who could out rebel the other. In those days, we were always in meetings at the institute. We loved to meet. If we weren’t in a meeting, it seemed like we weren’t doing the mission. You know, a guy can only take so much of this. Meeting fatigue hits you sooner or later. For Vance meeting fatigue hit him early and often. One of Vance’s favorite ploys was to put his brief case on the table in front of him. It was always assumed that if you left your brief case somewhere, you’d always be coming back to it. Vance would leave – feigning a potty break – and come back after the meeting was over. One time I noticed his brief case was still on the table HOURS after the meeting. I discovered he had gone to the Cubs baseball game that afternoon. On Sundays he and I and some other guys would head out to a park and throw the football around, just like back in Oklahoma. One time, he ran right into a tree and had to be patched up pretty severely.
I became engaged December 1968; and Karen and I set March as our wedding month. There was no doubt in my mind that Vance was to be my Best Man. After all, if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be there in the first place marrying another EI intern. Later that year, Vance was asked to take a special assignment in Australia serving as interim pastor for one the EI-colleagues while that pastor attended a three-month training program back in Chicago. Vance was ready for another assignment. About nine of us saw Vance off at the airport, checking him in and playing a game of touch football at the side of the terminal in his honor. What a send-off!
We didn’t keep up with each other much for the next few years. After Australia, he held other assignments in Southeast Asia and India, which he fell in love with. He got sick there and was hospitalized for quite a while. Vance came back to the states and on a special assignment from the institute and eventually wandered in another direction. He started his consulting practice, Options International. Working with the Utah State Board of Education was very meaningful for him. His annual Christmas card was our primary means of communication. We were thrilled when Vance married Beth. We heard she answered Vance’s ad to the question, “Seeking someone who would like to spend her honeymoon in India”. We knew Beth was special.
In 1989, some of us decided to convene a meeting of current and former EI (ICA) staff (like Vance) who were in the business of “facilitation” to see what we were all doing. We met in Dallas and Vance and Beth attended. That was a great weekend and in hindsight another turning point. Vance and Beth volunteered to host the next session in Pittsburgh later that year. That event catapulted the movement that became the International Association of Facilitators, which today has nearly 2000 members from 30 countries. Oddly, Vance didn’t take that step with us because he wanted the meetings to remain more an old colleague’s network rather than a formal professional association. Regardless, he planted the seeds.
We stayed connected on and off through the 90’s and into the new century with our family visiting them in Swickley and Vance visiting us in Chicago. Vance made a big impression upon our son in the midst of these visits. I had a chance to visit his Ashram and was awe-struck at how he cared for that holy space.
One of my professional engagements gave me the opportunity to involve Vance. I had designed and was responsible for delivering a seminar on the topic of early seed stage business investing. Needing additional staff, I asked Vance to join in this enterprise and he hooked up with us and delivered some 15 seminars across the country. Occasionally, we had a chance to work together, which gave us a great opportunity to get caught up with one another, our lives and our passions. I became familiar with his visits and work in India and how much it meant to him.
It was during the delivery of these seminars that I became familiar with his illnesses that were plaguing him. Eventually, it became obvious that he was in real pain with no remedy in sight. He was awfully fatigued and it showed so much that the other staff members also worried about him. One of the things obvious was to me was that Vance was not the same Vance I had known. He’d mellowed. He didn’t talk as much or as fast.
His last seminar was in Philadelphia on a Wednesday through Friday conference this past September. But, on Thursday it became obvious that he needed to go home for another blood transfusion, which he had the next day back in Pittsburgh. That was the last time I saw him.
I’ll miss Vance. A lot. He was a non-stop talker, he was irrepressible, gregarious, a little arrogant, and sometimes he was a pain in the neck. But, all in an charming sort of way that I never minded much. He had an endearing quality about him that on the one hand drew you to him, but an edge to him that made you keep your distance. His life was like a flame that both fascinated you and drew you in, yet if you got too close, it burned you. You were a little afraid of his passion for life. Yet, his enthusiasm for the work of Gandhi and his annual Christmas message signaled a profound belief in life’s goodness and holiness that will always be refreshing.
My memory and fondness for Vance will live in me as long as I can breathe. I guess his life is eternal. Miss Oklahoma would be shocked.