xxxx. – February 3, 2008
Virginia has been a presence in my life, a friend, colleague, coach and coworker for more than 35 years. She was an amazing woman. The generosity and grace manifested in the way she died was clearly seen in the way she lived. She invited us in; allowed us to be present to her dying, and in doing so to our own mortality.
Virginia and Lewie and I met in the early 70’s at a training course put on by the Ecumenical Institute. At the time what we had in common was being young professional families just getting started and raising families. We began our friendship based on the work we were doing with the institute which gave us ample ways to explore shared values. We began to work with ICA doing local church renewal and community development and took on many projects. We moved on to developing town meetings in the 70’s.
I believe that she was spiritual, although I don’t think she was religious in the traditional sense. She had the qualities of empathy, of forthrightness, of forgiveness, and tolerance and fearlessness. She was familiar with and trusted from the inside what I only know from the outside and applied these qualities to herself as well as others. It gave her her center of gravity, like a gyroscope, that allowed her to be helpful to others in rocky circumstances.
Some of the uniqueness of Virginia that I have observed over the years: Virginia manifested a remarkable gift for being present, for being in the here and now. She listened. Really listened. Something in the quality of her listening invited you to speak from a higher place. I recall coming into her cube prepared to whine, and changing my mind, many times. She listened like she knew you could solve your own problems and that she didn’t have to fix them, she knew you could. This made her invaluable to her clients, coworkers and friends.
Virginia excelled at whatever projects or tasks she took on. (Ask Katherine about St. Paul Companies.) She went back to school for her masters in her late 40’s. She put her teaching credentials to work as she worked with Mirja for former Gov. Arne Carlson on the prototype of the Effective Leadership Course. She worked with Mirja to design the ELC which was taught to classes of state government. She designed instructional materials for Project Hope and worked as their HR specialist.
When the Minnesota Facilitators Network was begun, Virginia was instrumental in its formation. When the International Association of Facilitators was formed, back in 1991 she volunteered to share the lead on a task force to define the competencies for facilitators that could be used to bring credibility to this fledgling profession through certification of quality facilitators. She was its driving energy. IAF Certification events have now been held in Asia, Australia, USA, Canada, Europe and this year, for the first time in Africa. A lot of facilitator trainers are now basing their curriculum development on these competencies. Eunice Shankland is using them with FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) in Rome. There are Certification assessors in Taiwan, HK, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, the US, Europe esp. the UK. And Certified Facilitators world-wide.
She had an unerring sense of appropriate process for her clients. She combined common sense with kindness and generosity to guide clients to positive outcomes. One session she led she reported being surprised that she had to listen for many hours and then summed up the discussion, and got rave reviews. She said, I sat on my plan and didn’t facilitate and it turned out to be the right thing for this group!
She managed complex public sector projects at the University, Agriculture and many other sites. She particularly loved working with Native American people on several projects.
During the 2001 IAF Conference Preparation while working full time, she managed the sponsorship development team called “flash and cash” to a record number of sponsors.
I was a witness to another example. She and Lewie took on the initiative of creating a 20th anniversary celebration for Global Volunteers for 500 people. I recall the day we sat down with a couple dozen volunteers and did action planning, and for the following months actually did the plan! The event exceeded goals and was a smashing first for Global Volunteers.
I came across an old kindergarten report card that had a phrase on it “she plays well with others.” Virginia did! Most of the examples I just mentioned were done working with others – playing well with others at work.
And also, since 2000 we have traveled together several times. We visited Scotland to golf the old courses; we played in England, hiking miles and miles in the North of England and playing bridge with sore feet. We traveled to Australia with GV to work with an aboriginal community in Queensland, and spent time in Kauai.
Virginia loved the two years in China, year in Portugal with Lewie, and all the other encounters with other cultures she had. She loved it when she was asked to play a role in a Chinese movie. She practiced her Chinese lines over and over, preparing as she always did for everything, thoroughly; but alas, she did the part but they dubbed the dialogue! She was especially taken by Africa, its pain and its potential and its beauty.