Parker J. Palmer, author, teacher, activist on his nonprofit, Center for Courage and Renewal:
As founder and senior partner of the Center for Courage & Renewal, I take deep pride in the way this small non-profit organization provides support for people in the serving professions.
Since 1997—working through a network that now numbers one hundred sixty facilitators in thirty states and fifty cities—the Center has offered programs to help teachers, physicians, clergy and others “rejoin soul and role,” renewing their passion for their work, reclaiming its basic values and deepening their service to others.
I learned of Parker from Diana Chapman Walsh, President of Wellesley College. Writing of Parker at Sharing Witness, she says:
In essence, the idea of vocation is the master theme of Parker's life's work - vocation as the unification of "who we are with what we do," and how we project that out into the world, or vocation as the integration of "soul and role," in the more specialized language Parker uses when appropriate. This focus on vocation and what he calls "the inner work of leadership," for example, has broad social implications in his view. As he wrote in a remarkable early essay entitled "Leading from Within," leaders, by virtue of their positions, have the opportunity to project darkness or light on the people around them. They, therefore, have a special obligation to stay in touch with the forces of darkness and light within themselves. Otherwise, they can do more harm than good. The salience of this message could not be more obvious than it is right now, at a time when exemplars of trustworthy leadership are few and far between.
Although The Center for Courage and Renewal is not oriented to legacy planners as a service profession, nor to donors, it seems to me that a Yale, Harvard, Wellesley, Pitt, Brown, Williams, Amherst, Dartmouth, University of Chicago etc., and the prep schools that feed into them, could well (alone or with other such schools) provide a meditative space to their liberal arts graduates, particularly perhaps to Boomers, as they prepare to make significance life changes, plan their legacy, or to downshift in retirement to a career more oriented to service.
Philanthropy is a liberal art, a civic virtue. A meditative space for graduates who have significant capacity for philanthropy, leadership or late-life achievement would be more than a service for graduates, it would prove to be a great way to raise money by aligning the best the school has to offer with "the role and soul" of the graduates that school has shaped. For many of us, the liberal arts are our "moral compass." A religious organization provides sanctuary for a lifetime, a liberal arts college only until you graduate. At moments of critical life changing decision, it would be wonderful to return to the space that shaped your values and to reflect, converse, connect with others, then go on to lead with full force. Such inspired leadership may include philanthropy for those who have significant assets. To this graduate, who has zero interest in "alumni weekend," or college sponsored luxury tours, such a center or retreat would be of real value. No old college songs, no geezers in college caps, no cruise liners with dancing by moonlight. Take us seriously and allow us a time to reflect with one another as leaders in our own right.
If anyone reading this wants to experiment with events or retreats along these lines, for the benefit of graduates, the college, and humanity, please let me know.
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