OUR HISTORY: 1987-2016
by Gary Zimmerman
(Professor Emeritus, Manchester University)
(Partially excerpted From Celebrate 25 Amazing Years 1988-2013, an ECR Publication published on the occasion of ECR's twenty-fifth anniversary.)
The 27-year history of Education for Conflict Resolution, Inc. (ECR) has included many people (staff members, peer mediators, elementary school children, visionaries, Executive Directors, Boards of Directors, Board Chairs, writers, disputants, college students, public school teachers, donors, workshop leaders, etc.) and activities (mediating, grant-writing, fundraising, learning, teaching, workshops, talking it out, planning, listening, giving financial support, training others, etc.). What follows is a brief history intended to give a glimpse of some of the people and activities along the way. Because of the need for brevity and confidentiality, many important people and events or activities are not named, even though each was very important to the overall story of ECR.
The Education Section of the Lily Endowment Inc. awarded a Faculty Open Fellowship to Dr. Gary Zimmerman, a Manchester University psychology professor, to work and study at the Community Boards program in San Francisco in 1985-86. Community Boards, founded by attorney Raymond Shonholtz, was the preeminent community mediation program in the country (at that time) and was also starting to initiate Conflict Manager programs for students in California schools.
At nearly the same time, the Religion Section of the Lily Endowment funded the Center for Church and Community Ministries at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. With this funding, 36 Church and Community Projects were initiated.
ECR was founded trough one of these initiatives. Thus the creation of ECR in 1987-88 was the result of the convergence of 1) three years of funding by the Center For Church and Community Ministries, who obviously wanted churches involved, 2) the thoughtfulness, motivation, and enthusiasm of a diverse group of local citizens including among others, Lutherans (Reverend Jeff Hawkins as an early leader), Methodists, and Church of the Brethren members, all of whom recognized the potential power of conflict resolution achieved through both community mediation and also peer mediation in schools, and 3) Professor Zimmerman's newly acquired knowledge and mediation training skills.
The Following 25 Years:
- Raymond Shonholtz came from San Francisco to Indiana in 1987 and encouraged North Manchester citizens and Manchester College (now Manchester University) officials to see mediation peer mediation, and conflict resolution radiating into the United States from the North Manchester Community.
- Work during the first year was guided by a thirteen-member Board of Directors, representing four local church partners (Manchester Church of the Brethren, Congregational Christian Church, First Brethren Church, and Zion Lutheran Church) as well as the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend. In addition Indiana Lawrence Bank, Manchester Community Schools, Manchester College, and the Optimist Club were represented on the Board.
- Gail Sadalla, also from Community Boards, led a three-day training in mediation and conflict resolution for 42 teachers and administrators, including Principal Jim Smith, in 1989.
- Steve Kenzie, who had been chosen as the Project Director in 1988, helped lead the Sadalla training and wrote the theme song “Let’s Be Friends” for elementary school students (including Andrew Duffy, future mediator and Executive Director of ECR) being trained as peer mediators during the next several years.
- Gary Zimmerman helped lead the Sadalla workshop, having begun training local adults and college students to be mediators in 1988.
- The first mediation took place in 1988: It involved a theft committed by five elementary school boys. The male victim's compassion and forgiveness for the plight of the boys evoked tears from everyone involved, including the boys' parents.
- At nearly the same time, Manchester College Reconciliation Service was started by Professor Zimmerman, utilizing trained college students in the first college mediation, which resolved a widely publicized dispute between five college students and a community neighborhood.
- ECR was granted tax-exempt status 501(c)(3) in 1989 as a non-profit organization.
- A professional video about the Conflict Managers program was produced in 1989.
- Carol Horn was chosen as the Executive Director of ECR in 1990. Among her many activities, she began seeking grant funds from multiple sources since this was the final year of funding support from the Church and Community Project.
- Bob Gross was hired part time in 1992. He soon became the main mediation trainer and wrote Mediating Interpersonal Conflict in collaboration with Gary Zimmerman (the revised edition is still in use today).
- Bob Gross expanded his skills to help church congregations in conflict, and he became Executive Director, thus allowing Carol Horn to be able to focus primarily on schools, whereby hundreds of teachers and thousands of children have benefited from her teaching/training, books, posters, and other materials.
- Bob Gross trained many local and regional mediators and helped initiate mediation programs in Richmond, Bloomington, and West Lafayette, Indiana. Though most of these programs later closed due to financial constraints, ECR continued to thrive under his leadership. He also was an instrumental teacher for Tim Nation who started the highly successful Peace Learning Center for all schools in Indianapolis.
- Gary Zimmerman helped start mediation programs in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1992; at Ball State University in 1994; and at Butler University in 1999. Gary Zimmerman, Carol Horn, and Bob Gross started mediation programs in the six Fort Wayne public high schools in 1996, which lasted a decade before financial restraints forced them to close the programs.
- Gary Zimmerman led conflict resolution workshops for all administrators, teachers, and staff at 33 elementary and middle schools for Fort Wayne Community Schools in 1997-98.
- Angie Briner became Executive Director in 2001 and served as a lead mediation trainer for several years. She revised Mediating Interpersonal Conflict and trained many local and regional mediators. She also conducted many Productive Communication & Conflict Resolution Workshops for prison inmates and their family members.
- Together and separately, Angie Briner and Carol Horn were the “heart and soul” of ECR for two decades as workshop leaders, mediators, grant writers, and administrators. They wrote Let’s Work It Out and produced creative conflict resolution posters.
- Carol Horn wrote a manual and created a process in 1999 called Attendance/Truancy Mediation, creating a safe space for students, families, administrators, and teachers to explore reasons for school absences and to find workable solutions for attendance problems.
- Workshops to counter bullying and teasing were conducted in several elementary and junior high schools from 2004-2007.
- Following in the footsteps of the Indianapolis Peace Learning Center, Bev Eikenberry developed a program for upper-elementary school students—the Peace Learning Connection (PLC). After conducting a pilot program for East Allen County Schools in 2006, Bev and other professionals (Dennis Horn, Carol Horn, Jim Smith LuAnne Harley, Brian Kruschwitz, and MCS 4th grade teachers) provided the program for Manchester fourth-graders from 2007 to 2012.
- Andrew Duffy was hired as Executive Director in 2008, freeing Carol, Angie, and Bev to continue to expand work in their areas of expertise. He brought new vision, energy, contacts, networking, and fund-raising skills to ECR.
- The national economic downturn which began in late 2008 caused severe retrenchment at ECR: fewer calls for workshops and other services, coupled with fewer donations, necessitated fewer work hours and a smaller staff.
- In 2009, ECR agreed to support a new grassroots group in Wabash, Growing Grounds, to co-develop a new program to help women leaving incarceration to overcome the barriers that hinder their re-entrance back into the community.
- ECR moved out of the Town Life Center to save on expenses in 2010. Mia Miller, who had been hired earlier in the year, became the Mediation Coordinator, organizing mediations and running the office from her home. Other staff members conducted work on a contractual basis.
- The ECR Board of Directors asked Angie Briner and Jim Smith to meet with Manchester College officials to discuss entering into a collaboration.
- In the fall of 2011, ECR entered into a collaboration with Manchester College, which provided an office technology support and two part-time student interns.
- Having had several ECR leadership positions and 20 years of experience as a mediator, Bev Eikenberry was chosen as Program Director for the collaboration, working primarily with the Manchester College Peace Studies Institute directed by Katy Gray Brown, to develop mediation services and practical resolution education for the campus community.
- Cheri Krueckelberg and Bev Eikenberry created, developed, and presented Families Talk About Aging seminars in 2012-13, which assist families in discussing difficult topics related to the aging process.
- In 2012-13 moved the ECR office to its present location in the Administration Building on the Manchester University Campus and initiated a formal collaboration with MU.
The Modern Update: 2013-2016
- 2013—ECR commemorated its 25 year anniversary with a dinner and celebratory event at Manchester University. The Board of Directors participated in a five-hour strategic planning retreat. Andrew Duffy led this visioning retreat for ECR on January 5, 2013.
- 2014—ECR held a dinner honoring Gary Zimmerman for his 25 years of service to ECR.
- 2014—ECR Board hired a consultant to help prioritize ECR goals and develop strategies to expand opportunities to serve and generate resources.
- 2015—Provided training services in Conflict Management for Steel Dynamics, as part of Manchester University’s Dynamic Development Program, which included work with business and
- 2015—ECR adopts a new tagline,Work It Out!, “A Way Through Conflict,” for all of its publications.
- 2016—ECR is presented The Spirit of The Community Award by Jeff Hawkins at the annual North Manchester, Chamber of Commerce Dinner.