The mediation community in New York is mourning the loss of one of our favorite people. Peter Glassman was a consummate advocate, practitioner and trainer; his warm light touch and devotion to social justice was a joy and inspiration to many of us.
Peter’s respect, genuine interest and gentle guidance inspired a remarkable level of loyalty and commitment in the people who were fortunate to work with him, especially at Mediation Matters and NYSDRA. I’ve heard that respect and admiration echoed by many who attended his trainings and workshops over many years.
My own relationship with Peter began decades ago when I was a fledgling, an somewhat overly enthusiastic, community volunteer. He was willing to trust my good intentions and to indulge me in my desire for discussion and debate. He was one of my first mentors as a trainer, and supported me in my professional growth. Once he nearly hired me.
Just a few years ago, Peter made a significant change in his professional trajectory and adopted the NYS Agricultural Mediation Program. This flip-flop in our own relationship amused us no end. I wondered how his distinctive style and penchant for quirky humor would fly with the larger agricultural community. I guessed that many farmers would appreciate him, and I was curious about how some of the senior staff at the USDA and Department of Agriculture might react. The chemistry was there from the start, and we’ve received many inquiries and expressions of concern and appreciation from his newest community.
My own sense of gratitude for the great good fortune to have worked so closely with Peter overwhelms me during these dark times of shock and loss. I’m grateful to Elyn Zimmerman, Peter’s wonderful and amazing wife, who was able to navigate the difficult journey they were forced to embark. She was also able to open her aching heart to include many of us from Peter’s work life. I will be eternally grateful that the stars aligned to allow me to take my friendship and professional relationship with Peter to a whole new level. On the other hand, I’m furious at the universe, or at least at the random laws of the universe, that allows a few tiny cells to misbehave and create such mayhem and pain and loss.
Peter opened our last conversation with a phrase I’m guessing he had used in other similar encounters: “I don’t even know where to begin and end with you."
I’m going to end with some of Peter’s words, speaking in his role of a remarkably Good Citizen with an extraordinary appreciation of diverse viewpoints, a fascination with processes that include rather than marginalize, and an unquenchable drive towards civic engagement and social justice:
“Participating in the process actually improves our opinion of others' opinions. This is a precious gift, given the current boorish nature of our public discourse. Whether or not we agree with their views, the Occupy movement can inspire us to create a local infrastructure for participatory democracy that generates more light than heat.” Peter Glassman, in a letter to the Times Union, December 10, 2011
To read Peter’s obituary and provide condolences to his family, please click here.