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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
    Engleman library 1.jpg

  • Arun Ghandi, Wanda, Mohamed-Umer Esmail, Imam, Clayton Childress,:
    Engleman library 2.jpg

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A Tribute to my Friend, Vance Engleman

I first met Vance in 1964. I was finishing high school and he was the Methodist Campus Minister at the school I was going to be attending, 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 that comes with that sort of thing, 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 sure seemed relevant and urgent. After a few of these chance encounters, I was beginning to wonder if the sleep deprivation was a better course.

As my sophomore year unfolded I began to spend a little more time down at the Wesley Foundation. There were a couple of courses or seminars I took that he or some of the other campus ministers led. One day, Vance took hold of me and announced that I was “ripe” for a special weekend course in Chicago; something 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 other guys in an apartment that the Wesley Foundation owned next door. All three of us became pretty active there. Those were great days and times. Some of the folks I met there I am friends with still ­ 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 to be one of the student “leader” of the Foundation with this carried the assignment of having 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 a ritual: we’d go out to dinner, talk important stuff ­ which meant I listened to him talk to me about critical stuff ­ and then we’d go to the park and throw a football around until it got dark. I think the idea was that he was supposed to be “nurturing” me or something like that. 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 too much.

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 OK 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 ­ to boot ­ a statewide lay leader of the Methodist church. One thing led to another and 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 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. One’s visit to Vance’s little room was always something. This was during the days when he really expanded his infamous broom collection. I gotta say I always thought he was a little wacky with his brooms. By the time he had collected ­ I don’t know how many ­ he became famous among the museum aficionados for those things.

Vance was noted for being something of a rebel. Actually, it was stronger than that. 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. One would have thought that our mission was to have meetings or something. You know, a guy can only take so much of this. Meeting fatigue hit you sooner or later. For Vance it seemed like 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 (in those days we all had brief cases filled with important stuff). It was always assumed that if you left your brief case somewhere, you’d always be coming back to it. After a while, Vance would get up and leave - feigning a potty break - and never come back until after the meeting was over. One time I noticed his brief case was still on the table HOURS after the meeting. So, I went to check on him only to discover 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 around December that year 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 had mixed emotions about it, but I think all in all, after three years in Chicago, Vance was ready for another assignment. So, about 8 or 9 of us saw Vance off to the airport. After we got him checked in, we went by the side of the terminal and played a game of touch football 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. I don’t know the details, but Vance came back to the states and was on a sort of special assignment from the institute and eventually wandered in another direction.

He started his consulting practice, Options International, and took a major assignment with the state board of education in Utah that was very meaningful for him. We appreciated getting his Christmas card and that, quite frankly, was out primary means of communication.

We were thrilled when Vance married Beth. Vance was always a big talker about the importance of intimacy in one’s life, but he himself had so little of it. We were wonder-struck at whomever he married. When we heard it was Beth who answered Vance’s ad to the question, “Seeking someone who would like to spend her honeymoon in India”, we knew Beth was special, indeed.

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.

Jim Troxel, November, 2005

 
Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
Engleman_library_1.jpgjpg Engleman_library_1.jpg manage 49 K 15 Oct 2006 - 18:52 TimWegner Vance's Books on Ghandi - Librarians on left, Wanda, Beth and George
Engleman_library_2.jpgjpg Engleman_library_2.jpg manage 52 K 15 Oct 2006 - 18:56 TimWegner Arun Ghandi, Wanda, Mohamed-Umer Esmail, Imam, Clayton Childress,
Topic revision: r3 - 17 Oct 2006, TimWegner
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