Vance Engleman's Page
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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
- Arun Ghandi, Wanda, Mohamed-Umer Esmail, Imam, Clayton Childress,:
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 dont 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, Id sneak off to the Wesley Foundation, where Vance
was the Assistant Director. Id hide out in the basement on a nice comfy
sofa and catch a few winks before my 10 oclock class. Often I would run
into Vance. I dont remember the conversations we had, but I do remember
I couldnt 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: wed go out to dinner, talk important stuff
which meant I listened to him talk to me about critical stuff and then
wed 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 didnt mind
Then came Vances 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 isnt bad pedagogy,
except that one student in class was the current reigning Miss Oklahoma,
champion of all things virtuous of our proud state. That wouldnt 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 wouldnt return if
Vance wasnt 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. Im 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 ones surprise by the
fall of 1966, Vance had joined the staff of the Ecumenical Institute on
Chicagos Westside. Just between you and me, there is probably a pretty
good chance he would have gone there on his own, but the Bishops 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 others cell. Our good friend, Charles Allen Lingo,
was among that group as well. Ones visit to Vances 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 dont 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 werent in
a meeting it seemed like we werent 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 Vances 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,
youd 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 werent for him, I wouldnt 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
We didnt 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 dont 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 ones 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 Vances ad to the question, Seeking
someone who would like to spend her honeymoon in India, we knew Beth was
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 didnt take that step with us because he wanted
the meetings to remain more an old colleagues network rather than a
formal professional association. Regardless, he planted the seeds.
We stayed connected on and off through the 90s 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. Hed mellowed. He didnt 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.
Ill 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 lifes 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