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A Tribute To Richard Millen

by Phyllis Pollack
June 2010

From the Blog of Phyllis G. Pollack.

Phyllis  Pollack
As I have mentioned previously, I am the current president of the Southern California Mediation Association (“SCMA”). About a week or so ago, many of us gathered to honor Richard Millen, a co founder of SCMA and a leader in the Southern California mediation community who passed away in March 2010. I attended that tribute and want to share with you my reflections on that wonderful evening...

On Thursday night, May 27, 2010, Richard Millen was remembered by his family and friends from the mediation community. His family let us in on the deep dark secrets of how Richard was transformed from a Harvard trained business lawyer to a mediator with the mantra “follow the process.” We met Doug Kruschke who was responsible for suggesting that Richard attend Life Spring and pointed him toward mediation, which transformed Richard, who, in turn, inspired and changed each of us.

His friends remembered when and how they met Richard, even though, in truth, most of them could not remember the exact details; rather, each remembered simply that Richard had always been their friend, and mentor, their inspiration, who always said “yes” and who had always been around. Lee Jay Berman cited the Lyle Lovett song where he sings about a woman, saying, “I can’t remember how I met her; seems like she’s always just been hanging here off of my right arm.”

We were told stories of his singing abilities as his daughter Kathy recounted his “Tennessee Song” talking about the men of the US Calvary, of which Richard was one; of his organizing so many meetings of mediator round tables (before he co-founded SCMA!) and of more recent monthly series of mediator meetings they called “My Dinner with Richard,” where they met to discuss Richard’s passions, including Martin Buber, Rumi, Ghandi, the Bodhisatvah and Ram Daas, who Richard had met.

We were reminded of all his favorite quotes, like Lao Tzu’s “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” and how he practiced his patient listening and tolerance (“living with opposites and acceptance of others”) as a devout liberal by watching Bill O’Reilly regularly and practicing sitting quietly, and his philosophy on life. Although a lawyer by training, Richard came to believe that people didn’t have legal problems until the lawyers got involved, and if people just listened to each other, communicated with each and let the process do its work, a resolution would be reached.

Many of you know that a few years ago, SCMA (through a special vote of its members) amended its bylaws as Richard was terming off of the board to create an Emeritus Board position just for him, because we did not want to lose Richard and his valuable insights and input.. We also named our annual Peacemaker of the Year award after Richard and Ken Cloke, awarding the Cloke- Millen award for the first time at our Annual Conference in November 2004.

We miss Richard very much and will continue to miss him deeply. But we carry him in our hearts and thoughts: he is still with us, if only in spirit, smiling down on us reminding us to follow the process. We owe him so much. . . much more than we can ever possibly put into words. He was and remains truly and forever our “Yoda”.

...Just something to think about!

Biography


Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as well as their own needs better than any mediator or arbitrator. She does not impose her views or make decisions for the parties. Rather, Phyllis assists the parties in creating options that meet the needs and desires of both sides.  When appropriate, visual aids are used in preparing discussions and illustrating possible solutions. On the other hand, she is not averse to being proactive and offering a generous dose of reality, particularly when the process may have stalled due to unrealistic expectations of attorney or client, a failure to focus on needs rather than demands, or when one or more parties need to be reminded of the potential consequences of their failure to reach an agreement.



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