Remembering Mediator Irvin P. Foster

Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation by Dan Simon

Irvin P. Foster, who mentored and inspired many mediators, died on September 5th. ISCT Coordinator, Janet Mueller, shares the following remembrance of him.

I met Irv in 1999. I was a staff member at the Dayton Mediation Center and he had just returned to Dayton (his hometown) and become a volunteer mediator. He joined the Center at the same time we were switching our practice to the transformative approach. 

My memory of Irv from those early days is having deep conversations about the model, the community, and the possibilities. Irv moved from Dayton and went back to the DC area, worked for NAFCM and started new Centers in Maryland. He would regularly call me at the Dayton Center – to pick my brain or share a new project idea. It was a  few years later when I started working for the ISCT and Irv joined the ISCT Board. And this reignited our conversations. There were lots of big dreams in those conversations like bringing Conflict Engagement Courses to HBCU’s and growing transformative mediation in US Latinx communities. 

One of the things we had been talking about on and off for years was the idea of “Face” in Transformative Mediation. We tried a few years ago to do a live workshop in Dayton but didn’t make it happen. But last June with the support of two amazing colleagues, Bob Thompson and Carol Bloom, Irv’s vision came to be. Through the ISCT Virtual Institute, we offered Irv’s webinar on Face. Irv was well enough during the preparation to participate in a recording for people to watch before the webinar. Even though he wasn’t well enough to participate in the live workshop, Bob and Carol were ready to carry on. I am grateful to them both for bringing this workshop to life before Irv’s passing.

Every call we had, Irv always asked about my family. I can hear him say, “And how are the kids?”  He always believed in me, and encouraged me to step up and be the leader he knew I could be. I know he touched the lives of many as a teacher, mentor and friend. I am grateful for him being all three to me. 

While Irv was born in Dayton Ohio, he spent much of his professional life in Washington DC. Yet in his mid-fifties he decided to change his way of interacting – as a defense lawyer – and came back to Dayton. He quickly got familiar again with Dayton by taking a Neighborhood Leadership class. It was during one of their workshops that he was introduced to mediation through the Dayton Mediation Center. There he learned transformative mediation and was an active volunteer and Board Member for many years. 

During his time in Dayton he put his name in for a position on the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) Board. When NAFCM faced funding issues, and lost its Executive Director, other staff members and its physical location, few probably know or remember, but Irv offered himself to take on the ED position at a nominal salary and also housed all of the records and sales materials.

Irv then moved back to DC – and eventually Tacoma Maryland – and started his own organization, CatalystIPF, and trained students he met at American University.  He helped start two community mediation centers in Maryland, both vibrant hubs of Transformative Mediation. 

Irv’s students now reside throughout the world. All of his students, whether they act as mediators today, profess to have been influenced by Irv and his unique way of teaching the model. As one of his students, Marina Kolaric, said,”Irvin taught me many skills – mediation, conflict management, communication skills – but above all he taught me listening, understanding, empathy, and love for all. He cared deeply for people, dedicated his life to transforming relationships, and he was so curious himself and always wanted to learn more about others and their point of view.” 

 Irvin will be deeply missed and we are grateful for having known him. If you’d like to communicate your condolences to Irv’s family, you can click here.


Dan Simon

Dan is a leader in the field of transformative mediation. He is the author of the chapter on divorce mediation in the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation's ("ISCT") TRANSFORMATIVE MEDIATION SOURCEBOOK. He is a Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. He served… MORE >

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