Letter from the Director

Welcome to the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking.

For me, the center began with a long distance phone call. Michael Duffey, once a fellow doctoral student with me at the University of Notre Dame, called me at my office in New York City. Michael was directing the Justice and Peace Studies Program here at Marquette. I was working there as the National Coordinator of the War Resisters League – the oldest and largest secular pacifist group in the country. Michael told me that a certain Terry Rynne had plans to start a Center for Peacemaking at Marquette. Michael was wondering if I would interview for the position of director.

I was grateful that Michael thought of me. With my academic background (I had been a full professor at Fairfield University), and the organizational skills I had been acquiring at the WRL, I was hoping that I would be a good fit for the position. Mostly, I was eager to get back into a Jesuit mission, because I felt most at home with Jesuit spirituality.

I had been to Marquette years before, speaking out against the sanctions we were holding on Iraq, as part of a project I had co-founded with Kathy Kelly, Bob Bossie and Mike Bremer, called Voices in the Wilderness. Before I left Voices for the WRL, we had been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. I had been warmly welcomed then, and I was happy to come back.

The interviews lasted three days and they began with Terry Rynne. Terry was tall and possessed a remarkable air of self-composure. I remember that the first question he asked me was, How would I go about beginning a Center for Peacemaking. And I responded that the first thing I’d do, and the thing I needed most, was to gather around me a community of people committed to growing in the understanding and practice of nonviolence.

And that really is the best part of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking – our community. For the first few months I went around Marquette, from office to office, lunch to lunch, meeting one wonderful person after another – all of them committed to peacemaking. Each time, I asked, “We’re thinking of starting a peace center here at Marquette. If we did, what would you like to see us do?” And each time the description of the center got richer. Meanwhile, Michael Duffey was doing the hard work of drawing up the proposal that would have to work its way through the series of approvals necessary to form a center at Marquette. He was also finding an impressive group of faculty and administrators to serve on our first Steering Committee.

We had two “mass meetings,” one for faculty and staff, and one for students (at the Jesuit Community, where the Jesuit Community provided pizza). People filled out forms that were really “wish lists” for the new center.

I invited Deidre Hughes from her home in Carbondale, IL to join me as the center’s Associate Director. Deidre had worked with me in the WRL, chosen to be an intern from about 60 candidates across the US. It was great to team up with her again.

Finally, on August 28th, 2006, the center received its final approval from the Faculty Senate, and we were official.

But without phones. Or computers. Or even a space.

But once again, the community came through. Folks from Facility Services worked hard to convert several storage rooms in the Academic Support Facility into a colorful and welcoming space. Offices from around the university donated furniture. IT Services helped us to get our computers set up.

We decided to have our official opening on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15, 2007. We invited everyone to come, and to bring a “peace offering” for the new center. Fr. Ed Mathie, S.J., Fr. Jim Flaherty, Rev. Marcus White, Rev. Jamie Washam came and brought blessings. Other folks brought books, DVDs, file cabinets, paper and pens. The community was growing and responding.

Then gradually, we were joined by students. I may be prejudiced, but I consider that the students of the center to be among the finest in the university. They wrestle with intellectual challenges of nonviolence and in the summers, with the help of our Szymczak Summer Internships, put the principles of nonviolence into practice. All during the year we benefit from their enthusiasm and twenty-first century know-how. Even their presence during the day illuminates the center.

The enthusiasm of our students is matched by the dedication of our faculty – and of course by the tireless support and expertise of Terry Rynne.

And the result has been a deepening and widening of our nonviolent community. You can learn about our many projects by reading through our website, or meeting any one of the members of our center.

But the best part of the center is still the sense of community we all share. Just stop in. It won’t take you long to feel it; it won’t take you long to begin to feel a part of it yourself.

G. Simon Harak, S. J.