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Laura Chasin: A Loss for the Field and for Humanity

We are so sorry to be sharing the heartbreaking news that Laura R. Chasin – co-founder of the Public Conversations Project and a pillar of the D&D field – passed away on November 17th. Many of us knew and loved Laura Chasin, and greatly admired her work at PCP.  She was a great supporter of NCDD, and a dear friend of mine. Please take a minute to read PCP’s message about Laura below, and if you knew Laura, I encourage you to click the link at the bottom of the message and share a reflection about Laura.


Remembering Laura R. Chasin

1936-2015

With heavy hearts and deep sadness, we share the news that our founder and greatest supporter Laura R. Chasin died unexpectedly on the evening of Tuesday, November 17th.

A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, with masters degrees in Government from Harvard and social work from Simmons College, Laura’s interests spanned political science, social work, psychodrama, family systems therapy, dialogue, and transpartisanship.

Public Conversations Project began as a question that Laura, a family therapist, asked herself – and her colleagues at the Family Institute of Cambridge – after watching a televised debate progress from disrespectful to angry to chaotic. Essentially: could the same methods that help families have safe, constructive conversations in counseling sessions also help people talk with each other in situations where there are deep differences in identity, beliefs, and values?

Laura became a co-facilitator of a multi-year, clandestine dialogue between Boston area pro-choice and pro-life leaders (following the murder of two women outside local abortion clinics), a story of sustained relationships across deep differences famously covered in The Boston Globe in 2001. From there, Laura and Public Conversations facilitated dialogue on a wide range of divisive issues, including Public Conversations’ work with the Anglican Communion. She also did extensive post-graduate training in marital and family therapy in conjunction with a private psychotherapy practice.

In the field of dialogue and deliberation, she is widely known and deeply respected for a foundational guide to  she produced with Founding Associate Maggie Herzig, Fostering Dialogue Across Divides: A Nuts and Bolts Guide from The Public Conversations Project. Laura previously served on the boards of the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Spelman College. She has also served on the boards of the Children’s Defense Fund, the Conflict Management Group, and the Institute for Faith and Politics, and on the steering committee of the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice. Deeply passionate about the transpartisan movement, Laura also worked closely with No Labels and other organizations that encourage collaboration across the aisle.

Laura and Dick Chasin were married in 1971. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, including Laura’s three children and three step-children, as well as her grandchildren. Recently, as pictured below, Laura and Dick were honored by the New York State Dispute Resolution Association.

Here is the original note to friends and followers (including a poem) from Public Conversations Project. If you would like to share your memories of Laura, we encourage you to do so here. Finally, here are some images of Laura and her colleagues throughout Public Conversations’ history.

You can find the original version of this PCP announcement at www.publicconversations.org/news/remembering-laura-r-chasin-founder#sthash.BIgyT0yy.dpuf.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher is the Founding Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute, and also serves as a Research Deputy for the Kettering Foundation. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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