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Edwin Nevis’ Lifetime of Innovation

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

By Bob Eason

Editor’s note: The following article was written to celebrate Edwin Nevis, his life, and the Lifetime Achievement Award he was recently awarded by the Organization Development Network at its 2010 Conference in New Orleans. Sadly, Edwin passed away before the article could be published in our newsletter. We have decided to go ahead and run the article in its original entirety. It is a salute to a man who spent his entire life helping others reach their full potential.


Edwin Nevis Recognized for Lifetime of Innovation

The amazing thing about Edwin Nevis is that his passion for making the world a better place still burns bright after nearly 60 years at the forefront of the organization development movement. In recognition of that fire, and his pioneering work with organizational consulting, the Organization Development Network recognized Edwin with its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.

“It’s a real honor,” the co-founder of the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) responded when asked what the award means. “It’s a reward for years of work. As recognition from my peers, it’s the culmination of my career.” And what a career it has been.

After spending over a half century in the organizational consulting field, Edwin Nevis has introduced literally thousands of consultants, coaches, therapists and leaders to an approach which has become the very foundation upon which GISC and its core programs have been built. “I’ve been involved with leadership since 1955 and training people from all over the world, the organizational practitioner explains. “The work is truly global in scope. My colleagues and I have worked with management from South Africa to Sweden, even the U.S. Presidency.”

What attracts so many OD consultants to Edwin and Gestalt International Study Center? Unlike most Gestalt institutions, who deal only with therapy, GISC works with couples, groups and organizations. It is an approach that is experiential rather than theoretical. “Our approach is hands-on,” Edwin says. “The goal is to create tools that will enrich our participants’ lives with greater self awareness, interpersonal and professional skills.”

Edwin’s approach is built on a set of principles that begin with self awareness. “It’s a question of how one interacts with the world,” he explains. How you are perceived by others. The impact your behavior has on others. Then there is what we call skillful dialogue. It’s how you interact with others in a skillful way. For example, dealing with difficult conversations such as performance reviews. And then there’s the ability to receive information from others. You need to receive information from others and hear what they saying … not just shout them out. It all leads to the ability to influence others.”

These principles are part of a body of work that is rooted in years of experience dating back to 1956 when Edwin co-founded the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland. While serving as president and a member of the faculty, he also co-created the well known Organization and System Development Program and the OSD International Program. But his fascination with Gestalt psychology and group dynamics actually dates back to his early college studies in New York City.

It was while there that he was first introduced to Gestalt by a legendary group of expatriate German teachers who had migrated to New York City at the dawn of World War II. Today, Edwin is the second oldest living practitioner who studied under the originators of the movement. These included such legendary pioneers as Fritz and Laura Perls, Isadore From and Paul Goodman. “We were out to change the world,” he remembers. “There were lots of free flowing ideas being bounced around. I guess it was just a question of being in the right place at the right time.”

The right place for Edwin soon became the Sloan School of Management at MIT. Heading back East, he taught courses in organizational change and consulting for 17 years. He also served as a core faculty member and Director of the MIT Program for Senior Executives. It was also during this time, the early 60’s, that Edwin and his wife Sonia March Nevis, pioneered a new vision of what enriches relationships. Edwin’s focus was on organizations and consulting.

Eventually tiring of constantly being on the road consulting, and in search of yet another challenge, Edwin and Sonia co-founded the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) in 1979. Located in Wellfleet, MA, GISC is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to leadership, professional and organizational development. It offers advanced training for leaders, practitioners and individuals. GISC’s mission is to encourage advances in the application of Gestalt to the fields of family therapy, leadership, coaching and organizational consulting. Edwin continues to teach there and sits on the Board of Directors.

Over the years, Edwin has also been the author of numerous articles and several books including Organizational Consulting: A Gestalt Approach; International Revolutions (with Lancort and Vassallo); How Organizations Learn (with DiBella) and recently released by GISC, Mending the World: Social Healing Interventions by Gestalt Practitioners Worldwide (co-edited by Joseph Melnick).

Teaching. Publishing. Consulting. Some 60 years after he first started, Edwin Nevis’ passion to make the world a better place is still a driving force in his life. Today, at an age when most of his peers have long ago settled into retirement, Edwin is still going strong. He has career goals and unfinished business. In fact, even now; he is working to introduce his organizational approach to America’s educational system through a demonstration project at a community college in Connecticut and at a Cape Cod school system.

When asked what he’s the most proud of after all these years, Edwin quickly ticks off the accomplishments without skipping a beat. “First, my marriage and family, then doing good work and the influence I’ve had on people, he proudly states. “Over the years it has led to work with organizations based on a growing recognition of the skills you need in life and your professional world.”

But Edwin doesn’t stop there. “You know, I’m a 100% living embodiment of the American dream. I was the first to go to college from my family. And because of that I’m rooted in a certain set of values,” he says. “ I’m not a crusader … or a utopian … I simply believe in the working man. The dignity of work,” It’s something I inherited from my father and that I’ll always carry with me.”

Which might explain why after all these years, Edwin Nevis is still trying to make the workplace, and the world, a better place.

Many Great Reasons to Give

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For GISC, 2010 has been a year of transitions, awards, successes, new opportunities—and challenges. Like you, perhaps, I believe there is an enormous need in the world today for the programs and services offered by GISC. Fortunately, we are well positioned to expand into new areas; however, we need your financial support. Therefore, this year’s annual campaign is about Funds for Growth!

In the years since Edwin and Sonia founded GISC in 1979 for study and research, GISC has grown to serve individuals and organizations worldwide. Our current momentum is exciting and puts us at a crossroads familiar to many organizations: the need for funds to ensure our ability to keep up with increased demand and opportunity. This year especially, we need your donations to support our growth. Here’s what we’re doing and how you can help.

This year’s biggest story is the extent to which GISC is expanding its base of operation from Wellfleet. We have a substantial new venture at a healthcare organization in Alaska and momentum to fulfill 2011 growth goals elsewhere in the US, Canada, and Europe as well. We are – as our name states – a truly international organization.

In Alaska, the GISC Healthcare Initiative is working to transform a major healthcare organization into a team-based, collaborative medical practice. An on-site, GISC-trained consultant is working with other GISC practitioners to provide a better model for medical care for Native Alaskans.

On the educational front, we have two new ventures. We will begin teaching GISC courses in the Leadership and Organization Development MS Program at

St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. This strategic education initiative gives GISC greater impact and visibility and will position us to extend our programs into other colleges.

Second, the GISC Education Initiative – and its extraordinary team – is preparing to launch a “demo project” in 2011. The goal is to teach teachers GISC methods and demonstrate the results: improved skills and reduced dropout rates. This exciting project could be replicated and make a major impact on education.

In leadership – where GISC already has a well-established reputation for quality – we are preparing to offer programs in Toronto and/or Ottawa. Because our Leadership Consortium members have been so pleased, several members now want us to bring our proven, successful programs to their employees.

In Europe we have been asked to develop a strategic alliance with a leading Gestalt center and with Gestalt-based consulting firms. We expect to offer several courses – including the Cape Cod Training Program – throughout 2011 and beyond in many different European countries.

As you may be aware, the core history of GISC is based on the creation of new methods and theories, so in 2010 we honored our roots and launched the Leadership and Organizational Development Initiative (LODI). This effort will analyze GISC’s unique approach to leadership and result in a new Gestalt-based offering that will help us work even more effectively with large and small systems.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that this year also saw one of GISC’s own founders and leaders, Edwin Nevis, receive the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization Development (OD) Network! This award honors an individual whose commitment to the field of OD and achievements over the course of a lifetime have made a significant contribution to the OD profession. Please join us in congratulating Edwin on his many and remarkable achievements, now formally acknowledged by the professional community.

The remarkable history and past success of GISC combined with our current growth opportunities offers exciting expansion prospects for 2011. However, we need your financial support and ask that you donate to position GISC for sustainable growth. Here are a few examples of donation needs and dollars at work:

· The Nevis Scholarship Fund: provides financial support for participants to any program.

· Program-Specific Scholarships: provides financial support for a program of your choice, such as Leadership in the 21st Century; Nonprofit Leadership; or Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.

· Education Initiative: supports development and delivery of GISC courses and methods in education.

· Donor’s Choice: Is there something particular you would like to fund? Last year, a donor provided funding for a survey to understand the impact of our programs in the lives of participants.

“Be generous, it’s good for the heart.” Sonia March Nevis

If you donate $125 or more, you will receive your annual GISC Membership benefits. If you donate $500 or more, you can allocate that money to a specific program or initiative mentioned above. If you donate $1,000 or more, you are invited to attend a special event with Edwin and Sonia next spring.

Please give today according to your means and intention to sustain and grow the impact of GISC in Wellfleet and throughout the world.

David Tunney

Executive Director

   
Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567