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Remembering Dick Salem

Susan M. Yates, March 24th, 2014

The field of Alternative Dispute Resolution lost one of our founders this weekend when Dick Salem died. Dick’s core values led him to work in dispute resolution before it was a field. While serving with the U.S. government’s Community Relations Service in the 1960s and 70s, he was mediator at Wounded Knee and when Nazis wanted to march in Skokie, Illinois. Later, he worked extensively in South Africa and then other African countries, most notably Rwanda.

Dick also worked in the Chicago area, which is where I met him back in the 80s. Wherever ADR was the topic, Dick was there. He served on the board of Neighborhood Justice of Chicago (now the Center for Conflict Resolution) when I was executive director and we served together on the board of the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (now the Association for Conflict Resolution.)

I remember Dick not just for his dedication and accomplishments, but for his generosity to me as a young dispute resolution professional. When I struck out on my own, Dick sent me work. He subcontracted with me and he referred organizations to me for facilitation work. Now that I am more senior in the field, I hope that I follow his example of generosity to those who are entering the field.

And speaking of following his example, Dick handed down his ADR legacy to his son, Peter Salem. As executive director of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), Peter has established his own position in the ADR field. Like his father, Peter continues to plow new ground, but Peter has found his own focus in serving the needs of parents and children in the court system.

Those who would like success like Dick’s in the ADR field would be well-served to follow his example. He was a smart, energetic, “ideas” guy. He also had a head for business and a diverse set of skills. Maybe most important, his work was based on his core values.

Those of us who work in ADR may not have figured out if we are a field, a profession, a set of skills and processes, or something else. But whatever we are, we owe much to our founding heroes. Let us honor Dick and others by basing our work on deep-seated values.

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