In Memoria

We are proud and humbled to honor our deceased IAAGT members. If you would like us to add a colleague or loved IAAGT member to this memorial, please email Nicola at admin@iaagt.org

Please include: a photograph – first and last name – dates of life – and a statement about the person and their contribution to Gestalt Therapy (approx. 250-500 words).

We understand 250 to 500 words is nowhere near enough to describe the impact these people have had on us and our community. In the spirit of cherishing, reflecting on, and sharing our beloved members of IAAGT, we welcome your comments, memories, links, and so on. To view these, simply click the photo of the person. To contribute, please email Nicola at admin@iaagt.org

VIOLET OAKLANDER

18 April 1927 – 21 September 2021

It is with great sadness that I inform members that Violet Oaklander, aged 94, passed away peacefully on September 21st. She was a pioneer who integrated Gestalt Therapy Theory and practice with play -therapy, bringing an accessible sensory rich and experience -near approach to child and adolescent psychotherapy. Her books, Windows to Our Children and Hidden Treasure became best sellers; they have been translated into many languages affording Violet international renown for her relational projective arts -based approach to Gestalt Therapy with young people.

When I first met Violet in 1999 at AAGT’s Manhattan conference I was enthralled by her creativity, wisdom and the vitality and warmth of her presence. I immediately signed up to her annual summer intensive in Santa Barbara the following year.  Her training had a life- changing effect on me and on so many others. Over the years that followed she became my mentor and a dear friend.

Violet was truly an inspiration to many of us who sought to follow in her footsteps. She took a keen interest in the outreach work of the Oaklander Foundation of which she was a founding member, remaining an active participant in the Just For Now series of online training seminars until very recently. Throughout the Pandemic the Oaklander Model also found a regular home within CAIG, IAAGT’s Child & Adolescent Interest Group, providing regular dialogue and support to child therapists across continents. Violet’s legacy continues to flourish; her ideas from practice, training and writing over so many years have greatly influenced generations of children, families and therapists. She will be greatly missed.

Her obituary can be found in the Los Angeles Times:
https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/latimes/name/violet-oaklander-obituary?pid=200216295
also on the Violet Solomon Oaklander Foundation website: www.vsof.org/.

Rest in peace, Violet.
Jon

Jon Blend MA, Dip Psych, Dip Child, CQSW

CYNDY SHELDON

20 September 1935 – 11 May 2021

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” — Pema Chödrön

Cyndy Sheldon, MSW, was passionate about living Gestalt as a way of life and about egalitarian relationships from a Gestalt perspective. She trained many Gestalt therapists in the US and abroad and wrote two books: Gestalt As A Way Of Life and Don’t Tell Me What To Do…Ask Me!

Cyndy trained in Gestalt Therapy with Fritz Perls and Jim Simkin. At the suggestion of Dr. Perls, she co-founded the original Gestalt Institute of San Francisco in 1967, where she taught until 1990. While trained in several other therapeutic approaches, Gestalt remained her primary approach because of its comprehensive philosophy and its focus on growth rather than illness.

In the 1990s Cyndy moved to Arizona, where her work as a Social Worker put her in intimate contact with Navajo people and culture over the next decade. Later, in her books and teachings, Cyndy shared the profound congruences she noticed between Navajo culture and Gestalt as a way of life. She radiated a deep sense of wonder whenever she spoke of this chapter of life.

Cyndy moved to Bellingham, WA, in 2006, where she wrote her books, taught classes and led an ongoing Gestalt therapy training group that continued meeting right up until she passed away on May 11, 2021, at age 85. What’s more, Cyndy started a second training program, a Women’s Gestalt Group, a few months before her death.

At age 26, in her first workshop with Fritz in 1961, Cyndy heard an inner voice say, “You will be doing this work for the rest of your life,” and this was how her life unfolded; Cyndy would bring this work to many over the next 60 years.

Cyndy’s Legacy: In addition to her two books and countless students, Cyndy was featured in four thoughtful video interviews (conducted in the months before her death), in which she shares an intimate oral history of West Coast Gestalt. In addition to stories dating back to the early 1960s, she also shares the evolution of her own work, giving particular attention to the Egalitarian aspects of Gestalt. An article she penned a few years earlier on the original Gestalt Institute of San Francisco is on her website, as are her four video interviews and links to her two books. All of these can be found here: cyndysheldon.com.

Cyndy’s Memorial: A virtual memorial service will be held on August 1, 2021. Please rsvp via email at cyndy.sheldon.remembering@gmail.com and a link and password for the virtual Memorial will be sent to you. An in-person gathering will also be held at a future date, to be determined.

ALVIN REVELL

16 October 1932 – 10 May 2018

Alvin was a pioneer in community mental health, an esteemed educator who served Pennsylvania as Director of Equal Educational Opportunity in Higher Education, and a long-time therapist in private practice.

Many people who speak of him talk about his gregariousness, his capacity to “work the room,” and yet he listened in a way that conveyed that everything about you was of supreme importance to him. He loved his wife and children, and it showed. His delight with life was palpable. If you asked him how he was, he would say “Fantastic!!!” and was known to add that you should be careful because “it’s infectious.” And he loved the gestalt community and was loved by many members of that community in return.

(Elizabeth S. Revell)

BOB WITCHEL

10 June 1948 – 3 May 2017

Bob joined AAGT in May 2014 and died suddenly in May 2017. In those three short years he contributed hugely to AAGT. With his co-chair Daniel Bak, he fostered a revival in Interest Groups. He designed the printed programme of the Taormina joint conference, which had been considered impossible.

He expanded the role of Communications Officer, doing much to raise the profile of AAGT, steering more active promotion of AAGT, and bringing us into the 21st century with a Facebook page.

As a colleague Bob was lovely: warm, always prepared and informed, a generous and self-less enabler. I consider myself blessed to have had Bob as a fellow Board member.

He gave to AAGT unstintingly. We are grateful for who he was: for all of us. Thank you Bob.

(Toni Gilligan)

BUD FEDER

Having known Bud for 4 decades beginning at Gestalt Journal conferences with a common interest in gestalt group therapy, our relationship flourished when AAGT was founded. Bud and AAGT thrived as he took on responsibilities for numerous organizational activities and active leadership in many roles. In 1998-99 he took responsibility for logistics for the NYC conference, at times personally paying for necessities while not requesting remuneration – just one of his many generous and unspoken gifts to our Association. Bud served as AAGT Treasurer 1999-2002, President-elect 2001, AAGT President 2002-04, and Past President 2005. He was conference co-coordinator for St. Petes Beach 2004 and 2006 biennial conferences, Organizational Affiliates Officer 2005-10, and Scholarship co-chair 2010-14. He continued 2014-16 to share his wisdom and leadership on the Board as At-Large Member. As if that wasn’t enough, he organized and coordinated three Annual General Meetings on odd years. As many in the Gestalt community know, Bud’s heart and soul were invested in creating, managing and sustaining AAGT’s Scholarship Fund. His heartfelt services were recognized in 2014 when he was awarded AAGT’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Following Bud’s death, he was honored by naming the “Bud Feder AAGT Scholarship Fund” for his contributions of unceasing dedication and donations of time, talent, money, and his prudent leadership. In addition to Bud’s dedication to AAGT he was recognized throughout the world for his knowledge and talents as gestalt group therapist and these publications: Beyond the Hot Seat: Gestalt Approaches to Group (with Ruth Ronall); Peeling the Onion: A Gestalt Therapy Manual for Clients; Gestalt Group Therapy: A Practical Guide; A Living Legacy of Fritz and Laura Perls (with Ruth Ronal)and Beyond the Hot Seat Revisited (with Jon Frew).

~Ansel Woldt

DOLORES BATE

30 Jul 1932 – 29 Nov 2015

Dolores Bate, died at age 83 in late 2015 in Victoria, Canada. She was a long-time member of the gestalt community, and a keen founding member of AAGT. She lived and worked in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she established the Gestalt Institute of British Columbia and practiced there in her later years.

As a young woman, having originally worked in radio, Dolores moved to England, where she trained as a gestalt therapist with Ischa Bloomberg. She established a therapy practice in London, while bringing up three children.

She was much appreciated as an independent gestalt trainer for her openness to different approaches, her strong interests in the arts, her great sense of humour, and especially her linking of gestalt with spirituality.

She died expressing gratitude for the life she enjoyed.

(Malcolm Partlett)


EDWIN NEVIS

20 May 1926 – 20 May 2011

Edwin Nevis was an editor, publisher, institute leader, mentor, professor, and entrepreneur. But above all he was a teacher who aimed to foster learning by breaking down material into digestible chunks.

His contributions to the gestalt world are too many to list. He was a founding member and 11 year president of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland and, along with his wife Sonia, created the Gestalt International Study Center. He co-founded Gestalt Review, two organizational consultant training programs and created and ran many conferences. He wrote and edited a number of books on organizational consulting and social change.

Throughout his life he was a fan of the working man, a fierce advocate for fairness and social justice, and always supported the underdog.

(Joe Melnick)


GILL CARADOC-DAVIES

4 September 1944 – 1 June 2017

Born Gillian Joubert in Northern Transvaal, South Africa, Gill studied medicine in Cape Town, after a year in the UK she returned to South Africa and a couple of years later emigrated to New Zealand. While living in Hastings UK, she studied gestalt therapy, back in New Zealand she trained as a psychiatrist. She qualified as a gestalt therapist in 1986 and in 1987 became a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, combining the holistic discipline of gestalt psychotherapy with Psychiatry.

Gill was a founder of the Gestalt Institute of NZ in 1990. She coached a small group of us as New Zealand trainers and was especially proud of her tutorials on the interface between psychiatry and psychotherapy. Gill headed the training programme from 1990 until her retirement in 2000. She was part of the original Editorial Board for the British Gestalt Journal, a role she held until her retirement.

I was privileged to know her as a generous teacher, colleague and friend.

(Brenda Levien)

GERT HARROW

8 September 1922 – 20 June 2016

Gert was a gem — smart, kind, loyal, warm, and funny – the “wise old woman” for many of us. Fleeing Vienna at 17 when the Nazi’s arrived, she and her family went to Dublin where she enrolled in Trinity College.

Eventually, she came to the USA and passed the Statue of Liberty. Holding hands, tears rolled down her face as she passed the Statue of Liberty once more on a boat ride during the NYC AAGT conference.

After finishing her PhD at University of Chicago, she came to Los Angeles with Hedda Bolgar (her mentor) and Alexander French to Cedars Hospital. A gestalt therapist since the late 1960’s, she was a revered trainer for GTILA and then for GATLA. Moreover, Gert was a treasured friend and support to many. Truly loved and missed.

(Bob Resnick)

JAN RAINWATER

11 September 1922 – 7 March 2016

What has always been notable to me about my relationship with Jan Rainwater was that she never seemed to have her “nose in the air” and “was a real down to earth” person. These qualities, along with a poster on her wall with the statement, “The world is full of possibilities that are limitless,” was a beacon and an encouragement for me to be more assertive and take more positive risks personally, and in my career as a therapist. I love her name, “Rainwater.” It has a musical and dancelike quality for me.

Jan was fierce and fearless, she was honest and creative, and she was a friend and a mentor to be treasured. Jan left an indelible mark on my life as well as on countless others’. She truly stands out, righteously as a champion of “goodness” and “continuous growth.” I am fortunate to have been “touched” by her in my life. Though her physical presence is no longer with us, her presence will always be.

(Nickie Godfrey)


JANET (JAN) RUCKERT

6 June 1926 – 24 February 2017

Jan Ruckert was a school psychologist in Southern California when she was invited to a training group with Jim Simkin and Fritz Perls because “they needed more women.” She became a trainer with the Gestalt Therapy Institute of Los Angeles in the early 1970s, was President, and served on the Board for the rest of her life. Jan joined the faculty of Pacific Gestalt Institute through 2017. She trained with GATLA Summer Residential as well.

In addition to being a creative therapist and trainer, Jan was a published poet and painted watercolor at Venice Art Studios. Her paintings grace the office of therapists around the globe.

A home burglary initiated Jan’s love of Rottweilers. Taking Lorelei (her first) to her office led Jan to write The Four-Footed Therapist and Are You My Dog?

Jan was the first Co-Chair of AAGT’s Scholarship Committee. She had a charming way of getting people to do things they had no idea they could do. Jan is well missed.

(Liv Estrup)


JOEL LATNER

23 December 1940 – 4 August 2016

Joel Latner can be best described as a renegade Renaissance individual possessed of a variety of strong passions and appetites. His practice of gestalt therapy integrated his talents as a professional musician, gourmet cook, and political anarchist. Joel authored, The Gestalt Therapy Book, a classic resource for those in search of a clear and comprehensive understanding of the psychological and philosophical richness contained in the Perls, Hefferline and Goodman tome, Gestalt Therapy: Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality.

As a teacher, Joel emphasized the therapeutic importance of sensing the life and brightness of the figures that form in our work with those seeking our help.

While the life of Joel Latner is no longer with us, his brightness will continue to shine within the gestalt community.

(Jack Aylward)

KAREN HUMPHREY

25 September 1941 – 11 March 2017

Karen was a beloved friend, colleague, teacher and mentor to scores of gestalt therapists throughout her long career at the New York Institute for Gestalt Therapy.

Karen began studying gestalt therapy with Lore Perls at the Institute in the 1960s. She soon found a therapeutic, social and political home engaging in spirited dialogues with Paul Goodman and other early teachers as part of her learning.

As a Fellow of the Institute, Karen never ceased to teach, supervise, and write about her passion for gestalt therapy. She continuously supported the growth and changes of the Institute, and then AAGT, as they evolved, always providing a guiding hand with calm, wisdom and clarity.

(Lee Zevy)

KEN EVANS

3 February 1947 – 15 July 2015

Ken Evans FRSA, President of the European Association for Gestalt Therapy from 2002-2008, founded the EAGT Human Rights and Social Responsibility Committee. Honoured and delighted to learn he was to receive The Maslow Award for Outstanding Services to Psychotherapy, his planned acceptance lecture included “the need for a radical re-think of our relationship with nature and non-human species, not simply for survival but for the reintegration of the human spirit.”

Ken was a much loved, charismatic, inspirational teacher, writer and lecturer, latterly continuing his vibrant psychotherapy career alongside sheep farming in rural Normandy. His chosen epitaph was:

Live life fully,

Love Generously,

Become all that you can be.

Those who knew him would agree

His life was testament to this.

(Joanna Hewitt Evans)

LESTER WYMAN

11 November 1937- 20 August 2019

Les Wyman, master of metaphor, was known for his clarity, directness, and compassion, as well as his dry sense of humor. He was a loving and dedicated family man, loyal friend, adored by his grandchildren, and revered and deeply appreciated by his patients and mentees. He was a licensed pilot who loved carpentry, sailing, traveling and home repair projects. Lester lived at the contact boundary with authenticity and integrity. He died as he lived—on his own terms with agency and awareness after building his own casket.

Les was a native of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. After graduating from Brandeis University he returned to Cleveland where he worked as a social worker with community agencies, juvenile court, and the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. He achieved his PhD in social work from Case Western University, while continuing to be heavily involved in community organizations.

As a faculty member at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland from 1981, Lester developed and taught in multiple training programs, co-facilitated an on-going group for 17 years with his daughter, Amy, and was mentor, consultant, and therapist to many.   Following his dream to enhance Gestalt training in Israel, he collaborated with a Turkish and several Israeli gestalt therapists in developing ISRAGIC – residential trainings on the Sea of Galilee.  He also left a lasting legacy still resonating through the corridors at the Gestalt Institute in Brisbane, Australia. He provided supervision and consultation locally and internationally until his last days.

 (Marlene Blumenthal)

MIRIAM POLSTER

07 June 1924 – 19 December 2001

Miriam Polster was a brightly spirited woman, whose very presence warmed the atmosphere among the people she was teaching. But there was more. In the quiet manner of her confident flow of language she got across her personalized understanding of principles that gestalt therapists live by. There was a minimum of jargon or textbook style; much like a person at a party, just engaged in ordinary conversation. She attracted many people from all over the world to the Gestalt Training Center-San Diego, where, together with her husband, Erving Polster she spelled out a Polster flavor that gave equal billing to human qualities as well as techniques.

She wrote Eve’s Daughters: the Forbidden Heroism of Women, which celebrates the female champions of everyday life as well as the more familiar context of daunting dangers.  She co-authored Gestalt Therapy Integrated, and From the Radical Center.

(Ervin Polster)

NIFONT DOLGOPOLOV

28 August 1953 – 22 January 2018

Director, Moscow Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Psychodrama —a man of many facets, talents and involvements. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, friend, gestalt therapist and trainer and a fierce fighter. Knowing and working with Nifont for over two decades, I have seen him refine and enlarge both his private and professional life – smart, ironic, creative, funny, stubborn and warm. Marrying Nadia Lubyanitskaya —a few years ago while battling a devastating cancer— they brought a new baby into the world, Lev (Lion) —now two years old and beautiful. Nifont’s creative gestalt therapy presentations began with the audience knowing little of what he was talking about – or where he was going. By the end, we knew and enjoyed what he was teaching —and everything connected. Nifont didn’t follow the grooves —he made them.

(Bob Resnick)

NORMAN SHUB

11 January 1949 – 2 January 2018

Norman made therapy into the Art of Love. The congruence between his teachings and what he used to do in life is part of what he left with us: his ability to be friend, teacher, partner, father, therapist and colleague. He always aimed for what he used to say, “Be a better person.” The “little Norman bird on the shoulder” was always there during hard times.

His legacy is vast and broad, complete and complex. His writings reflect his style–simple and profound; as he used to say, “The mission is repetition.”

On his last day of training, Norman said, “Gestalt is about learning to close, to let go…” While going away, he gave us a teaching, an experience and an experiment… a Gestaltist till the end!

His strength and wisdom will continue guiding our hearts.

He is the light in moments of darkness.

He taught how to love with love.

He is our guide, our teacher, our friend.

He is the light of growth, of love, of wisdom!

(Pablo Allen)

PEGGY CLEARY

4 September 1949– 19 January 2018

Peggy Cleary was the treasured chair of the GIT’s Board of Directors for many years. Sparkly and competent, Peggy’s open listening; clarity in communicating, her inclusiveness and her humour were appreciated by the faculty and the Board Members.

Peggy graduated from the G.I.T. training program in 2002, and integrated her gestalt into her consultancy practice in the corporate world. She was one of a small number of graduates who took gestalt into the corporate context in Toronto. Her work entertained and heightened awareness with lightness, humour and depth. Peggy lived a full life, generous, loving, awake and hard-working.

About five years ago, she began to experience symptoms of Multiple Systems Atrophy, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease. In close connection with her devoted partner of many years, Keith MacDonald, she attended to the quickly arriving changes in her condition and lived this difficult time with great courage and humour, with great strength and love   Together they came into close connection with family, friends and co-workers until the end of her life.

PHILLIP LICHTENBERG

1 October 1926– 22 May 202020

SONIA MARCH NEVIS

10 July 1927 – 10 September 2017

Sonia led a full life as an exceptional gestalt therapist and teacher for over fifty years from Co-leading groups with Fritz Perls at Esalen, to creating the Center for Intimate Systems at the Cleveland Institute. In her later years, she co-founded with her husband, Edwin Nevis, the Gestalt International Studies Center in Cape Cod. Always interested in relationship and community, Sonia developed the Cape Cod Model and continued the Training Program for couples and family therapists worldwide.

Sonia was much loved and touched so many. I was privileged to know Sonia in her later years, experiencing her as a generous, insightful, wise and supportive friend. She was a key figure in the “Eaters and Writers” gatherings to support gestalt writers. Sonia connected deeply to her family, friends, and mentees dedicating her life to helping others make a difference.

For Sonia remembrances-See GISC link to her memorial service and Gestalt Review, 2018 Vol.22, no. 1.

(Iris Fodor)

Sylvia Fleming Crocker

1933 – 2019

Sylvia Fleming Crocker, whose creative thinking offered us a bold conceptualization of Gestalt therapy grounded in philosophical thought with prosaic nuances of its clinical applications. She was an avid reader, articulate debater, respected author, faithful Christian and a decent golfer who enjoyed classical and contemporary music, world-wide traveling, a good joke and drink now and then, stitching needlepoint while telling heart-warming stories from her life as a Gestalt therapist. In the early 1980’s, Sylvia changed her career focus from professing philosophy to becoming a licensed counselor followed by training in Gestalt therapy with Miriam and Erving Polster who became life-long, esteemed friends. In the years that followed she trained with the GATLA faculty in their European summer programs. She supplemented her Gestalt training with psychodrama, which culminated in her developing an innovative, reflective, enactment-oriented Gestalt-psychodrama approach to dream therapy. Dreams, creativity and experiments were Sylvia’s passion. She established private practices in Laramie, Cheyenne and Rawlins, Wyoming and was well known throughout the state for 30 years, often sought as a presenter and workshop trainer for the Wyoming Counseling Association conferences. Sylvia was one of the founders of AAGT where she chaired the Gestalt Theory Development Interest Group and served on the Board of Directors for 8 years. Her active involvement in the Gestalt Writers’ Collective culminated in authoring her classic book, A Well-Lived Life: Essays in Gestalt Therapy (1999). She was a prolific writer whose articles regularly appeared in all Gestalt journals. Sylvia’s life was enriched by and with philosophy. Existential philosophy permeated her thinking, her writings and her clinical work. She was committed to emphasizing the phenomenology of Gestalt therapy and was working on a book on the topic at her death. She was enamored with understanding, describing and clinically applying the nature of the phenomenological method with particular interest in Husserl’s method.

We are proud and humbled to honor our deceased IAAGT members. If you would like us to add a colleague or loved IAAGT member to this memorial, please email Nicola at admin@iaagt.org

Please include -a photograph – first and last name – dates of life – and a statement about the person and their contribution to Gestalt Therapy (approx. 250-500 words).