Ruth McClendon, MSW, Past President of ITAA, passed away on June 22, 2023.
We share these photos and memories that were provided by John McNeel, PhD, TSTA.
I am honored to share my memories of Ruth. Here is a picture of the June 1971 workshop at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy. This was the first four-week workshop that Bob and Mary ever conducted and historically it was quite an event. Ruth is to the left in the second row standing next to George McClendon who would become her husband.
Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy four-week workshop at Mount Madonna, California
Ruth was a future president of ITAA as was Vince Gilpin standing over on the right. Harris Peck has his arm around Vince. Harris ran a notable training institute in NYC. There are also four future members of the WIGFT faculty in that workshop: me, Jim Heenan (with his arm around me), Ruth and George, a rich haul.
When I met Ruth in 1971, she was Ruth Millar, her name from a previous marriage. At the time she was a well-respected therapist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. We met one another at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy, the brainchild of Bob and Mary Goulding located on Mt. Madonna overlooking Monterey Bay. It was clear during our month-long training that Bob and Mary held her in high regard for her penetrating intelligence and clinical skill. It was not surprising they invited her to join their faculty shortly after that workshop and she subsequently moved from Ann Arbor to the Monterey Bay area.
Ruth was an early proponent of and an expert in family/systems therapy. She put the “Family” in the title of the Institute: The Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy. Until she came along no one on the faculty taught that discipline. The word, “family” was included in the title because the famous founder of family therapy, Virginia Satir was a founder. When it became clear to Virginia that Bob was going to marry Mary Edwards (Goulding) and not her, she decamped, but that portion of the title remained.
Ruth, along with her husband George McClendon, and later Les Kadis, was a clinical phenom, so much so that Ellyn Bader conducted her dissertation research on one of her week-long family workshops. She was a no-nonsense therapist, brilliant and tough when she needed to be. She also contained an infinite sweetness in caring for people in moments of vulnerability.
Ruth McClendon and Les Kadis, provided by John McNeel
My wife Penny and I spent one weekend a month with Ruth and George training with them in family therapy. The training was held on the seaside at Pajaro Dunes, just outside of Watsonville. For both my wife and I it was one of the great learning experiences of our lives, as well as being great fun. Ruth followed the WIGFT tradition of providing comfortable housing and delicious food in beautiful settings.
In remembering Ruth, I wish to share two different memories, one profound and the other apocryphal.
Ruth McClendon saved the ITAA from obliteration. I know of no other way to say it. She was president of ITAA during the ethics crisis regarding Jacqui Schiff. Bill Cornell edited a special edition of the TAJ this past year dedicated to preserving the history of that tumultuous time. I authored an article for it, “Memories of a Young Man.” In that article I am unstinting in my admiration of her courage, stamina, and willingness to experience self-sacrifice for the greater good. She came into her presidency full of optimism, energy and plans for the further expansion of ITAA which was growing exponentially in that time. We will never know what direction she might have taken us had her entire term not been consumed by that needless tragedy. One can only imagine. I have known few human beings I respect as much as Ruth. I was on the Board. I was in the trenches. I saw her fortitude and determination up close, and I saw what it cost her.
My second memory is one that was related to me. Ruth was famous for being plain spoken and not holding back comments on what she was observing. The truth is, she scared some people, but brilliant people often do. She was somewhere in the mid-west putting on a training workshop. She was about to interview a live family in front of the workshop participants. The coordinator of the workshop, knowing her reputation, pulled her aside and asked her to “go easy” on the family. “They are a nice family.” Ruth nodded her understanding of the request, and the family came in, four children and two parents. They all made nice for a few minutes until Ruth pointedly scanned the family and said, “Why is everyone in this family so fat?”
I tip my hat to this great soul and feel ever so thankful she was part of my life, friend, colleague, exemplar, and teacher.
We don’t announce everyone’s birthdays in our NATAA community – but when it’s a 104 th birthday, of someone who is still leading an amazing life – we are delighted to be able to send our love and greetings to our dear Fanita English.
In July, the International Transactional Analysis Association held an awards ceremony, where they presented her with the Fanita English Lifetime Achievement Award, named in her honor. Fanita gave her acceptance speech over zoom, to the admiration and appreciation of the worldwide community, even as some were participating in the middle of the night in their far-flung time zones. The reason for all this attention is not “just” a long life.
Fanita’s achievements in the field of TA are as both a theoretician and a practitioner. She was Eric Berne’s first student at his institute in Carmel, California, founded her own Institute in Philadelphia, and conducted training and therapy in many countries as well as giving presentations at conferences and serving on the Board of the ITAA.
Among her contributions are the concepts of substitute feelings, childhood adaptations, episcripts, and motivators. Her articles have appeared in the Transactional Analysis Journal, including those for which she received the Eric Berne Memorial Award in 1978 and again in 1997. You can find many details of her life and work at this dedicated site created by her trainee and friend Joachim Karnath.
While we recognize her many awards and achievements, it’s Fanita as a person we are celebrating. From her creative and clever solutions to challenges she faced in her childhood and through World War II, her solving problems in mental health, especially with institutions serving children, to her commitment to theory and teaching in many discussions with colleagues, Fanita has always been energetic, interesting, interested, and willing to challenge the status quo. Her unique style creates an impression that people never forget. And if she wants you to get a point that she is making, she will do her best to ensure that you get it!
One of Fanita’s qualities is being a learner about life, taking in new ideas and practices, and passing them on. For example, in recent years, she has shared her practice of being able to meditate for short or long periods of time, letting go of the urgency of the immediate moment.
So let us celebrate Fanita and all the joys, sorrows, and wisdom of a life that is still being well-lived!
TA has had a transformational impact on our personal journey and professional growth. And we believe that the basic principles of worth, value, and dignity of every human being are more important than ever in today’s world! People want to learn TA, but for many of them, there are serious obstacles to participating in a TA 101: the expense, the need to travel to a course, or the unavailability of a course at a manageable time. Now we have a solution!
We plan to create an online, on-demand 101 course based on the social action TA 101 presented at the conference in Raleigh by Graham Barnes, Vann Joines, Valerie Batts, and Felipe Garcia. It will be a streamable and accessible video training. Subscribers will have 24-hour access to the teaching material and thus be able to receive this incredible education! And the social applications of TA will be important to students and advanced practitioners across all fields of specialization around the world. ITAA’s recent partnership with NATAA opens possibilities for expanding access to these educational opportunities.
We want to make TA education widely accessible to people working within and living in traditionally underserved communities. This project is not just for the good of TA in the United States but for the good of TA worldwide! We want to include in this project as many people from as many countries and TA organizations as possible. But to do this, we need your help— intellectually, emotionally, and financially.
This effort is well underway! To date, in addition to a $5000 grant from the ITAA’s Eric Berne Fund for the Future, we have generous donations and pledges from Carol Solomon, Gloria Noriega, Laurie and Jonathan Weiss, Marina Rajan Joseph, John Evans, Marion Weisberg, Chirstopher Zimmerman, Ildiko Galter, Abe Wagner, Brenda Barry, Janice Dowson, Bob Hempel, Inger Acking, Reiko True, and Jessica Leong.
We are excited about the possibilities of contributing to the world in a new way and entering the 21st century with an OK-OK vision. We hope you are too. Together we can make a difference!
Janice Dowson, Inger Acking, Reiko True, Cheryl Leong, and Bob Hempel, IESA Committee Members, and Felipe Garcia and Laurie Weiss, Ad Hoc Consultants
The colored pencil drawing of Eric Berne was done by Takeharu Matsunaga, from Shizuoka Prefecture near Mt. Fuji in Japan. Takeharu was inspired by the ego state changes and emotions he saw in online videos of Dr. Berne and was inspired by his determination to bring TA to the public. We thank Takeharu for sharing his image with the IESA committee.
Many thanks to our colleague Chitra Ravi for writing this article about the Raleigh Conference, and thanks to the South Asian TA Association for permission to share it here.
Chitra Ravi has a Masters Degree in Psychology, is a Teaching & Supervising Transactional Analyst (Psychotherapy). She’s the Vice President – Operations of the International Transactional Analysis association and a member of the Board of Trustees of SAATA. She is the founder of Seed TLC, Bangalore. Email Id: email@example.com
“Promoting Equality and OKness: Healing the Divisions in Our World”
The Southeast Institute, NATAA and ITAA Conference from 31 July to 3 August 2019 held at Raleigh was something that I was looking forward to. The theme had me really interested and keen to attend. I had often come across inequality in several ways, in the news, movies, social media posts, etc. too much and too often in India and also in other parts of the world, especially in America.
I was there at Raleigh, North Carolina for 6 days and primarily travelled there as the Vice President – Ops of the ITAA, to attend the annual ITAA BOT meeting. From the word ‘go’, I felt the inclusiveness of the culture and atmosphere that had been created. The hosts had it all together, from their warm welcome to their attention to every detail. Every arrangement, the food, the social gatherings were all commendable. The experience of warmth, care and equality had already begun!
At the end of a two-day ITAA BOT meeting, there was a sense of accomplishment and a deep connection amongst the ITAA BOT members, acknowledging what Diane Salters, the outgoing ITAA President had meant for each of us. We also took the opportunity of welcoming the energetic and experienced incoming ITAA President, Elana Leigh. The next two days sped by in my role as the TSTA Exam Supervisor. I was responsible for conducting the TSTA exams, which were spread over a day and a half. My experience was varied and rich, with this role providing its share of challenges as well as a sense of completion, with two successful TSTA candidates wearing their ‘I passed’ ribbons. I enjoyed working with Alessandra Pierini who was the CTA exam supervisor.
Four days had suddenly just flown by!
With the theme of Promoting Equality and OKness: Healing the Divisions in Our World,” I attended the powerful Key Notes of Tim Tyson, Valerie Bates and Graham Barnes. The focus on social justice and racism, each spawned from civil rights movements, to invitations of not being bystanders in the context of discrimination. I was struck by the commitment and work that were done by each of them in promoting equality and social justice. My awareness of the context of racial discrimination was deepened and got further thrown open when Sonny Kelly through his mono-acted play “The Talk” portrayed the challenges of being a black man in the land of whites. The black father “talking” to his black son about how he needs to keep himself safe at all times, often needing to keep his “head bowed down” to the white people, both literally and figuratively. I was moved to tears by this portrayal, especially when at the end of his performance, his two young children were brought on stage and introduced to the audience. The workshops had a similar flavour, yet were so varied in approaching the theme of equality, from homonomy by Giles Barrow and Diane Salters, to mindfulness through yoga by Marina Rajan, Re-decision therapy by John McNeel, Life Scripts by Richard Erskine and many others offering their superb work.
I felt privileged to have attended a conference, which supported this theme. It was a reminder about how we could in our own contexts, be mindless and unaware of discriminating in several ways: racial, social status, gender, age-discrimination, caste, etc.
And finally, the special aspect that takes me to ITAA, SAATA and other TA Conferences is the opportunity to meet new TA friends and reconnect with many old ones.
If Jamaica is calling you, now is the time for you to register!Here are the details. You can pay in full or place a deposit to reserve your space. We welcome you to enjoy a week of learning with others from around the world, with time to relax, in the natural beauty of the Frenchman’s Cove resort.
The 2018 ITAA Service Award has been given to NATAA member Lucy Freedman. For many years, Lucy has shared and promoted the message of Transactional Analysis. She has organized several international TA conferences and has overseen the annual Jamaica Gathering. Lucy is currently is working with leaders of the Southeast Institute in planning the upcoming 50th Anniversary Conference next summer in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lucy’s many contributions are too numerous to list here, but we thank her for all of them. Well done, Lucy!