After almost two decades of working with the Interactivity Foundation (IF), our good friend and colleague Pete Shively is moving on to emeritus status and to new adventures in his life. True to his name, Pete has been a sturdy rock of support for many of IF’s activities. Everyone who has worked with him has come to appreciate his steady and welcoming demeanor, his careful reasoning and ready humor, and his general willingness to jump in to help out wherever needed. Pete is fond of clarifying any nuanced statement with the lead in, “for avoidance of doubt.” So, it’s only fitting that we use his words to make clear how much we’ll miss him.
Since joining IF in 2005, Pete has contributed directly to all three of our focal areas: project discussions, educational initiatives, and community conversations. Over the years, Pete facilitated sustained dialogue projects exploring public policy possibilities regarding Food, Crime and Punishment, the News Media, and Welcoming Communities. In 2006 and 2009, he helped to organize our Summer Institutes for higher education faculty. He has been highly active in numerous trainings for discussion facilitators, whether directly for IF-sponsored community conversations or in support of others’ initiatives, like the Inclusive Dubuque project in 2015 and 2022.
Pete’s work on IF’s community conversations program was even more extensive. During his years at IF, including the last several years as co-director of our Community Conversation Team (along with Ieva Notturno), Pete helped design, organize, and facilitate dozens of exploratory discussion events. He also played a lead role in bringing IF’s discussion model to community conversations sponsored by partners, such as the collaboration with Midwest Partners in Princeton, Illinois to explore The Constitution: Why It Matters and of Four Freedoms and Beyond.
These are a couple of examples that highlight Pete’s talents as a connector, increasing IF’s reach and weaving IF into mutually supportive relationships. Another example that deserves special notice is IF’s connection to the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD). In 2008, Pete and then-colleague Dennis Boyer took part in that year’s NCDD conference, drawing IF into a network that has been a vital learning community and ongoing source of growth for IF.
Pete has been an invaluable member of the IF team. He has been a reliable and thoughtful contributor to our internal meetings and one of the co-leads on our Budget Committee. As our colleague Ieva has noted, we have greatly benefited from Pete’s “dedication, his hard work and attention to detail, his insights and fun spirit.”
Pete’s consistently fun spirit has shaped his approach to internal deliberations as well as to IF’s public discussions. Ritu, one of our newest colleagues, sums it up well: “Pete’s great sense of humor brightens any meeting or discussion. He puts people at ease and makes them feel welcome. His facilitation style helps create a safe space for discussion, especially when it is about a challenging topic.”
Pete has always been a keen observer and thoughtful discussion partner on politics and society. In those discussions, it’s clear his thinking was sharpened by the conversations in his home, especially with his wife Ruth (a “recovering political theorist,” as Pete says), and with his three boys. While we’ll miss his insights, at least we know these lively conversations will continue on with his family and friends.
We can’t say farewell without acknowledging Pete’s devotion to woodworking, to bicycling, and to the brews that are “a livelier liquor than the Muse.” Beer, that is. We’re talking about beer. In Pete’s case, beer wasn’t about dulling but about quickening the mind and stimulating discussion. To truly capture Pete’s particular take on this ancient beverage of conviviality, we would need to rewrite Houseman’s verse to say, “Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink, for people who love to think.”
So, let’s raise a glass, at least figuratively, to toast our friend and colleague, Pete Shively. Here’s wishing you all the best in whatever is next! And here’s wishing that whatever it is, we’ll meet again. Our great thanks for all you’ve done with and for us.