I am deeply saddened to announce that Richard Millen passed away today. Most mediators in southern California knew and were touched by Richard, whether they knew it or not. He was a motive power in forming the first court-annexed mediation program in California, in founding the now-mighty Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA), and served on boards and committees advising on mediation policy until his last months.
Richard was 89 years young and was one of those whose inspiration created organizations that have become pillars of the southern California mediation universe. He was the motive power that helped to create the first court-annexed mediation program with the Los Angeles Superior Court (now the largest court and largest mediation program in the world). He was a trainer with the Neighborhood Justice Center, now Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) and a division of the Los Angeles County Bar (an adoption he never sanctioned). Richard trained under Bill Lincoln and was atop the training tree, training Bill Hobbs, who trained anyone who ever trained in Los Angeles outside of Pepperdine (me included). Long before he taught at Pepperdine Law School’s Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution and California State Dominguez Hills’ Master’s program in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, and with me at my Institute of Mediation Studies (previous incarnation of the American Institute of Mediation), he held mediator meetings in his pool house – meeting’s we’d probably call round tables or study groups today.
Richard also sat with Randy Lowry, Lauren Burton and others at a retreat that became the birthplace for the Southern California Mediation Association (SCMA) over 20 years ago, where leaves as a “Board Member In Perpetuity”. He meant so much to SCMA that they named their annual Peacemaker of the Year award after him, along with Ken Cloke. He served on about every organizational board in southern California, including DRS and the State Bar’s Standing Committee on ADR.
Many of us were trained by him, influenced by him, and heard him speak at conferences, as often from the audience as from the front of the room. A deeply spiritual man, with vigorous energy and strong beliefs about how mediation should remain “pure” and uninstitutionalized, he continued to mediate cases at 88 years of age.
Richard was one of the first interdisciplinary-trained mediators. A Harvard lawyer, his studies to become a more complete mediator began by reading books by Krishnamurti, Ken Wilbur, Ram Daas, Martin Buber, Alan Watts, Brugh Joy, Jerry Jampolsky, Eric Frohm, quantum physicists, such as Frejof Capra and Alan Wolf, and continued to include the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bhagavad Gita, and by Da Free John, the Knee of Listening, and by Gary Zuchav, the Seat of the Soul. He then dove into reading about Buddhism, Zen, Dao, the Kabbalah, Christian mysticism, the Dali Lama, the occult, Freud, Jung, William James, Elizabeth Kubla Ross, and Virginia Satir. When Richard was asked, “Isn’t that really more spirituality or philosophy than mediation?”, he would answer, “What’s the difference? They’re all the same!”
Richard preached that mediation was “a new epistemology of thinking and speaking about conflict” and “Conflict emanates from a break down in relationship of the parties”. He’d say that people didn’t have legal problems until they gave them to a lawyer. He preached the fundamentals (some might say lost art) of mediation – active listening, reframing, I messages, neutral language and self-determination. He often proudly quoted a poem by Tap Stephens that ended with “…and they did for themselves what they had come for the mediator to do.” He believed strongly in “Dialogue” as defined and used by quantum physicist Dr. David Bohm.
Richard called himself a half-lawyer, half-entrepreneur, having served the majority of his professional years as a transactional lawyer “doing deals”. He prided himself on being a trusted fiduciary, and loved when his clients would say, “Just ask Good Ol’ Dick Millen. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me”. He started in business at the ripe age of 10 with a paper delivery route. Living in Knoxville, he graduated from the University of Tennessee, and then it was off to the army where he prided himself on his days in the cavalry, stationed in Italy during World War II. When he returned, he took full advantage of the GI Bill by attending Harvard Law School. His stumbling into mediation some 25 years ago was more due to his spiritual enlightening and personal growth as a natural outgrowth of his business and legal backgrounds, than it was a career choice. Mediation chose Richard, more than the other way around.
Richard is survived by his wife, Mary Alice, four adult children, several grandchildren, and a community of thousands of mediators scattered throughout southern California and well beyond.
Richard was my surrogate grandfather, my mentor and my dear friend. When I last visited with him about three weeks ago, and he told me of the cancer, he said he was being “positive and creative” in his approach to dealing with it – being a mediator to the end.
Richard liked to quote Blaise Pascal, a colleague of Decartes, who wrote, “the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.” This was Richard and his huge, knowing heart. Teaching us until the end.
We have lost a great peacemaker, a passionate teacher, and a bright, glowing spirit. His presence will be missed.