Remembering Les: Lester Philip Schoene, Jr, MS ‘92 - June 15, 1934 - October 17, 2017
November 3, 2017
By Kevin Avruch, Dean
Les Schoene graduated from S-CAR—then ICAR—in 1992 with an MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Like so many of our graduate students, particularly those in our “early years,” Les came to us an accomplished professional, but was seeking to expand his horizons and explore the potentialities of what was then a really new field. Before coming back to school, he had spent more than three decades in information systems development engineering for such corporations as IBM. His earliest education, in engineering and applied physics from Harvard, certainly prepared him for this work. It was his increasing involvement in project management, dealing with teams and their dynamics, that got him interested, first, in organizational conflict and then, naturally, in conflict resolution. Beyond the concern with formal organizations, however, Les also wanted to reach out to individuals and communities in the throes of crisis and conflict.
After receiving his degree, Les worked for a time in private practice, specializing in mediation, facilitation and problem solving training in community, commercial, and family conflicts. He coauthored the handbook Facing Racial and Community Conflict: Tools for Rebuilding Community, for the Program for Community Problem Solving in Washington, D.C. He also lent his skills and expertise as consultant to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at HHS, the Social Security Administration, and the Maryland National Capitol Parks and Planning Commission. In 2005 he joined the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the Department of Homeland Security, as one of its first specialists in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Indeed, Les was a pioneer in introducing ADR to FEMA and DHS and he was hardly a “desk guy.” He was deployed to 15 Disasters in 6 Regions, and to many special assignments for the ADR Cadre—totaling more than 900 days in the field, in difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions, both in U.S. and overseas. In 2011 he was appointed one of six full-time Deployable ADR Advisors, and served with distinction. In 2014, FEMA named him the Reservist Ombudsperson for the Agency. He was at this time, as he was in 2005, a leader and pioneer, and established the role and concept of Ombuds to FEMA.
In addition to his work in FEMA, Les continued his commitment to Mason, S-CAR, and the wider community. He has served on our Advisory Board since 1997, and as president of Mason’s Alumni Association. He chaired the Fairfax County Transportation Advisory Commission. Of special note, to us, is his decades-long involvement with Rotary International and their Peace Fellowship Program. He has served as Rotary’s District 7610 Peace Fellowship Chair since 2010, and has impacted the lives of many young people, often from conflict regions, able to study peace and conflict resolution in American universities and abroad.
Les was a dedicated civil servant. He supported S-CAR for nearly three decades, at the same time as he engaged with Mason, our Northern Virginia community, and communities in need at home and abroad. We are very proud to count him as one of our distinguished alumni and, speaking as S-CAR’s dean (and one-time instructor!), as a friend. He will be sorely missed.