2018 recipient: Dean Peachey

Alumni Award Winner Works Tirelessly for Peace

Dean Peachy is a familiar face to many Grebelites. Initially, he spent only his third year of university at Grebel (1974-75), participating actively as a resident. After graduating from Eastern Mennonite College, in Virginia, Dean’s positive experience at Grebel and Waterloo brought him back in 1978 for graduate studies. While studying, he served as Senior Resident with his wife Melissa Miller (1978-1980). Dean subsequently completed an MA (1982) and a PhD (1986) in Psychology, both from the University of Waterloo. While completing his MA, Dean worked with Grebel Professor, Conrad Brunk, to develop Community Mediation Service in 1980—the first such program in Ontario. He was the Coordinator of the program 1980-85.

As a student, Dean showed a passion for active peacemaking. In fact, Dean played a key role in a Symposium on Non-Violence hosted at Grebel January 14-17, 1975, featuring Gene Sharp as a keynote presenter. The transcripts for this conference were recently donated to the archives by Grebel alumnus Ralph Torrie. The impetus for this symposium helped to lay the groundwork for what would become the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (IPACS) at Grebel and soon after, in 1977, an academic offering in the faculty of Arts.

“Two things sparked my interest in peace and conflict studies,” remarked Dean as he reflected on his initial interest in peace. “First, I was growing up in America during the height of the Vietnam War and the raging controversy about the war. I was growing up in a Mennonite church that taught pacifism during a time when the US had a military draft, and as a teenager I needed to decide whether I would request Conscientious Objector status, or even cooperate with the draft system at all. So I thought a lot about war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Second, in the midst of a Mennonite community that taught peace, I saw a lot of family and church relationships that were not healthy or peaceful. And I began to ask, what does our theology of pacifism have to say about how we work at conflict in daily life?”

Dean taught at Grebel as a PACS adjunct instructor between 1982 and 2000, offering courses such as “Community Conflict Resolution.” During this time, he worked to establish the Network for Conflict Resolution, which emerged from a coalition of community-based conflict resolution agencies across Canada in 1985 and he served as the Network Coordinator until 1995. In 1992 the Network became affiliated with IPACS and moved to Grebel until 2002.

Dean now serves as the Executive Director of Global College. He is Coordinator of the Human Rights Program, and previous chair of the Joint MA in Peace and Conflict Studies between University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. 

His teaching and research focus on transitional justice (ways of responding to human rights atrocities), and reconciliation in a variety of settings. His recent research examines community-based reconciliation efforts in northern Uganda that arise from two decades of civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Dean is currently part of a research team with a SSHRC grant examining reconciliation between Indigenous and other Canadians. He has a deep interest in the intersection of religion and conflict, and is active in inter-faith dialogue activities.

Prior to joining Global College, Dean served as President of Menno Simons College and taught conflict resolution studies. He served as president of the Fund for Dispute Resolution and was a member of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. He has worked as a mediator and conflict resolution consultant in a variety of settings, including community issues, land use and planning disputes, alternatives to litigation, and religious contexts. “There is gratification that comes in mediation from helping people find a way through what often feels to them like a hopeless conflict situation,” explained Dean.

“With his extensive contribution promoting peace in the church, community, nation, and world, the impact of Dean’s work is immeasurable,” noted Grebel Alumni Chair Katie Cowie-Redekopp (BA 2011). “His drive to educate and dialogue is commendable, and embodies the ideals and mission of Conrad Grebel University College. And for that reason, it is our pleasure to announce that Dean is the 2018 Distinguished Alumni Service Award Winner.”

The award will be presented to Dean in the fall, as part of a special public event on October 11, 2018.  The video of that evening is on our YouTube channel. 

Dean Peachey
Reina Neufeldt leads a discussion with Dean Peachey.