Charles Miller was so much to so many of us. His sudden passing has us in shock. Some of the reflections that we have heard over the past few days are: mentor, inspiration, coach, wisdom, deep spirit of life and energy, and that he always taught us through his actions that life is about relationships.
I met Charles and his partner Nancy Stetson in 2000, when I attended a Leadership Development Institute in Long Beach, California. It was a five day program and part of one short session they held a “mini-inquiry” and provided a glimpse of Appreciative Inquiry. I instantly knew I wanted to know more. I had no idea at that time that they had permanently and positively changed my life and my work.
I immediately went back and told our college president about this amazing possibility for collaborative, strengths-based approach to leading change. I told him of the amazing work that other colleges were experiencing with AI and I boldly recommended that we use Appreciative Inquiry for our strategic planning process. After much discussion about time, money and things, we invited Charles and Nancy to facilitate our inquiry. It was amazing to see the energy and life of the people and the organization emerge. It was more than I had envisioned. And now the college president was hooked! And, later he (Jim Pulliam) and I would have the opportunity to be part of the Company of Experts and the Center for Appreciative Inquiry.
Charles was my AI guide, mentor and coach. What stands out for me is that he was a learner who found great joy in sharing this passion with others. Charles worked on many trainings and consulting projects touching the lives of thousands of people. Those people are out in all parts of the World creating positive change. The strength of the program he co-created is that with minimal change the training continues to inspire new facilitators to new heights.
Charles loved to travel and meet new people. He was passionate about helping people and organizations. He would seek out training and facilitating assignments that others would not. Remote location and hours of travel by plane, train, and bus – no problem. The organization is having severe interpersonal struggles – no problem. The organization has limited funds and can only pay minimal, perhaps just barely cover travel costs – no problem. Charles was often my first and only call. Sometimes he counseled me on how I might help. Other times he offered to take on those projects that were filled with learning opportunities for him.
Charles and I worked on two major projects where we knew we were really making a difference and brings an instant feeling of comfort and calm having experienced working with him: Creative Change through Imagination (CCTI) and The Macon Miracle. This is just one example of the lasting impact of Charles as a teacher:
“Like a great many of the people whose lives Charles touched and affected in powerful ways, I first got to know him as a “student” of his, when I was a participant in one of the early Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Trainings in St. Louis nearly fifteen years ago. The lessons I drew from that experience, and from the professional and personal relationship we developed afterward, have been some of the most important and meaningful in my life and career. I learned to trust my optimistic instincts, and to believe in the process of appreciation and inquiry. I learned to “look under the hood” at the mechanics of instructional design, in order to be a more effective teacher and facilitator. I re-learned the importance of “wholeness,” and bringing everyone into the room. And perhaps most importantly, with Charles I was always reminded about the value of seeing the world around us through eyes that wonder, and marvel at the abundance and beauty of it all.” ~ Lane Glenn
In his resume, Charles bio gave us a glimpse at some of his life experiences:
- Co-developed the Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training (AIFT) which has become the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s signature program, and he delivered the training since the beginning as well facilitated Appreciative Inquiry sessions for organizations World-Wide on behalf of the Center.
- Served as Vice President of the Company of Experts, Inc;
- Had the good fortune to be a full time faculty member at Santa Rosa Junior College for 31 years serving as an instructor, learning specialist and coordinator of faculty and staff development;
- Served as a national director of the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW).
- Held master’s degrees in English and Psychology from San Francisco State University and Sonoma State University.
- Served as a student learning outcomes consultant in the design of Fintelo, a learning management software program.
- Won both national and state awards for providing leadership in the field of professional development such as NCSPOD and 4C/SD.