Skip to content Skip to navigation

Recalling John Looney

Recalling John Looney

Published: May 20, 2014
Photo: AFSC

by Danene M Bender, Editor & Organizer for Alternative to Violence & John Looney Internship
[Note: John Looney started the Northeast Ohio AFSC office in 1970. These remarks were presented at the annual John T. Looney awards dinner sponsored by the Barberton, Norton, Wadsworth Peace Group on April 26, 2014]

I am so pleased that Adele Looney asked me to speak about how John was a mentor to me.  Also I am pleased to see so many activists here who have long supported peace, justice and nonviolence.

I'd like to begin by telling how my path crossed John Looney's path. In the late 1970s after ten years of public school teaching, I returned to Akron University for graduate work. In return for a graduate study grant I taught "Intergroup Relations" to criminal justice students in the Community and Technical College. I consulted the speakers bureau of the Institute for Civic Education for experts to come to each class.

About a third into the course John Looney came as a leader in conflict resolution.  In addition to practical information he used group exercise to provide insight on approaches to conflict from confronting to avoiding. But it was what came after that first meeting that I learned about John's persistence.  He came to all the class meetings thereafter and participated as a student.  In return for his help I was enlisted as a volunteer for the American Friends Service Committee.

Through editing the Peace and Justice Calendar I was introduced to a fantastic core of volunteers who by hand sorted and labeled up to 18,000 newsletters per month.  Regularly and often John told volunteers how much he appreciated and how much his work depended on them.  I saw how powerful kind words can be In keeping a movement going.

Year after year my husband and I hosted speakers for Ohio programs known as Guns or Butter Conferences. We drove speakers from breakfast talks in Toledo to noon addresses in Cleveland to dinner presentations in Columbus.  As hosts we have many enjoyable memories.  John managed big projects by coordinating enjoyable little steps.

So I have given you three keys to John Looney's success:  Persistence, Gratitude and Enjoyment.  I think his lasting contribution to us was his development of the ALTERNATIVE TO VIOLENCE COURSE and WORKBOOK.  At its peak in the 1990s the ATV COURSE inspired many followers to start various local, state and regional programs for children, parents, abused people, prisoners and more.

Around the year 2000 supporters of Peace Grows Inc, John Looney's retirement nonprofit, explored an internship program for young people to train new leaders for peace, justice and nonviolence.  The American Friends Service Committee agreed to be the sponsoring organization to hold and disperse contributions to interns. This sponsorship gives immense help in accounting matters because those of us who organize the education of the interns are volunteers.
Since 2003 there have been five interns. Now in 2014 we are in between programs.  Since The ATV WORKBOOK written by John Looney and edited by me is no longer in print, the last intern (2012-2013) was chosen to design an interactive website: . We included all of John's categories from personal conflict to community problems to national and global violence.

How did we make the website interactive?  There were nine people influencing design and development. In each session by pushing the orange tab at the proper place you can hear 40 successful case histories and practice exercises actively read by both male and female voices. Thirty YouTube audios of John's articles about principles of nonviolence are in the Internet Soundcloud.  And again you can push at the proper place and not only hear these but view a slide show of each article. An online discussion forum recommends twelve full length films.  Tweaking the use of this forum could be our next intern project. 

The John Looney Internship Brochure can be downloaded from the bottom of the About Us Page on the website.  We need your help at

On our blog page past interns enter an article of application per month.  On that blog we say:  No log in;  12 unique sessions;  In your own time;  Free and open to all.  John Looney mentored me.  I mentor interns.  Interns mentor the future on our blog.

Your Peace Coalition for Barberton, Norton and Wadsworth gathered here tonight is an example of John 's travel to all 88 Ohio counties to organize.  In the 1980s I rode with him to many of these counties, even though I suffer from car sickness.

John drove very fast as witnessed by his numerous speeding tickets.  He never drove the straight path for he was always stopping to hunt down a name on an index card.  He was a human rolladex with index cards in all his pockets.  He drove his Toyota with no one in the front passenger seat;  I was strapped in the backseat with my eyes closed.  Next to me were his brown cardboard boxes piled from floor to ceiling, many times falling on me as John made a sharp turn. I thnk fondly about these past adventures as now I have fun interact-ing with the John Looney Interns.

After much discussion with Adele Looney, steadfast peacemaker and Friend about how Alternatives to Violence could keep mentoring into the future.  Experimenting with an interactive website seemed one path to try.  There are many here on other relevant and inspiring paths.  I pray ALL KEEP GOING.  To end I want to congratulate past and current recipients of the John Looney Award for Peace, Justice and Nonviolence.