My heart is sore as I write this letter to Russ. We never met in person (with my only mental image of him for years being his e-tag cartoon). Instead, we emailed and Skyped over a period of 11 years. He first reached out to me in October 2006. He wanted to review a copy of my home economics philosophy and leadership book released that year, titled Transformative Practice. It contained a chapter on transdisciplinarity (TD). He said “Sue, there is so little obvious work being done in the area of transdisciplinary approaches to leadership that I would also be interested in the possibility of your doing an article on that subject for ILR or possibly doing an interview with you on the subject.” And so it began!
After that, he published six papers in Integral Leadership Review that I wrote on transdisciplinarity and integral thinking (including TD axiology, TD ontology (debunking the Hidden Third), Nicolescuian and Zurich TD approaches, integral dispositions (Wilberian thinking) and TD knowledge creation, and the TD meme). Russ gave me a voice as I dove into the depths of Nicolescuian transdisciplinarity. I accepted his 2013 invitation to be the transdisciplinary Editor for ILR and, in 2011, he appointed me the Integral Leadership Council, one of the highlights of my academic career.
At his initiative, we published a 7-paper series in the ILR (2010-2011) about five universities trying to do transdisciplinarity. Russ did all of the one-on-one interviews, sent me the transcribed transcripts and then we wrote the five articles. I wrote the set-up and wrap-up articles because he said he liked my “synthesis-mind.” Then, he called me and said “we should turn this series into a book.” And he did! I came up with the name Transversity, and he published it through Integral Publishers (2011). He faithfully sent me royalty checks every year after that. Our book was included in the 2011 edition of the International Bibliographic Database on Higher Education.http://hedbib.iau-aiu.net
We also published a book chapter on transdisciplinarity in higher education (Leading Transformative Higher Education, 2013 Eds. Gary Hampson and Matthew Rich-Tolsma, Palacky University Press, Czech Republic). At my request, despite his busy, busy schedule, he wrote an article about TD leadership for a special issue of World Futures that I guest edited in 2014. He even came up with the idea of a Canadian ILR issue on TD and integral thinking, published in 2015, edited by Canadians Marilyn Hamilton and Joan Arnott.
It is through Russ that I met Eric Reynolds (now editor of ILR), Alfonso Montouri (CIIS) and Gabrielle Donnelly (a brilliant young Canadian leader). Russ knew Alfonso and also knew that he was Gabe’s doctoral supervisor. Once they found out that Gabe and I both lived in Nova Scotia, Russ introduced us via email and we are now good friends as well as TD and complexity colleagues. This is an example of why Russ is so respected and valued in the leadership community. He knew that small nudges in strategic places can lead to great things. Gabe and I came up with the new concept of transleadership, and published a paper on the topic in the 2014 World Futures issue mentioned above.
Russ’ respect of integral, TD, and complexity thinking as they relate to so many things make his contributions to leadership scholarship and practice invaluable. So many unique things happened because of Russ’ vision, hope and confidence in avant garde leadership thinking. He will be missed so much. But at the same time a void is created with his passing, those of us still here, touched by Russ, are enriched by the quantum vacuum he created, for it is in the vacuum that potentials and the future emerge.