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Remembering Peggy

12 Jan 2020 4:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


We have all joined a global Intercultural community of caring professionals, a community willing to share hard-gathered wisdom and our ever-growing body of knowledge. It means that wherever we go, we meet others who touch our lives. But each of us touches sadness as well, when we lose a friend at a distance such as Peggy—a fine mentor, a generous colleague, a talented writer, speaker, and trainer. The initial publications of the intercultural field occupied her dining table for years (thank you, Lew). I will leave it to others to name her honors, awards, publications, and countless accomplishments. I will only say we loved her and always will.


 A tireless and committed woman who dedicated her life to making a difference. She had a natural gift and ability to relate to a person’s experience and made you feel accepted and understood. Her personality and authenticity allowed her to make thousands of friends around the globe. I am lucky and privileged to have had Peggy as a friend and colleague, and forever grateful that our paths crossed while I was her student while working on my Master in Intercultural Relations. Then when SIETAR USA moved to Portland, we shared an office and worked closely together on the 2002 SIETAR Conference. My last face to face interaction with Peggy was in their new home in Rancho Mirage to help her downsize her fabulous wardrobe and closet, wow what a collection!!!

Antimo Cimino, Peggy Pusch, Lew Pusch (March 2013)


Margaret D. Pusch, known to us as “Peggy,” was extraordinary in many ways. She was an extraordinary interculturalist, an extraordinary leader, and an extraordinary human being. She possessed knowledge in a wide range of areas, from knowledge of the intercultural field to running an intercultural publishing house to running an intercultural professional association. But it wasn’t just that she had the know-how, it seemed like knowledge and expertise radiated outward from her. In the time that I served on the SIETAR-USA Board of Directors and Peggy served as our Executive Director, one of the most remarkable parts of that experience was the opportunity to witness first-hand Peggy’s ability to “herd cats”—or organize, co-ordinate, and lead a disparate and diverse group of people in a kind, gentle, and sensitive way. Another was that she knew how to do literally everything involved in the running of such an organization. I found this to be truly amazing, and we tried to learn as much from her as we could. To close, Peggy leaves behind a considerable legacy that generations will continue to benefit from. The highest compliment I can give is this: For Peggy Pusch, intercultural relations was not just what she did—it was who she was. In so many ways, she was an embodiment of the very essence of interculturalism. (SIETAR USA President 2012-2014)


I had the occasion to discuss the need for SIETAR USA to be more consciously inclusive of differences with Peggy one year while attending the annual event in Albuquerque. I was impressed with her genuine commitment and desire to continue to pursue greater levels of equity and inclusion in an organization that talks the talk yet needed to improve its walk. She was always pursuing growth which is all we can ask of anyone. She will be sorely missed.


SIETAR members all over the world owe a depth of gratitude to Peggy Pusch.  It is possible that our organization and our field might not even exist if it were not for the central role she played in the establishment of the field of Intercultural Relation.  When I first met Peggy, I could not figure her out.  She knew more than most of the scholars, she was helping to publish most of our books, she organized many of our conferences, her presentations were inspiring and she knew everyone in the field globally.  She was my walking encyclopedia.  SIETAR flowed through her veins and radiated through her heart and smile.  She loved connecting people and building bridges between interculturalists including academics, trainers, international education professionals (NAFSA), government officials and anyone who she knew. Despite her tireless sacrifice and many accomplishments, Peggy was one of the most modest people I knew.  Peggy played a significant role in my personal and professional life as an interculturalist and I am sure she had the same impact on the lives of thousands of others.

Peggy and Neal Goodman


Peggy Pusch:  She Chose Us. Working for, around, and with Peggy made it clear that her leadership in the intercultural community was a choice. Her energy, enthusiasm, competence, delightful sense of humor, organizational skills, and vast knowledge enabled her to be a leader in many of our intercultural institutions.  While riding in the car one afternoon with Peggy from one event to another, her vigorous hand gestures may have looked to external observers like she was directing the traffic around her.  From my perspective as the passenger, she was actually sharing how things could be run better in several of our professional organizations as well as the world.  I say “she chose us” because she could have chosen to be Secretary of State, or if the country had been ready, President.  I will always remember her as being far ahead of her time and a model for future leaders.


I first met Peggy Pusch as one of my professors in Antioch University's Master's Program in Intercultural Relations.  With Peggy, I learned the basics of intercultural training.  Not only did she teach theory and methods, but also the types of lessons that only come from gleaning the wisdom of a master of her craft.  I still remember Peggy sharing the best advice I heard as a young trainer trying to break into the field: "Sometimes, you have to give it away."  In other words, to gain the experience necessary to get regular work, I needed to be willing at first to volunteer my services, and that I did.  When my first job came through--a reentry workshop--it was Peggy who patiently reviewed my program, step by step, giving me frank but invaluable feedback that markedly elevated the program's quality.  That was Peggy.  She offered sage advice, didn't sugar-coat it, and was incredibly generous with her time.  She poured her energy into nurturing the next generation in the intercultural field, and through her work with SIETAR, the Intercultural Press, and ICI, she impacted the vitality of our field in a way that few have.


In 1989 I was invited to join the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication faculty by Janet Bennett, specifically to co-teach/train with Peggy Push on various topics related to international transitions. There was no way of knowing at the time we were developing the original Training for International Transitions course, and that it would continue to be offered at SIIC for twenty-three years! In retrospect, what I remember most from that experience was the excitement of participating in a field that was entering a period of what some have characterized as the expansion and maturation of the discipline. Peggy and I marveled (and were often challenged) by the fact that the field was changing so fast that from year-to-year we had to significantly alter our reading lists, training exercises, and conceptual/theoretical frameworks to keep up with the amazing advances in the field. 

 The faculty at SIIC were a wonderful collection of creative and generous minds, and the amount of sharing and fascinating intellectual exchanges continued to enrich our collective knowledge. But the truth was that, at its heart, the SIIC experience was just plain fun, so much so that many of us characterized it as “Culture Camp for Adults”. It was a unique moment in time and when I reflect upon my involvement at SIIC it is inextricably intertwined with memories of Peggy and her energy, intellect and work ethic. I have trained with many colleagues over the years, but I consider my collaboration with Peggy as not only the longest in duration but also one of the most intense. 

 Peggy was a unique individual with many professional facets (publisher, writer, administrator who held many presidential offices in intercultural organizations) but I shall let others speak to those accomplishments. Finally, I just want to note her influence on me as a teacher and trainer, and appreciatively acknowledge how much she gave to the field through her acumen, generosity, and wicked sense of humor.


I became the President of SIETAR USA the very year that Peggy retired.  She was instrumental in my decision to run and when I was unsure if I was ready or even capable, she shared that she had nothing but faith in me and would always be there for me if I needed anything.  At that time her health was not 100% so I struggled often with the desire to call and the need to let her be and heal.  We had NO IDEA just how much Peggy did until she retired and much of my Presidency was about keeping the boat afloat while we figured it all out.  One day when I was feeling overwhelmed and a bit discouraged, a package arrived in the mail and it was a photograph of a vision board that we created at a Board retreat along with a list of the things that she described as “what she did”. It was 3 pages, front and back! And I have to say, I am sure that it only scratched the surface of what she did. I never felt that I could do for SUSA what Peggy did, but she was always there for me, if I needed her. The foundation that she laid down for us was a solid one and as I tried to pick up the torch and take the organization forward, I always knew that I was standing on her shoulders and was deeply grateful for her faith in me and the guidance that she offered. (SIETAR USA President 2010-2012)


Peggy seemed to be everywhere and to know everyone. We attended conferences together in Prague and in Portland and everywhere in between; presented together, planned together, and wrote together; and everywhere and in every situation she knew people. She was always saying, “You should talk to …” or “You should meet …”. And sometimes she would dispense with the “you should meet,” because she couldn’t imagine that all of her friends didn’t already know each other. Her omnipresence revealed not freneticism, but rather an enormous generosity of spirit, and imagination, an ability to see connections between people and ideas that were not obvious to others. Moreover, her friendships were real and solid. When I returned from working in the Kyrgyz Republic for five years, we had lunch at an oceanside restaurant near the offices of the Intercultural Press. We talked for three hours – the waiter thought we would never leave. But she understood my re-entry issues and took the time we needed. I will miss her. 


When I think of Peggy, three words come to mind – smart, energetic, and, dependable. I got to know Peggy by working closely with her on the board of SIETAR (Society of Intercultural Educators, Teachers, and Researchers). She was legendary. Having been involved with SIETAR from the beginning, when it was Global SIETAR. I got to know and respect her as we worked together on the board. And, work we did. Our time together was focused on an important transition – changing the daily leadership, the executive director, from Peggy to another person or organization. It’s a task that has shown how energetic and persistent she was when doing something she believed it. Her impact will last for decades. (President SIETAR USA 2008-2010)


Andy Reynolds and Peggy


Peggy epitomized the heart and soul of SIETAR USA and her legacy will live on in the fabric of SIETAR. I met Peggy at the very first SIETAR USA conference, held in Virginia, just outside of Washington DC. She was a ball of energy in motion. That, I realized as I got to know her over the many years of SIETAR USA conferences, epitomized Peggy. She was always in motion! A true leader—she was quick to jump in and do the work that needed to be done, and always with a smile. Her passion for the intercultural field was evident, both in her work and dedication to SIETAR as well as all the other intercultural work she did. She was dedicated, always willing to help others in the field, and had a strong commitment to actively growing the field and its resources. She was also a woman of love and courage, as evidenced by the fireside chat she did at a SIETAR conference where she candidly shared her family’s journey when her son Rob came out as transgender. Her willingness to be vulnerable and share her personal journey was very moving, and it is a fireside chat I will always remember. Peggy touched many, many lives in SIETAR and the intercultural field, and I’m grateful she touched mine.


Andy Reynolds and I began teaching a Foundations Class at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) in the early 1990s.  Peggy Pusch was already teaching this class with Jaime Wurzel but the numbers had grown so large that a second section was needed.   While we were not new to the field or the topic, we had not taught this class at SIIC so we asked for Peggy's guidance. She was generous beyond our expectations:  she shared her curricula materials, her lecture notes, her history of the field, her insights about teaching at SIIC.  Going forward we became both good colleagues and friends.  Peggy willingly gave of herself, her experience, her knowledge.  Most importantly, however, she gave her heart to everything she did.  We were richer for having known her and poorer for having lost her.  I believe eternal life is created when others remember you and pass on your stories:  Peggy will be eternal! 


Peggy Pusch and Donna Stringer


With Gratitude to a Life: I was fortunate to have known Peggy Pusch for more than 40 years, from my entry into the intercultural field. What fun we had at SIETAR conferences over the years!  As an emerging interculturalist, she provided me with the encouragement of a nurturing mentor, and an exemplar of how to practice the synergy of the three functions of our field: trainer, educator, and researcher.  To those roles that she performed with distinction, she was a bold visionary, a willing and generous leader, a writer of clarity, and an organized  administrator.  The formation and growth of our field was reliant on colleagues who were willing to often put our collective and professional needs ahead of their individuals goals.  Peggy never shrank from those roles – in fact, she relished them—Co-founder and editor of the Intercultural Press, President and Executive Director of SIETAR, President of NAFSA, Associate Director of the Intercultural Communication Institute.  She taught and mentored hundreds of young interculturalists at ICI and in the Master’s program of Intercultural Relations.  Where would our field be without her committed efforts?   In addition to these enormous and sustained responsibilities, Peggy was able to impart her considerable intercultural skills and knowledge to trainees who benefitted from her workshops suffused with experiential practices. Peggy, you have lived a life that has increased intercultural understanding for thousands of people throughout the world. What could be a more crucial legacy?  I say farewell and thank you my colleague and friend.


Peggy and I had met earlier, but I most remember our conversation sitting together on the plane from the Denver SIETAR conference (1988), where we agreed to do a program together the following year in Boston.  We represented different angles to the same exciting topic. I was astonished but thrilled that such an experienced professional would take on a relative novice.  But such was Peggy—always supporting newcomers to the field.

Just before the Boston conference (1989), both Peggy and I, as members of the Governing Council, spent several days in Brattleboro working out what SIETAR International could be, since we in Europe felt a need to establish a SIETAR reflecting our European issues. This a small group of us did in Saarbrücken, Germany, several months later in November ’89 – symbolically, it turned out, the same day the Berlin Wall fell.  Peggy was always a huge support to us in Europe in that long process—for which we were always grateful. Of course, later she started and took on the leadership of SIETAR USA and many other posts.  Peggy had broad shoulders and never shrugged responsibility.

Peggy was the engine of the growing intercultural field, not least because of her time as co-founder and president of the Intercultural Press and later with the Intercultural Institute. She had her finger on the pulse.  We are all indebted to her! Our collegial endeavors evolved early into a close personal friendship and mutual family visits in Denmark, Portland and Palm Springs, latest in August 2019.  I feel a deep loss of a close friend. God bless you, Peggy.  Rest in peace.

Susan Vonsild, Peggy, Janet Bennett (March 2008)


If my memory serves me correctly, I first met Peggy at the SIETAR International Congress in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1990. I had just read about this group of people calling themselves "interculturalists" a few weeks earlier and went to Kilkenny on a whim only to learn that I had found "my tribe." And Peggy was always a part of my tribe—as a mentor, friend, SIIC faculty member, SIETAR mover and shaker and fellow Board member. I felt a particular connection with Peggy because she was one of the most outspoken and steadfast supporters and allies of LGBTQ members within the SIETAR community. In 2004, I had the honor of hosting a fireside chat with Peggy at the Bloomington, SIETAR conference in Bloomington, IN, on the topic of LGBTQ equal rights and inclusion. She always made sure that LGBTQ interculturalists had a voice within the organization—which helped me find mine. Much gratitude to you, Peggy!


I was so sorry to hear of Peggy's passing, and my heart goes out to Lew, Darryl, Rob, and all her other family members. I understand something of their loss because I myself have such good memories of Peggy and owe her so much, especially for her instrumental role in bringing me to ICI and SIIC. In 1996, I came from Japan to attend the SIIC for the first time and the experience was so fascinating that I determined to quit my company job in Tokyo and look for a business internship in the U.S. Having sent my resume to an internship organization, something happened that I still think of as miracle; Peggy, as director of the Intercultural Press at the time, accepted my application and introduced me to the ICI for a one-year internship. Her generous action allowed me to be with the ICI and the SIIC for more than 10 years after May 1997.

In that time, I was very lucky to experience her multifaceted charm at close quarters. I saw not only her strong leadership in the field of intercultural communication but also her fascinating personality as an educator, wife, mother, and grandmother, as well as in her relationships with others around her. As the president at SIETAR USA and NAFSA, I came to understand her core honesty. One day, we were having brunch together on the terrace of a nice cafe in Portland, both ordering the same dish - eggs benedict and a cup of herb tea. I asked Peggy, “How can you handle so many roles? An introvert like me cannot imagine how you do that.” Peggy replied, “Actually, I am an introvert too.” It was such openness in her talk that I valued so much. Peggy's stories were always fun, witty, and inspiring, and listening to them let me walk with her through her life, and in the process learn how U.S. society, history, and cultures have changed from an intercultural perspective in the last 80 years. Those stories remain within me as the fondest of memories. 

I treasure having known such a great woman as Peggy, and I know my great good fortune in having had her as part of my life. Her kindness and backing meant that I am now a college professor in Japan, something I could not have dreamed of when I first met her. I try, and will always try, to repay a little of my debt to Peggy by passing on to my own students what I learned from her. Peggy was also my dear mentor. She always attended official occasions that were important for me, such as my doctoral graduation ceremony, as well as social events like parties to which she would bring her husband Lew. My prayers are with all her family members.

Peggy and Miki Yamashita


In September 2001, I was in San Francisco studying under Dr. David Matsumoto during my sabbatical year. I was surprised to receive a call from Peggy saying that she would like to show me around town. This was such a wonderful offer since I was feeling very insecure after the 9/11 attack. Peggy, her husband, and her son picked me up and showed me around the gay area of SF.  She said she has a Japanese daughter-in-law and a daughter who became a son.  She was so open about the whole thing.  I was very much impressed by her love for her children.  Up to then I had kept distance with sexual orientation.  Peggy really opened my mind and heart to gay people.  She was truly a person who walked the talk on diversity.  Thank  you Peggy, for enriching my life.

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