The Passing of a Giant: George Renwick

Jun 23, 2022

3-June-2022: SIETAR USA has just learned of the death of longtime member, contributor to the intercultural field, and mentor to many of our members, George Renwick. Lovely tributes are appearing on Facebook, and we would like to do a special tribute issue honoring George. Many of us have stories of time spent with George and we would like to hear them. Please submit your stories and pictures to [email protected] for publication no later than June 24, 2022.

Cliff Clarke, another person with a long history with SIETAR and with George, wrote about his relationship with George in the following (used with permission):

“My dear friend, George W. Renwick passed away six months ago without any public recognition of his significant contributions to the members of SIETAR and to the society's founding and development from the late sixties onward. Most of us are just now receiving the news of his death last December. I would like to share with all of you some of my memories of George in working closely with him for over 54 years.

I am devastated by the loss of this close friend who I have treasured throughout my professional career since 1966. We have shared so many experiences of fighting against so many institutional and personal barriers to awaken the public’s, institution's, and organization's acceptance of this vital field from the late sixties and seventies until it finally came to pass. David Hoopes, another intercultural warrior, was instrumental in initially bringing us together. As both of us were graduates of divinity schools (M.Div.), we immediately bonded with all of our shared interests, our common life’s mission, and our responsiveness to spiritual leadership. 

George and I worked together to spread the knowledge and skills of intercultural communication in one particular Train-the-Trainers workshop at Wheeling, WV (1969). Hoopes received a NAFSA grant (National Association Foreign Student Advisors) for the first nationwide training of two representatives from each of NAFSA’s 12 regions in Intercultural Communication Workshops (ICWs) differentiated from Cross-Cultural Workshops (CCWs). Our leadership staff was David, George, Toby, and Myself. Our 24 exceptional facilitators, including Robert Moran, all returned to their campuses all over the U.S. to gradually expand the ICW workshop model with their students. George was the steady hand in working through the many challenging moments so patiently in ways that brought the team together. He was an artist at doing just that.

In founding SIIC (the Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication, 1976) I turned to Dean Barnlund and George Renwick who for the first 10 years at SIIC served as the bookends of the week-long program. Each gave 3-hour presentations on the theories of intercultural communication (Dean on Monday) and evaluating intercultural interventions (George on Friday). Each also facilitated his own workshop throughout the week in their respective areas of teaching and consulting. They provided guidance and inspiration to the participants from mornings until late nights, consistently setting examples for the rest of the staff. I was very impressed by George’s compassion, competence, and commitment. George was always giving of his time as a coach and deep listener to other people’s needs for personal career directions, for integrated training designs, for approaches to training and coaching clients, and for many other expressed needs.

While on many, many long talks and walks in and around each other’s homes designing and analyzing our respective client services, he brought such comradeship, insight, vision, and wisdom to my life for which I remain eternally grateful. He was the Chairman of my Board of Directors for my first NPO, the Intercultural Relations Institute (1980). Throughout our first contracts with P&G and Fuji-Xerox he was my professional coach.  When I changed my organization’s name to the Clarke Consulting Group (1985), it was George whose Socratic interviewing process help me decide on its new name. I learned from him so many of what became CCG’s values and principles. We engaged in the same process again when naming GIS (Global Integration Strategies, 2002), which I founded in Hawaii. George’s four stages of Culture-General > Culture-Specific > Culture-Comparative > Culture Interactive training guided CCG’s curriculum development in the Culture-Interactive direction.

At SIETAR conferences in the U.S. George would spend 16 hours a day talking with everyone who sought his counsel. I admired him for living a life so fully dedicated to serving others. I smile today amidst tears when I remember how he continually wore himself out without ever revealing exhaustion. I pray that he died naturally and in peace at his wonderful Carefree, Arizona home with his brother, Robert, by his side. We were only a few months apart in age, so I naturally felt he died prematurely. He was still planning another trip to Japan. I imagine he still had requests for his services on his desk. But now, I am profoundly grateful that George has finally found the deepest and truest meaning of ‘rest in peace’ (RIP) because he surely is. His life’s circle is complete. 

In closing I would like to share thoughts about George from Sue Shinomiya that she sent this morning, which I deeply appreciated.  

"He was a mentor, friend and inspiration to so many of us in the intercultural field and beyond, myself included. I remember when you used to have him come by to speak with all of us at CCG all those years ago. He leaves behind a deep impression of compassion, connection and friendship for so many of us.”  

In George’s spirit, Cliff Clarke.

In addition to his keen mind, he was an unusually gentle man and a fine human being—and he is missed.

Sandra M. Fowler, Editor
The “I”: A Periodical of SIETAR USA