Rich Vivone has been a special person in my life for a long time. Writing about him now is a moment that is beginning to be a too frequent an occurrence in my life. Even though I have been told to expect these happenings more and more, it still is tough to hear that a colleague and friend has passed away. But be that as it may, Rich deserves a reflective moment. He is a special kind of person…
Among other places, you can read a more official obituary in the Edmonton Journal or Kingston Whig-Standard, so I will simply focus on Rich as an influence in my life. I met Rich at the University of Alberta – both of us were sports junkies – he at The Gateway (the student newspaper) and I at UofA Student Radio. We often shared the same press box and would joke about how wonderful it was to have so many great athletes at the UofA which led to covering so many great games. When I was elected to the Executive of the Students’ Union, our paths diverged a bit – he as Editor of the paper became more critic, while I became more establishment (at least that’s what he said!!). Nevertheless I found his commentary and that of his staff always respectful, and even when critical there was usually a kernel of truth in their comments. We never lost our friendship even when it came to baseball and he was a Cardinal fan and I a Dodger.
After university our lives moved in rather obtuse directions – he stayed in Edmonton and made many very significant contributions to the world in and beyond that city. My work carried me to B.C., Saskatchewan and other parts of Canada as well. But occasionally our paths would cross and we would have lunch and catch up on issues or perspectives. He was smart, plugged-in and always full of interesting inside stories on all matter of people or institutions.
After I closed my consulting practice and moved back to Alberta we once again were in more frequent contact. We would talk politics, the Canadian social/cultural fabric, the state of sport in Canada (both professionally and at the college level). There were few topics that we didn’t address at one time or another. When he retired and moved to Kingston, we kept in touch. He even re-connected me with another old college colleague who had helped me win my first major election. The only unfortunate aspect of this is that we always talked about how the three of us should get together for a meal and some fine wine – I was even hoping to pull it off this coming October – but it was always something just down the road, and now that moment has vanished.
As I expanded my teaching gigs (re ethics & leadership) to the University of Saint Paul, Rich was a special guest on a couple of occasions and the grad students loved him. He was articulate, He was erudite. He was funny. Had UstP continued as my client, there is no doubt that Rich would have become a regular guest – he was that good and that admired.
Finally Rich offered to help me with my book project. He was instrumental in constructively paring numerous pages from the penultimate draft that was published in 2020. But more importantly, when I decided to do a more extensive book, based in part on Getting to Better… he became my editor. He was brutally honest in his feedback, but it was always poignant and requisite. We then came to the mutual decisions that I needed to step back – I had been working on and off on the project for maybe twenty years – we agreed I would not resume writing until sometime in late summer and he would then resume his role critiquing and editing.
While he will not take up that role now, his influence will remain with me. He has been consistent in his viewpoints and perspectives along with the advice that flowed therefrom from the very first time he ever commented on my work, whether as a radio broadcaster, a student union executive, a consultant, a university prof, an editor. I will hear his voice whenever I again take up the writing of my next book.
Rich had a particular spirit about him – that will never subside in my world. That is why I am sad he is gone, but he hasn’t left completely and so I am not missing him…