Skip to main content

In Memoriam Ivan H. Scheier 1926-2008

In Memoriam Ivan H. Scheier 1926-2008

By Susan J. Ellis

Ivan H. Scheier, one of the true American pioneers of the field of volunteerism, died on October 6th. He was 82 years old. He lived for the past 20 years or so in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, but those who knew him during his working life remember him from Boulder, Colorado.  In Boulder, he started the National Information Center on Volunteers in Courts in 1967, which morphed into the National Information Center on Volunteerism (the very first time that word was used officially after Harriet Naylor – a friend of Ivan’s – coined it), which merged with the National Center for Voluntary Action, which after several name changes became The National Volunteer Center, which merged into the Points of Light Foundation, which has just become Hands On Network/Points of Light Institute!  So he really did “start it” all!

Along the way, Ivan contributed in countless ways to the profession of volunteer management.  He was one of the earliest publishers of dozens of vital monographs and booklets – all of which he donated a number of years ago for free dissemination through Regis University, a generous act celebrated by the Denver DOVIA (Directors of Volunteers in Agencies).  You can delve into the quintessential Ivan by going to:

The Archival Collection of Ivan H. Scheier at the Regis University library Web site:

Ivan was instrumental in founding the Alliance for Volunteerism, which brought together the key volunteer-related organizations for several years in Boulder, starting in 1975.  He also was devoted to the development and future of DOVIAs, and ran its special national association for many years.  He was an inspirational trainer, known especially for his “Challenge Think Tanks” – retreats for advanced volunteer managers that were held sporadically around North America.  He trained or consulted on every continent.

Ivan also wrote a number of important books, which Energize was privileged to publish over the last 15 years (see  He also served as Consulting Editor of e-Volunteerism and contributed several articles to these pages.  You can still read them in our Archives:

On a personal note, Ivan was my mentor and long-time colleague and friend.  I first met him in the early 1970s, when I ran the volunteer program for the Philadelphia Family Court and Ivan was ED of NICOVIC (see above).  As a direct result of meeting him at the airport and escorting him to a speaking event, I had dinner with him and made the decision – with Ivan’s enthusiastic support – to write a history of volunteers in the United States.  By the People: A History of Americans As Volunteers ( was first published in 1978; co-author Katherine H. Campbell and I acknowledged Ivan fully.  I was so happy to have visited with him last year in Truth and Consequences.  He was mentally as spritely as ever, but clearly struggling with his health. 

I will miss Ivan a great deal. Judging by the many e-mails I’ve received since announcing his death, many others feel the same way. Many e-Volunteerism readers, especially those outside North America, may only now be learning of Ivan.  But as those of us who’ve been around for a while can validate, he was a huge influence on us all –  a visionary, creative, kind man.  When Steve McCurley heard the news, he immediately introduced the idea of devoting an entire issue of the journal to him, noting:  “I wouldn't even think of suggesting this about anyone else (including us) but then Ivan is/was, after all, Ivan, without whom we wouldn't have a professional discipline.”

So we are pleased to announce that the next entire e-Volunteerism issue, published on January 15, 2009, will pay tribute to Ivan through articles in each and every feature area of the journal.  We also want to be a forum for everyone to share memories of Ivan, and so we issue this invitation:

Submit Your Memories

Please submit your memories of Ivan Scheier or any reflections on how his speaking, training or writing affected you and your work, to: Sending an e-mail will be considered as permission to use your words in the next issue of e-Volunteerism.  Therefore, please also include your name and how you would like to be identified.  Thank you!


Volume IX, Issue 1, October 2008