A Man Devoted to Peace and People

Under the calming shade of Point of View, the conference and retreat center dedicated to the study of conflict resolution, family, friends, and colleagues gathered last week to dedicate a bench to Lester Schoene, MS Conflict Analysis and Resolution ’92.

Schoene died last year at the age of 83, leaving a legacy both at Mason and beyond that people matter. It wasn’t long after his death that the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) Advisory Board decided to celebrate this distinguished alumnus with a bench and the Lester ‘Les’ Schoene Memorial Scholarship. The bench itself sits along a quiet walkway by Belmont Bay at Point of View, in southern Fairfax County.

“Les spent a lot of quite happy, peaceful hours here [at Point of View],” said S-CAR professor Christopher Mitchell, a long-time friend. “I think it’s only appropriate that we’re here to dedicate and remember him at a place that he really did enjoy. So Les, we have a chair for you.”

Schoene, a Harvard graduate, turned to Mason and conflict resolution after working for 34 years at IBM.As soon as he graduated Schoene joined the Alumni Association, eventually serving as its president, and the S-CAR Advisory Board. For the next 25 years, Schoene supported S-CAR and Mason with his time, money, expertise, and sincere presence.

“Every time I saw him, every time, he was near the Alumni Association,” said Brian Jones, MA International Commerce and Policy ’06, immediate past president of the association. “For both myself and two other past presidents of our board, Jim Laychak and Cathy Lemmon—who all had a chance to learn from Les and be mentored by him—we are very appreciative for the time that the Schoenes gave him to us.”

His post-Mason life included a second career with FEMA, where he was deployed to 15 disasters across six regions, time as Rotary’s Peace Fellowship Chair for District 7601, and a five-year stint managing a stone company.

“It was a career shift for him,” said his oldest son, Philip Schoene. “It gave him the opportunity to pursue something that meant a great deal to him. He found more personal growth and satisfaction in helping people, more so than technology.”

“Anything he ever got involved with, if he respected it or liked it or saw that it was worthy of his attention, he would immediately want to get involved and help make it better and support it,” said his daughter, Lavinia Schoene.

Even in high school, Schoene sought to help others, forming a committee to put pressure on the school and force integration.

“This was 1952, so they failed,” said Margaret Schoene, his first wife, “but they started the ball rolling with the students and the school. Kids were a little ahead of the government, as usual.”

Sitting in the lobby of Point of View, Schoene’s family recalled trying pull him away from work for vacations in the woods of New Hampshire. Each time it was a challenge to get him to step away from his desk, but when he did take the chance to relax, he cherished each breathe of fresh air.

“I’m really happy that the bench is out here, rather than Fairfax city, because being outside was a big part of our life,” said Lavinia. “Having it be outside, under the trees, by the water, in a nice peaceful place seems very fitting.”

Christopher Bobo / October 17, 2018