This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Howard Zehr awarded Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Howard Zehr (pictured in spring 2015) was awarded the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award in Peace and Justice Studies at an Oct. 17 ceremony held in conjunction with The Peace and Photo: Justice Association’s national conference in Harrisonburg. Zehr was honored for his work in the field of restorative justice. He is co-director of the Zehr Institute of Restorative Justice at Eastern Mennonite University. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, has been awarded the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award in Peace and Justice Studies by the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA).

Zehr accepted the award Oct. 17 at the awards banquet during PJSA’s annual conference, hosted by James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The annual award memorializes the legacy of educator Howard Zinn (1922-2010), a social justice activist and catalyst for progressive change.

With the award, Zehr joins a distinguished group of past honorees, among them author and activist Aurora Harris (2014); Ernie Regehr, co-founder of Project Ploughshares, a Canadian NGO that promotes peace by highlighting weapons development (2013); social and clinical psychologist Marc Pilisuk (2012); Dolores Huerta, of the United Farm Workers (2011); and professor Cynthia Enloe, of Clark University (2010).

Co-director of Zehr Institute

Zehr, known as the grandfather of restorative justice for his seminal contributions to the field, recently retired from his teaching duties at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP). In May 2015, he was celebrated at a retirement “roast” attended by about 300 former students, colleagues and friends from around the world.

Zehr continues to co-direct the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice with Carl Stauffer, assistant professor of justice and development studies. The institute was founded in 2012 to spread knowledge about restorative justice, act as a resource to practitioners, and cultivate connections – a kind of established locus for the synthesizing role Zehr describes his career as. The Zehr Institute has recently embarked on a three-year project to envision and map a positive future for restorative justice, which began in mid-2015 with a five-day meeting of 36 experts from around the world.

His groundbreaking book Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, was recently issued in its 25th anniversary edition. The Little Books series, which started with the Little Book of Restorative Justice, continues to grow.

Restorative principles expand to other fields

Zehr was introduced by Jack Payden-Travers, director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, who called Zehr a “formative” influence in his own activism.

Zehr accepted the award with two caveats: “I am have often said that I am a synthesizer, which means most of what I know that I talk about comes from other people, and so I’d like to share this award with all the other people who have contributed to this.”

Zehr also called himself “an articulator of philosophy and vision,” and he’s delighted that so many other colleagues and students “have put depth and breadth into the practices that I never imagined.”

Zehr arrived at Eastern Mennonite University 20 years ago, when he thought he was “basically done with it and ready to move on,” but found himself within a thriving and enthusiastic community of practitioners and educators.

He said, “At CJP, we blend a number of fields under the peacebuilding umbrella: restorative justice, conflict transformation, strategic peacebuilding, trauma work, organizational development and development…we’ve learned so much from each other, it’s a rich mix.”

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