A milestone in the history of Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution was reached on April 6 with the official opening of Point of View, a conference and retreat center dedicated to the study and practice of conflict resolution.
Point of View is the gift of the late Edwin and Helen Lynch, who were among the university’s most thoughtful and generous benefactors. Edwin, a real estate developer and member of the Virginia House of Delegates, was a 1995 recipient of the university’s highest honor, the George Mason Medal. His personal commitment to peace and non-violence helped drive the establishment of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), the first school of its kind anywhere. Among other gifts, the Lynches endowed the first chair at S-CAR, as well as an annual lecture series in memory of Mr. Lynch’s parents.
While Mr. and Mrs. Lynch both passed away several years ago, the family’s legacy continues to this day, and promises to change lives for decades to come. In 2000, the couple donated their family home, Point of View, and its contiguous 120 acres with the intention that the property become a permanent home for the work of S-CAR.
Located on Belmont Bay in the beautiful wooded peninsula of Fairfax County known as Mason Neck, the Lynches’ vision of “a place for peace” has become a reality. While Point of View has been in use for several years as an academic center and a retreat where practitioners come to work on dialogue and conflict resolution, the recent dedication ceremony marked the completion of renovations and additions to the main building. The event served as a happy reunion, as S-CAR supporters, students, faculty, and community leaders gathered with family members to celebrate the Lynches’ legacy.
Speakers at the ceremony highlighted the extraordinary importance of and need for a place like Point of View. Kevin Avruch, Dean of S-CAR, described the three pillars of the center: learning and teaching; research on the causes of and solutions to conflicts; and practice—direct resolutions of conflicts with the parties involved. “Our main legacy is the students themselves,” said Dean Avruch. “We have over 1,400 alumni out in the world, doing amazing things.”
Fakhira Halloun, a doctoral student at S-CAR, represented the student perspective. Ms. Halloun, a Palestinian Israeli citizen, spoke of her goal to contribute to peace negotiations that could help resolve the conflicts that beset her homeland. Citing Martin Luther King as an inspiration, she said that “I have a dream that Israelis and Palestinians will one day be living side by side, with dignity and respect, free from intolerance for each other, sharing identity and aspirations; thus creating for us as Jews and Palestinians a just and peaceful future.”
And Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) described Point of View as “an asset not just for Virginia or America, but for all humanity.” He concluded by thanking everyone who has made Point of View possible, eloquently describing the center as “part of the new geography of hope.”
Dean Avruch closed by describing the next step in the evolution of Point of View: securing the private funds to build two sets of residential buildings so that the center can host visitors for extended overnight stays during conflict resolution sessions. “When that is completed,” he said, “this will truly be a civilian Camp David—which is our vision.”
The potential of Point of View is captured in words that Edwin Lynch offered in his acceptance of the Mason Medal in 1995. His words are now engraved in a plaque on the property that honors the Lynches:
“We often hear that there are no frontiers left for our young people to explore. I must take exception to that comment . . . [for] scientists say we have not learned to use our minds beyond a fraction of their capabilities. We must seek to develop and use our minds, not to conquer one another, but to peacefully and constructively solve the conflicts that cause so much of the world’s grief. It is this frontier of the human mind that I challenge each of you here today to explore.” —Edwin Lynch
April 12, 2016 / RR