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March 1, 2013

Remembering Derm McNulty

Courage to be Curious Memorial Award

Derm McNultyThe new Derm McNulty Courage to be Curious Memorial Award was established by Karen Schmieg, friends, family and JIBC staff in memory of Karen’s late husband Derm McNulty, a former JIBC staff member and long-term faculty member with the JIBC Centre for Conflict Resolution. A friend, teacher and coach to many, Derm discovered conflict resolution at the relatively late age of 49, but he easily made up for lost time with a zeal and passion that was often masked by his light-hearted, common-sense approach to life. An electrician by trade, conflict resolution was transformative for him and he dedicated himself to sharing his enthusiasm and passion for the subject with others until cancer took his life, all too suddenly, in 2010.

The award will provide tuition support for Centre for Conflict Resolution students. Applicants could be seeking a career change, returning to education after a long break, or just wishing to reinvent themselves, as Derm so courageously demonstrated in his own life.

Former Coordinator of Learner and Instructional Development and instructor at JIBC’s Centre for Conflict Resolution, Dr. Nym Hughes, recalled how Derm taught her an important lesson about stereotyping students in the classroom. “Derm attended one of our introductory Conflict Resolution courses with a friend and didn’t seem to take it very seriously.  There was lots of laughter and I was on the verge of losing my composure.”  That was, until he was assigned to her small group role play. “I was shocked.  I had almost written him off, but he surprised me with the level of skill he demonstrated.”

That experience characterized her ongoing relationship with Derm, as he transitioned from student to coach and instructor.  Beneath that façade of fun-loving, disarming charm was an incredible level of skill and devotion to his role as a coach and mediator.  “He always pursued the improvement of his craft and often invited me to sit in on his classes.  He appreciated my feedback and was open to growing.”

In addition to his contribution to the Conflict Resolution program at JIBC, he broke new ground by introducing conflict resolution as a management tool within the construction industry.  He was also a founding member of the CoRe Conflict Resolution Society at the UBC Law school, where he served as mediator mentor and coach, as well as first Vice President from 2002-2004, President from 2004-2006 and then Past President through 2007.

One of his former students, Susan Davis, described him as simply unforgettable. “Derm McNulty's bright smile, warm heart, impressive command of his material, and, importantly, his extreme professional generosity (his "whatever support you need, whenever" attitude), rounded out my time at the JI with humanity and an immense sense of higher purpose,” said Susan.  She recalled one particularly emotional role play, where one of the students faltered and felt she couldn't go on. “Effortlessly, with grace and compassion, Derm took the place opposite that student and before our eyes became her guide.  He became the only person in the room for her, and like a lightning rod for positive energy, gave her the courage to successfully complete the exercise. It was classic Derm, gentle yet determined to find a way to get us all through our fears and doubts to understanding and mastery.” 

According to Sherri Calder, a colleague who coached with Derm, who is now an instructor with the Centre for Conflict Resolution, “Derm was a gentle soul who embodied collaboration in his daily actions and interactions with people. He was a truly altruistic man who made you feel like you were the most important person in the world when you were in his presence. A student award in his honor is a great tribute to his wish for ongoing peace and kindness in the world.”

All donations made to the JIBC Foundation in memory of Derm McNulty will be put towards the Derm McNulty Courage to be Curious Memorial Award fund. It is hoped this award will spur the "courage to be curious," reflecting Derm’s spirit for life.

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Last updated August 22, 2016