By BETTE MCDEVITT
If you stop in or call the Merton Center on a Friday morning, you’ll meet or speak with Lois Goldstein, a long time member and volunteer.
Lois came to Pittsburgh in 1983 from Bellaire, Ohio with her husband George, who had accepted the position of director of the doctors group of the Miners’ Clinic, in the New Kensington area. Through the people associated with the Miners’ Clinic, Dan and Anita Fine, Julian and Rhoda Eligator, Lois and George found the progressive peace community in Pittsburgh.
Lois got involved in the planning for “In Concert for Peace,” a response to the Cold War being waged by our government and the USSR. Andre Previn and most members of the Pittsburgh Symphony donated their time for the performance, along with Andre Watts as pianist. The event raised enough money for Peace Links to open an office at the YWCA.
Lois became the staff person for Peace Links, staying with that job for twelve years. Peace Links, an influential organization at the time, was started by Betty Bumpers, wife of US Senator Dale Bumpers, and the Pennsylvania Peace Links was begun by Teresa Heinz and Joan Specter, wives of our US Senators at the time. Their main concern was finding peaceful alternatives to nuclear war, and they did extensive outreach to China and the USSR. As Betty Bumper said, “Peace is too important a subject to leave to men, even if they are our husbands.”
The women came to realize that, as Gandhi said, peace must begin with children, and their work turned to early childhood education, working with providers and academics, resulting in a book Starting Young: Supporting Parents for Peaceful Lifestyles.
Peace Link’s mission widened to include women’s rights and equitable development worldwide. Peace Links was recognized as an accredited Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and a delegation from Pennsylvania Peace Links attended the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China on September 4-15, 1995. The national office in Washington DC closed in the summer of 2001, with subsequent disbandment of the Pennsylvania chapter in 2007.
Lois found time to be an active member of the Merton Center and served on the board for a decade.. She recalls Art McDonald being a staff person at the time, and that he brought a “light touch” to the often serious matters facing the Center.
One of those “matters” she remembers was when Michael Drohan, a member and, at the time, Director of Research for Duquesne University’s Institute of World Concerns, protested the University inviting Ambassador Robert Duemling, a State Department official who oversaw aid to the Contras, our government’s ploy to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua.The University went ahead with the invitation, and Michael resigned his position on the day that Duemling came to speak. Members of the Center pulled together an appropriate protest during Duemling’s presentation, carrying crosses, each one representing someone who had been killed by the Contras.
Lois and George, who passed on in 1996, raised two sons, who carry on the family tradition of involvement in issues of peace and justice. Her son Don, a retired professor at Allegheny College, is active in Fair Districts, the movement for redistricting reform, and Carl, who lives in Minneapolis, works with his wife in a non-profit called Marnita’s Table, which brings people together, focused on equality and inclusiveness.
Lois has seen some changes at the Merton Center. “Primarily,” she said, “with the involvement of young people, We didn’t have interns in the past. The staff is younger, and parameters of the program have broadened to include equity and gender issues, The Center’s intentional outreach to be more inclusive has shown results.”
The presence, she said, of the young people gives her hope.
Bette McDevitt is a member of the NewPeople editorial collective.