This past weekend at a conference on the philosophy of philanthropy held in Indianapolis, I had the deep privilege and pleasure to meet up again with Richard Gunderman. I originally met Richard at a conference in Portsmouth, NH exactly three years ago and was mesmerised by his conference talk and his attentive kindness. Knowing that this would appeal to him, I subsequently sent him a copy of Oakeshott’s Rationalism in Politics with instructions to read “The voice of poetry in the conversation of mankind” first. He assured me he did. The second time I met Richard was at his invitation to come to Indianapolis for a conference on philanthropy some 18 months ago. Again, I was struck by his brilliance, humanity, passion and subtlety.
I can say that in my orbit of living persons with immense intellectual power and moral virtue in equal measure, Richard ranks within the top five – I would not want to order them – since I wouldn’t have met one without the other. Meeting him has been one of the most transformative encounters of life. He has a profoundly rich and deep religious/aesthetic sensibility without ever coming over as a closed “preachy” mind. His moral sensibility is so palpable one becomes aware that one is in the company of a great human being and one is humbled. I’m hardly the first person to make this observation. I’m also honoured to be a part of the journal issue that Richard will be participating in. As the wonderful Heather Wood Ion (who I met through Richard as well) referring to Richard’s We Make a Life by What We Give puts it:
Some books enlighten us, some books inspire us, and some books challenge us to expand our understanding of who we are and who we can become. [This book] does all three…. It simply surpasses all other books in the field, but more importantly, it expands our understanding of the field of philanthropy and of ourselves and our potential.
Here is a press release sketching Richard’s interests. How he juggles all this and with a family is astonishing.
Here’s a video of Richard in full flight: