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Lawrie Parker


Executive Director
Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center
P.O. Box 809
Warrenton, VA 20188-0809



E-mail address:



B.A., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;
M.B.A., University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA

Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations in which you are/have been involved and positions held:

Current member, past president of Virginia Association for Community Conflict Resolution, and the Virginia Mediation Network. Founding Board member and current vice-president and Legislation Committee chair of the Restorative Justice Association of Virginia. Current member of the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Dispute Resolution Advisory Council, Ethics Committee and Mediator Complaint Panel. Current member of the Fauquier Alliance for Youth and the Fauquier Partnership for Community Resources. Vice-President of the Fauquier County Library Board of Trustees.

Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?

I have been fortunate to have three mentors that shaped and molded my career.

The first are my parents who believed in me (and my sisters), encouraged me not limit my dreams and taught me how to work smart. They did what they believed in, even when it was not necessarily the rage or popular. They taught me that success comes not when others regard us as important, rather when we regard others as more important than ourselves.

The second is my son, Ben. Ben is disabled. Severe autism and uncontrolled seizures separate his world from ours. He cannot communicate, write, play a musical instrument or ride a bicycle. He will never go to college, play sports or get married. Yet, he has a beautiful, pure spirit: He will never hurt God. Mothering Ben has taught me the worthiness of all human beings. In mediation and restorative justice, this plays out by offering my professional skills and knowledge with compassion, integrity and patience. I try to meet people where they are and focus on their strengths. In fact, I have Ben to thank for leading me into mediation. In 1988, embroiled in a looming legal battle to secure the education he needed led me to think, there has to be a better way to solve disputes. This is what initially drew me to the emerging field of mediation.

My third mentor is William Barr. A retired human services manager, he is a well-known community activist, mediator and icon in Fauquier County. He is also my behind-the-scenes cheerleader and confidant. I admire, to the point of envy, Mr. Barr’s rare equanimity of spirit. No matter what he is confronted with in life, Mr. Barr is always the same person: a gentleman and a Christian. He served in a segregated Army during World War II and has spent the better part of his 86 years championing equality and services for youth. Mr. Barr has taught me that true leadership is transcendent of politics and popularity. That its essence is goodness. And that power and fame are not necessarily synonymous with authority and success. It is a general fact of humanity: power goes with position, authority must be earned through service.

What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?

My biggest personal accomplishment would have to be my four children: Tommy, Sam, Ben and Katie. I have no desire to live vicariously through them. Rather, I see emerging in each of them as adults the legacies that my parents left me: faith in God, the ability to accept what comes their way in life (acceptance is a triumph in life) and laughter, In other words: faith, peace and joy.

My biggest professional accomplishment is the Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC). Founded in 1990—the Center is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year—its services promote justice, non-violence and the peaceful resolution of conflict. PDRC has been actively involved in the statewide growth of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and is highly regarded throughout the Commonwealth and the United States for its high caliber of professionalism and as a leader in innovative program design and implementation. Dedicated, well-trained staff and mediators are the essence of its success. It has been a privilege to be part of PDRC.

What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?

Follow your bliss. To quote E.E. Cummings, “It takes courage to grow up to be who you really are.”

How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?

From my perspective, the key to balance at work and at home is mutuality. When a team mentality is adopted at work, then the workplace becomes energizing and satisfying. When a team mentality is adopted at home, then the home becomes welcoming, nourishing and necessary. Then, a balance between the professional and the personal life occurs naturally.

When you were growing up, what did you want to be?

When I was growing up I wanted to work at the United Nations, bringing countries together. Later, I wanted to join the Peace Corps, serving others beyond America’s borders. I have done neither. But I have taught conflict resolution and mediation to hundreds of young people. Perhaps one of them will be an international peacemaker.

What is your favorite book or movie and why?

My favorite book is Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. Published in 1974, the author won a Pulitzer Prize for this sonorous nature book set in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. That was the year I graduated from college, married and moved from my home state of Michigan to Lexington, Virginia where my husband (who is currently a circuit judge in Fauquier and Rappahannock Counties) attended Washington and Lee University’s School of Law. The book’s subject is nature but its subplot is relationships: Our relationship with the universe, nature, God, ourselves and one another.

What are two things about you that not many people know?

1. I was voted Teacher’s Pet for senior superlatives in high school. There is actually a photo of me and my male student counterpart sitting on our principal’s lap, in our 1971 high school yearbook. I surmise staging such a photo today would bring shudders to many a principal.

2. A subplot of my life is theoretical physics. I am drawn to its abstractness. I am drawn to its solidity. I can’t explain my quirk for quarks, even to myself. But I keep a scrapbook of scientific and astronomic discoveries and eagerly await the day when theoretical physicists synthesize the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics.

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