Ron Haskell is a native New Englander, having grown up in both eastern and western Massachusetts. His first attempt at getting a college education (Michigan State University, 1968-70, Mechanical Engineering) was a bust Ė the distractions of the era were too much for his small-town derived lack of worldliness.
In 1971, he climbed back into the saddle, so to speak, by enrolling in the University of California at Riverside (after recovering his sensibilities at Riverside Community College, a wonderful experience in itself). This time around he concentrated on social psychology and was awarded his BA in 1973. His distinctions included being hired as the head research assistant on a study comparing various therapy techniques; in training other assistants he honed his already well-developed listening and problem analysis skills.
Six months after graduation, Ron started working for Riverside County Mental Health, where he was a therapist, counselor, and caseworker with children, adults, and families in day treatment, crisis stabilization, and out of home placement services. Without a doubt, working with children was the best of experiences.
While California had a lot going for it, especially to a twenty-something single male, New England, and home, beckoned. So in 1976 Ron embarked on a long-term plan to move to Vermont. The major part of this plan involved getting a Masterís degree in order to be competitive in the job market. A secondary element required the amassing of a grubstake, which he did by taking on a second part-time job as a wilderness canoe guide (now that was fun). Working full-time and attending UCRís Graduate Administration program in the evenings, Ron won his prize of a Master of Administration in Public Administration (his studies emphasized system analysis and productivity measurement and improvement) in 1979.
That summer, Ron moved to Vermont where he has lived and worked ever since. But his involvement with human services was to last another five years as, in 1980, he became the first childrenís specialist with the Vermont Department of Mental Health. As an administrator overseeing a $3 million budget and responsible for developing services state-wide, Ron was successful in fostering change, particularly in the knotty area of interagency relationships and even had a hand in shaping national policies in childrenís mental health.
Ronís parting contribution to childrenís mental health was to design and write a strategy for overhauling the service system through thoughtful deconstruction/reconstruction. The proposal was funded at $750,000 (over three years) under the NIMH Child and Adolescent Service System Program and was funded in the first round of the program. Twenty years later, Vermont has created an effective approach to meeting the needs of children and families.
In 1985 Ron ended his human services career to see what else there was to do. What a long strange journey that was! Carpentry, house painting, furniture refinishing, editing, data processing, jewelry making (using fly-tying techniques and materials), consulting, and more dominated his efforts for the first few years. Unfortunately, nothing took root and, by the end of 1988, he was in desperate straights, out of money, and virtually homeless. Friends helped where and when they could by offering places to stay and odd jobs. Gradually, Ron got back on his feet. What made the difference?
Carol! A beautiful, bright-eyed woman of good humor and deep compassion, intelligent design (by any definition), quick to forgive, low maintenance, passionate and loving, and a true partner who believed in her man. Within two months, we knew we would marry, though it would be two years before that event would take place. She dangled a carrot: ďGet a job and Iíll be your reward.Ē
Ron pressed on through a temp agency and was eventually offered a full-time job in sales and marketing with an HVAC company. Carol was pleased and surrendered to Ron once and for all on June 30, 1990. Carol moved to Vermont from Montreal, where she ran her translation business, and the happy couple settled into temporary quarters on the shores of Lake Champlain. She commuted to the city for half the week and worked from home the other half. All looked rosy.
But life has an ample supply of lemons to dish out at a momentís notice. And it was in such a moment that Ronís cushy new sales job was snatched away. The ostensible reason: the company wasnít making enough money from his efforts, despite having just negotiated a new, and generous, contract based on his stellar performance. Truly, some bosses just canít be satisfied.
Opportunity follows disaster as surely as sunshine chases away the rain. Ron soon secured a long-term contract with a video production company to do sales and marketing and, eventually, scriptwriting. In addition to various 60-second spots, Ron wrote the production script for ďYou Are VermontĒ, a training video for Travel and Tourismís rest area operators. When the companyís market focus turned to southern New England, Ron decided it was time to move on. But to what?
Carol provided the answer, and in an ever increasing volume. She used Ron to edit a variety of documents for her French-speaking, English-writing customers. While slow at first (and still somewhat spotty), the challenge grew to encompass resumes, proposals, reports, poetry, family histories, and local history books. After suffering, and surviving, a neural aneurism in late 1993, Carol began to work totally from home. The Internet and e-mail became ubiquitous resources for her and her customers. When Carolís business partner moved to Calgary and sold her interest in the business, Carol expanded Ronís role in accounting and technical support for the company.
Opportunity continued to knock as Ron became more involved with local community issues and activities. As regards the latter, he freed his spirit to engage in community theater, first with Village Players and then with Exit Stage Left. With ESL, Ron played a German electrician (what was that accent, anyway?) in Black Comedy and, later, co-directed Crimes of the Heart. Village Players offered more opportunity for self-expression, however, for both acting and singing (click the above link for more detail).
While community theater certainly offered a rewarding experience (and continues to do so), generating more income was still a priority.
Sometime around 1997, Ron was asked to represent the Swanton Chamber of Commerce on the Missisquoi Bay Bridge Steering Committee, an assignment he took to heart. Over time, Ron proved to be an intelligent and perceptive participant in the process. In 2002, Ron was asked to help in monitoring Eastern Spiny Softshell turtles in the mitigation area of the proposed bridge; he would track turtle locations through site mapping and photodocumentation. The following year this assignment solidified Ronís status as a key member of the monitoring team. The quality of data collected, and the clarity with which it was organized, offered unprecedented insight into turtle basking behavior. And the photographs were pretty darn good, too!
And best of all, he was actually paid for his efforts. In fact, the monitoring effort is likely to continue for quite some time particularly if certain policy decisions are made based on the recommendations of the IJC.
Ron has geared up (literally) for continued growth in the photography aspects of his business. Heís looking at the prospects for a coffee table book featuring his turtle pictures. He continues to be available to support small businesses through their growing pains.
His self-stated purpose in life is simple: ďTo develop myself as a resource to support people in achieving their goals and visionĒ. All-in-all, heís done a good job of fulfilling that purpose. Perhaps more importantly, heís been open to receiving that same level of support from others, even if they arenít aware of it.
Quite a few years ago (probably 1985 or Ď86), Ron waxed philosophic on the personal conundrum of where his life was going. He offers those words here in closing:
We live as if we are today who we were yesterday. Nothing says we have to be only who we were. The past is history and valuable in its own right, but it is wholly a matter gone by. History comes forth to memory as invention in a moment that happens faster than the blink of an eye. We have the capacity to alter history, our own personal history, and its grip upon us, if we but choose to release our interpretation of it as easily as we blink.
And heís been blinking ever since.