Louie passed away on March 13 after a walk with his beloved spouse and fellow life adventurer, Jill Padley. It is likely that Louie was the nicest and most gracious person you ever met. Cooperators all over the world will miss him greatly. He was 78 years young.
Louie was an exceptional cooperative leader. Among many roles, he served on the NCBA CLUSA International board of directors; as chair of the dotCoop board, he presented the first-ever dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence at the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
He was honored by our local cooperative community, receiving the Cooperative Network Co-op Builder Award; he was part of the inaugural cohort in 2000. He was an avid promoter of the cooperative model.
Louie was a great friend and ally to CDS, and a mentor and great colleague to many CDS staff. We are humbled and honored that the family has designated the Cooperative Development Fund of CDS, our 501c3 nonprofit, as a recipient of memorial gifts in his name. On the page, under “Fund Designation, click “In Memory of Louis Doering”.
Remembering Louie, by Scott Jax, William Nelson, and Cathy Statz
In the cooperative community, we have principles. One of them is the commitment to education about the cooperative business model.
When thinking and talking about cooperative education, a few questions that always surface include:
- How did you first learn about cooperative education?
- How did you keep growing as a cooperative educator, and how can we encourage and support others?
- What can you do as a leader in cooperative education?
- What can we do to support you?
Louie Doering was an exceptional cooperative leader. He served in many other cooperative roles and was recognized in many ways: he served on the NCBA CLUSA International board of directors and traveled abroad to visit CLUSA projects. In 2010, as chair of the dotCoop board, he presented the first-ever dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence at the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
A significant event in our local cooperative community was Louie receiving the Cooperative Network Co-op Builder Award. The Co-op Builder Award had been a recognition program of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives (WFC), but when MAC (Minnesota Association of Cooperatives) and WFC merged to become Cooperative Network, the Co-op Builder Award was expanded to include Minnesotans. Louie Doering was in the inaugural group of these combined recipients in 2000. Also in that group was Ed Slettom.
Louie was also deeply committed to the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE). He served on the board of directors, as president, and on many committees: Institute planning, nominations, and others. In 2005, ACE bestowed upon him the Reginald J. Cressman Award, which recognizes an ACE Member who demonstrates outstanding commitment to staff development.
It was through this deep involvement in ACE that, for many of us, Louie Doering played a critical role, and was an important actor in a much larger story.
Brett Fairbairn writes in Prairie Connections and Reflections: The History, Present, and Future of Co-operative Education:
It was in 1952 that the Cooperative League of the USA invited Canadian participants to a conference at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. This was the first step toward the formation of ACE. Then after meetings in Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa, the Institute was held for the first time outside the United States in 1956, at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.
Following ACE’s first foray into Saskatoon, institutes and schools were held in varying locations in the Midwestern US, and once in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during the years that followed. The next new departure came at the 1964 meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. The participants in Kansas City made a key decision: they would institutionalize co-operative education in a permanent association, and they decided that the founding meeting of this new association would be held in 1965 in Saskatoon. The key figure behind the decision appears to have been Jerry Voorhis, the long-time head of the Cooperative League of the USA, who was at that time nearing the end of his twenty-year term as executive director.
Fairbairn then includes a speech by Jerry Voorhis that provides a clear and inspirational explanation of the value and importance of cooperative education.
ACE was formally founded in Saskatoon in 1965. With members from the Caribbean, Canada, and the USA, ACE was managed by Canadian organizations from its inception until 1994, when it was moved from Ottawa to St. Paul, under the auspices of The Cooperative Foundation.
A very successful ACE Institute was held in St. Paul in 1994, most notable for a large number of local participants. One of those was Louie Doering.
The 1994 ACE Institute was the start of something special: it was so successful that the local cooperative community advocated for the continuation of the institute here, resulting in the formation of New Visions/New Ventures. Louie Doering, William Nelson, and Gail Graham played important roles in its formation. As William recalls, several of the participants who attended the Institute for the first time said “we should keep doing this throughout the year.”
With support and involvement of leaders from Central Purchasing Co-op Services, Twin City Co-ops Federal Credit Union (now known as SPIRE Credit Union), The Cooperative Foundation, CHS Foundation, Seward Food Co-op, Mississippi Market Food Co-op along with many others, New Visions/New Ventures grew into a wonderful regular gathering for networking, collaboration and exchange of ideas.
This informal association of people came from many cross-sectors of the local and regional community – cooperatives, non-profits, associations, and academics. It was generously administered by Twin City Co-ops Federal Credit Union (later SPIRE Credit Union), and typically hosted by Louie, who would introduce each “conversation starter” (his term for the guest speaker) with his trademark smile and warm hospitality.
New Visions/New Ventures had a servant leadership and management style: everyone pitched in. But Louie’s commitment and leadership made the difference for many of us. Many of our then-current and future co-op leaders met Louie there or while he was the president of the Central Purchasing Services cooperative, prior to his joining Twin City Co-ops Federal Credit Union (later to become SPIRE). As these gatherings continued, he was intentional about including the credit unions in the conversations or as collaborators on events. Even if sometimes met with indifference due to unawareness, he kept persevering to ensure their participation in the broader movement.
While the routine and those involved grew and changed over time, the focus from the beginning remained the same. As Gail Graham said so eloquently early on which became a tag line for the meeting notices:
“We need to move beyond our little piece of turf to get that infusion of life and energy that comes from working together. We must build coalitions and we must remember what we are about.”
We had a lot of speakers over the years, including the prominent cooperative attorney Ralph K. Morris. As with all things over time, informal groups and associations change or evolve into other forms. The New Visions/New Ventures Cooperative Discussion Group was no different. After years of logistical and financial support from SPIRE Credit Union, New Visions/New Ventures transitioned into the next generation – CoMinnesota.
In 2012, with the support and creativity of Cooperative Development Services and others, CoMinnesota took the next step to continue the tradition of connecting leaders and encouraging collaboration during the UN’s International Year of the Cooperative in 2012 and beyond. SPIRE Credit Union remained committed to participation and collaboration in the cooperative community.
CoMinnesota has an interesting component also inspired by Louie. In 2002, New Visions/New Ventures members were invited to join the students and faculty at the 2002 keynote luncheon of the College Conference on Cooperatives (CCOC), a tradition that continues to this day. Over the years, more than 2,000 CCOC participants (students and faculty) from more than 40 states and 8 countries have been involved, with over 130 NVNV (and in recent years, CoMinnesota) members and area cooperators.
Students and faculty from around the world are now part of an ongoing cooperative conversation that Louie helped start, all those years ago. This is a fitting legacy for someone whose life work had no borders: from the Association of Cooperative Educators to NCBA CLUSA International to ICA and dotCoop, and including Boutifield International, an NGO started by a group of Twin Cities food industry professionals to address food insecurity in Africa.
Louie’s engagement with Cooperative Development Services is a reminder, too, that every co-op started small, with a conversation: across a farm kitchen table, at the local cafe, in an employee break room, during a post-worship coffee hour. We must support all the cooperatives yet to be, and the Louie Doerings yet to come.
Today, cooperators in Minnesota and beyond are beneficiaries of Louie’s commitment to growing both co-ops and people. When we engage across co-op sectors (including with credit unions), when we consider the whole person in any circumstance, when we reach out to welcome and support the young and emerging cooperators among us, when we strive to unite body, mind, and spirit–and lead with a servant’s heart–we follow the path that Louie laid for us.
And the end of that path?
There is no end; only a new conversation to begin.
In the cooperative spirit: Scott Jax, William Nelson, and Cathy Statz