The mission of the Ruth Sanford Center is to facilitate opportunities for the experience and study of authentic dialogue among persons and groups differing in ethnic, racial, cultural or socioeconomic background, and particularly among those having difficulty understanding, communicating genuinely with, or accepting one another.
In the Fall, 2001 issue of Renaissance Jan Harman wrote an article discussing establishment of the Center. Some excerpts are, "such an endeavor could begin modestly, with meetings of those from our own community, and later evolve into seminars and workshop experiences we might offer to others, similar to those Carl Rogers and Ruth Sanford conducted in South Africa, Mexico, and the former Soviet Union. Clearly, the application of the person-centered approach in the latter contexts, while occurring most intensively in the last decade of Carl's life, had long been among his central interests. Forty years ago, in his preface to On Becoming a Person (1961/1995), Rogers wrote, "I hope for the day when we will invest the price of one or two large rockets in the search for more adequate understanding of human relationships," and emphasized that "we already possess learnings, which, put to use, would help to decrease the inter-racial, industrial, and international tensions which exist. I hope it will be evident that these learnings , used preventively, could aid in the development of mature, nondefensive, understanding persons who would deal constructively with future tensions as they arise" (p. xx).
Rogers in his 1951 presentation at the Centennial Conference on Communications at Northwestern University (reprinted in On Becoming a Person), discussing "Breakdowns in Communication", observed that "defensive distortions drop away with astonishing speed as people find that the only intent is to understand, not judge" (p. 336), and concluded by asking whether we can take what then appeared, "... a test-tube solution to the breakdown of communication as it occurs in small groups" and "...investigate it further, refine it, develop it and apply it to the tragic and well-nigh failures of communication which threaten the very existence of our modern world? It seems to me that this is a possibility and a challenge which we should explore" (p336-337).