Howard Zehr in a 2009 photo taken by one of his former students, Pushpi Weerakoon, MA '10. Weerakoon was a panelist, alongside CJP professor Carl Stauffer, co-director of the Zehr Institute, at a Feb. 28, 2015, symposium, "Restorative Justice: Theory Meets Application," hosted by the Harvard Law Negotiation Review.

Everyone invited to celebrate Howard Zehr by attending his May 23 “roast”

Eastern Mennonite University is spotlighting restorative justice pioneer Howard Zehr on May 23, 2015, a date chosen to coincide with the 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking work, Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice, and his retirement as a full-time faculty member.

In deference to Zehr’s wishes not to be praised, a “roast” has been planned for Zehr, along with a sit-down dinner for anyone who wishes to attend – in fact, the more, the merrier, say organizers.

“If you know Howard, you know that he would not enjoy being the center of attention at a formal gala,” says J. Daryl Byler, executive director of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. “We’ll honor Howard and his work in the field of restorative justice by sharing a meal and telling humorous and heartfelt stories celebrating his work and the many ways he has touched our lives.” (To attend this limited-seating event, make your reservation by emailing

When writing Changing Lenses, Zehr had no intention of altering the global framework of criminal justice. In the preface to the upcoming edition of the book, Zehr writes that his aim was to create “a book that would encourage us to identify and rethink some of the assumptions we rarely examine and that would help us to begin to dream of other possibilities.”

Changing Lenses has been translated into seven languages; a fresh edition is appearing in June, adding to the 26,000 copies circulating since 1990. Another of his books on the subject, The Little Book of Restorative Justice, has been a bestseller, exceeding 110,000 sold, with more than a dozen translations (often adapted to the local context) circulating internationally.

“His work in restorative justice is seminal,” said Robert E. Palazzo, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) in announcing a new award for Zehr, the 2015 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award. “Over the course of his career he has had an international impact, changing our perception of crime and violations. His work has shifted thinking from the older perception of crime as an act against the state to a more humanistic understanding of crime as a violation of the rights of individuals.”

Australian criminologist John Braithwaite offered these words in anticipation of the roast: “No person has done more to inspire the restorative imaginations of citizens of this planet than Howard Zehr. He has been the great teacher who has invited us to sit beside him to see what he can see through his restorative lens.”

As a teacher of restorative justice, Zehr was popular with the 600 enrollees in his CJP courses – with some of them already making plans to come to the roast. (Zehr will be a guest lecturer in the restorative justice classes scheduled for the 2015 Summer Peacebuilding Institute.) In his characteristically modest manner, Zehr wrote a blog last year in which he asked any and all readers for their input on the direction, strengths, weaknesses, and needs of the restorative justice field. If someone sends him an email, he responds personally.

The event will begin with a silent auction and book signing at 4:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., and the roast will begin at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the silent auction and donations will go toward the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at CJP. “Our goal is to raise $50,000 for the Zehr Institute,” said Byler.

All are welcome to this limited-seating event. Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, with a May 8 final deadline (email to reserve). To set the tongue-in-cheek tone, guests are encouraged to dress in “Howard Zehr-styled formal wear,” which translates as the clothing that one would wear to photograph wildflowers or rivers in the Shenandoah Valley. To donate an item to the silent auction, send information about the item to

Discussion on “Everyone invited to celebrate Howard Zehr by attending his May 23 “roast”

  1. Hello and congratulations to a wonderful human being that has touched so many lives. Howard I’m sorry I can not afford to attend as it is too far away. I would just like to say that since being interviewed by you and being in your second book my life has come a long way. I no longer class myself as a victim or survivor. I’m now a woman who has grown from life experiences. I woman who, thanks to you, has gone back to school and received a diploma in Human Services Work and now works with people on an hourly & daily basis. People living on the streets, many are working poor and some are in transition just like I was all those years ago when you met me.

    Now I’ve transformed into someone who can trust, love and honor others and meet them where they are at in life with empathy and compassion. I no longer walk or talk with a chip on my shoulder, I’ve been able to move from judgement to curiosity and I have overcome many challenges. All of this because of you and your teachings. There are no words to thank you so I let my actions in my everyday life show my gratitude to you by living, breathing, and acting in a peaceful capacity and helping others to find their way to understanding and peace as well.

    Thank you Howard for showing me that life can be good, a soul can find peace, & that love will always guide us through our journey in life. My lenses are always changing & I continue to live in transition as I grow.

    Sincere gratitude & appreciation,
    Janet Bakke

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