Forrest Haven Street-Allen
Sept. 20, 1950 – Jan. 2, 2015
The world lost a shining star – and I lost a dear friend – when Haven Street-Allen passed away. I first met Haven when she was Director of Human Resources at St. Edward’s University in Austin. After repeatedly contracting with me to do conflict resolution and employee training, Haven suggested we “change our relationship” and offered to hire me, suggesting that not only would she get an on on-site mediator and trainer, but I would also get “predictable income and benefits”. She was always looking for a win-win solution, and always knew how to help people see the “WIIFM” – What’s In It For Me – when she wanted something. I told her okay, as long as it was only part time and she didn’t turn me into an “HR person”. I should have known I couldn’t trust her!
Our working relationship grew into a deep and eternal friendship based on mutual respect and our shared appreciation of clear communication, the St. Edward’s Operating Principles, and correct grammar. Over the years, we worked together on many projects – some professional, some personal – and although we often started from diametrically opposing viewpoints, we almost always ended up in complete agreement, and usually with a much better product or outcome than either of us could have achieved on our own. That’s not to say we didn’t argue, cajole, whine and otherwise drive each other crazy during the process. I can just see her sitting there, running her hands through her hair in utter frustration at whatever idiotic thing I was saying. Or maybe that was me. And I was always amazed and grateful for the way she was able to balance our personal and professional relationships, even though she was literally the boss of me.
As HR Director, Haven touched the lives of thousands of employees and their families and set a standard for fair, compassionate treatment of individuals while preserving the integrity and reputation of the university. She embodied the St. Edward’s Operating Principles, which made her a beacon and a role model for the entire community, especially the many students she mentored over the years. Towards the end of her career at St. Ed’s, someone repeatedly criticized her for being “too nice”. That person really believed that Haven’s kindness and compassion were character flaws. The sweet/sad irony is that despite being hurt by the criticism, Haven continued to excuse that person, believing the criticism spoke more to the person’s loneliness and low self-esteem than any real failing on Haven’s part. That’s just how Haven was.
Although to say Haven was “fiscally responsible” is an understatement, she was extremely generous and had a fun and slightly wicked sense of humor. Her girlish laughter, as well as her tears of compassion, were always near the surface. She was wise, brilliant, practical, and able to see the big picture and the little picture simultaneously. She was a loyal and supportive wife, mother, grandmother, colleague and friend. And she had the most beautiful eyes.
Haven once said that her only goal in life was “to do no harm”. As I sat with her in the hospital near the end, I reminded her of that, and also reminded her of how she had far surpassed that modest goal. She had helped make life better for so many people and was so deeply loved by so many people, that she could rest assured that she was a successful human being and had lived a successful life. And with her eyes closed, she smiled and said, “That’s what I wanted.”
I have no doubt that my dear friend Haven is resting in peace. But, my God, how I’ll miss her.