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Profile on Ronald Loomis

ICSA Today, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2018, 19

Profile on Ronald Loomis

Reading through his curriculum vitae, you could easily be intimidated by the scope of Ron Loomis’s career. Over the span of more than thirty-five years of his professional life, he has held positions at the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Hamilton College, and at Cornell University, where his title was Director of Unions and Activities, a position he held for 23 years. He is a Past President of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI).

In the arena of cult awareness, Ron is a pioneer and has been called upon as an expert witness, was invited to China by the China Anti-Cult Association to share his expertise, has been quoted in newspapers such as The New York Times, has appeared on TV and radio, and has written a chapter in the book Cults on Campus. He is also a past president of the original Cult Awareness Network (CAN).

You could easily be intimidated by these credentials except for the fact that, as those who know him say, Ron Loomis “is a real doll.” The Hall of Fame Award bestowed on him by CAN, citing his “…wit amidst arduous work, and tireless attention to individuals in need,” gives a hint of his sunny nature. In short, Ron Loomis is a breath of fresh air.

It was in the course of doing his job on campus that he first became aware of cult activities:

Early on, I learned that people often become vulnerable to succumbing to a cult recruiter because they have experienced a traumatic event in their personal lives that they have not recovered from… or a major illness or tragic event. I became angry that cult recruiters were intentionally taking advantage of people in those circumstances, and [I] became motivated to educate people about cults…

That early realization led to a lifetime commitment to shed light on the darkness of cult activities, which were little known and even less understood. Ron took it upon himself to educate people about the dangers inherent in cults. On his own initiative, he began to set up venues and give presentations.

The educational programs he has now presented at more than 120 colleges and universities and at many other venues are comprehensive in their scope, with segments geared toward student affairs and auxiliary-services staff, chaplains, campus and area clinicians and mental health professionals, campus police and law-enforcement staff, and, of course, students themselves. The methodology includes workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and a talk by a local former member. His dedication did not go unnoticed, and students themselves selected him as an Honorary Member in the Cornell University Chapter of the Golden Key Honorary Society.

When Ron was lecturing extensively on campuses, cults were not well known or understood. In more recent years, the print and broadcast media, including respected television news programs such as 60 Minutes and 20/20, have produced segments about cults, with heartbreaking descriptions of how cults deceptively recruit people who are vulnerable, and have a devastating impact on cult members, their families, and the larger society. Some campuses have begun to include information about cults in their training programs for residence hall Resident Advisors and counseling staff, and in their information distributed to new students.

Ron was kind enough to answer some questions and share a little about himself and his current life:

Mary O’Connell: What were some of the difficulties you faced (in doing cult work)?

Ron Loomis: A few years after I became visibly involved in this work, representatives of one of the major cults contacted my employer and tried to get me fired. Fortunately, I had made key people at the university aware of what I was doing, and they approved. The threats wound up backfiring on the cult when the student newspaper wrote an article about it, which provided even more positive exposure to what I was doing to educate people about cults.

MO: In an area so often filled with sadness, how did you stay motivated? How did you avoid burnout?

RL: Early in my career, I was able to assist families with a loved one in a cult by putting them in touch with former members of that cult, and with exit counselors who assist families in getting their loved one out of a cult. Seeing families reunited was all the incentive I needed to continue my work. Burnout was never an issue and still is not.

MO: Did you have a mentor?

RL: Not just one. Many people who I met along the way inspired and motivated me.

MO: What books are on your nightstand?

RL: Most of my leisure reading is about sports.

MO: Do you have a particular code you live by?

RL: I have always tried to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

MO: Your favorite quote?

RL: My favorite quote comes from Satchel Paige, a pitcher in the old Negro Leagues baseball: “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

MO: What are you most proud of?

RL: I have facilitated reuniting many cult victims with their families, which is incredibly rewarding. But I am most proud of my children, all four of whom are college graduates, three with Masters Degrees, and my seven grandchildren, all of whom have graduated or are currently enrolled in college, or are too young to have started college yet.

MO: What advice would you give those trying to help cult victims?

RL: Get professionals and experts involved, as well as clergy, as soon as possible.

Ron is retired now and lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he seems to have created a life every bit as full and satisfying as before. To the question What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?, Ron Loomis responds,

Too many things… so I’m unable to focus on just one. I have spent about twenty-five years doing hot-air ballooning in my free time… Since the best time to fly a balloon is right after sunrise and just before sunset, when the winds are calm, I have seen many beautiful sunrises and many beautiful sunsets.