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History of the Center for Courage & Renewal

Center for Courage & Renewal Parker Palmer Rick Jackson Marcy Jackson

In 1997, Parker J. Palmer with Rick and Marcy Jackson founded what would become the Center for Courage & Renewal (the “Center”). First known as the Center for Teacher Formation, it began as a program within the Fetzer Institute. Courage to Teach® became the premier program helping teachers connect soul with role, rekindling their passion for educating the whole student.

As the Center’s Circle of Trust approach grew more popular within the teaching profession as well as other social sectors, the Center for Courage & Renewal was established as an independent nonprofit in 2003. Programs are now available for leaders in health care, ministry, business and community settings, as well as to everyone yearning to become more authentic and self-aware in their life and work.

See timeline of the Center’s history.

This video below shares conversations with Parker J. Palmer, Rick Jackson and Marcy Jackson, and facilitators from the founding era of the Center for Courage & Renewal. Many thanks to Janet Smith for her interviews and for capturing the essential roots of our mission “to nurture personal and professional integrity and the courage to act on it.”

Highlights in the History of Courage & Renewal

What began as a quiet experiment in sustaining the inner life of public educators has grown into an educational nonprofit fostering courage and renewal across professions.


  • The Fetzer Institute asks Parker J. Palmer to propose “a long-term project to aid in the ‘spiritual formation of teachers’.”
  • 22 teachers attend Parker’s pilot retreat: “The Courage to Teach: A Renewal Weekend for Teachers.”
  • 1993, Palmer wins national award of the Council of Independent Colleges for Outstanding Contributions to Higher Education.


  • Parker pilots the first two-year Courage to Teach program.
  • Six master teachers are recruited and prepared by Parker to lead two-year CTT retreat programs in South Carolina, Maryland, Michigan and Washington states.



  • First Facilitator Preparation Program cohort with 8 members.
  • The Leadership Project, a national survey of 10,000 administrators and faculty, named Palmer as one of the 30 “most influential senior leaders” in higher education and one of the 10 key “agenda-setters” of the past decade: “He has inspired a generation of teachers and reformers with evocative visions of community, knowing, and spiritual wholeness.”












  •  We reach the milestone of 200 Facilitators trained!
  • Parker receives the William Rainey Harper Award from the Religious Education Association, “given to outstanding leaders whose work in other fields has had profound impact upon religious education.”
  • Parker-Palmer_The-Heart-of-Higher-EducationThe Heart of Higher Education: A Call to Renewal is published.



See more at Cojourneo.com2013

  • Online workshop launches with and Parker Palmer called Getting to the Heart of the Matter
  • Parker engages thousands of people in Seattle for a week of events around Healing the Heart of Democracy