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In Memory of Gene Wyka, Co-Founder of CPI

In Memory of Gene Wyka, Co-Founder of CPI
Gene T. Wyka, one of the co-founders of CPI, died on September 20, 2015 at the age of 57. Gene; his father, Gene J. Wyka; and AlGene Caraulia Sr. established the Crisis Prevention Institute to expand the reach of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training. Gene was a key leader at CPI for two decades.
 

A tribute by CPI President Judith Schubert


In early 1994, I was in the CPI conference room with Gene Wyka and Linda Steiger. I was dropping note cards on the floor, tripping over chairs, and fumbling with a whiteboard marker enough to stain my new blouse. Clear behaviors of the first level of the CPI Crisis Development Model℠.
 
I was at CPI to do a presentation as part of the interview process for the Professional Staff Instructor position.
 
Taking a Supportive approach, Linda went to get me a glass of water.

Gene invited me to sit down. He empathically conveyed that I would be fine and could start again in a few minutes.
 
I shouted back at him and my rant went something like this: “I want to sit down and have a normal interview! This is insane to ask me to facilitate a presentation based on this stupid video you gave me a few days to review! This whiteboard is ridiculously small—what kind of training company is this?” 
 
I was walking in circles when Linda returned with the glass of water. Gene asked if I was going to be able to calm down and do the presentation or if I’d like to leave and talk the next day. I turned my back to them, let out a loud “Argghh,” and hit my forehead on the whiteboard. Then I turned back to them and calmly asked, “How does it feel to watch someone losing control?” I complimented Gene on his clear, reasonable, and enforceable limit settingas I escalated to Defensive behavior and assured them that I didn’t hurt myself when I hit my head.
 
Then I continued my presentation on the Crisis Development Model℠. 
 
They admitted they were fooled and got anxious watching my “anxiety.”
 
Thankfully, I got the job and started my career with CPI.

The Professional Staff Instructor position was the best job I ever had. Every week, I had the opportunity to be with different professionals who wanted to make a difference, who were committed to providing Care while maintaining Safety.
 
I learned as much as I taught. I was inspired and humbled. Sometimes I was challenged and my confidence waned. But through it all, I felt that empathic support when I shared my experiences with Gene. He reminded me that it will never be—should never be—my answer that matters most in training, but how we facilitate a process so participants will continually apply learning in discovering their own answers.
 
A few years later, Gene talked to me about the importance of assuring the best possible support for Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® Certified Instructors, as the reach of the program was expanding significantly. He had said more than once that he hadn’t expected CPI’s training to continue on as long as it has.
 
Because it has, it was important to be there as it evolves and is embedded in organizations through Certified Instructors. I was asked to take on a role to focus on the development of Certified Instructors and CPI Professional Staff Instructors. I was honored to be appointed to a Director position and move into Gene Wyka’s office, which was basically a glass box in the middle of the Professional Staff Instructor work area at CPI headquarters. I remember saying something about being able to “watch” the staff activity from this office and Gene telling me that what was more important is that “the team is watching you.” Just examples of the nuggets of Wyka wisdom that have resonated in my CPI heart over the years.
 
In a letter he wrote to me and left in the desk drawer of my new office, he referenced guts, intelligence, and integrity, and the importance of surrounding myself with good people. So much has happened since he wrote that letter, but every week I learn from the guts, intelligence, and integrity of CPI Certified Instructors and staff who surround me. 
 
While I appreciate Gene’s part in bringing me to CPI, what I appreciate about him most, I can’t seem to put into words. He has been a wise mentor, a friend, and the best model of living authentically that I have ever witnessed. His courage in the face of adversity and peaceful presence are priceless life lessons that will be with me forever.
 
Gene was too unpretentious to have considered how many lives have been positively impacted by his guts, intelligence, and integrity. But I thank him for impacting mine and all whose lives have been enriched by Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training.
 
Please share your thoughts by commenting below.
 
Gene Wyka is survived by his wife Lucy, his daughter Lianna and sons Joe and Nate, two brothers, a sister, and many relatives and friends. Memorial tributes have been dedicated to the Gift of Adoption. The Gift of Adoption was founded by Gene and Lucy Wyka.  
 
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