I am posting two relevant documents here, both of which were enclosures to my letter to Wayne Joyner of June 28, 2014. They relate to Jay Snelson’s separation from FEI, and why I felt that it was wrong for today’s FEI to have removed Snelson’s name from Galambos’ rendition of V-50 in its online version, V-50DD. The background follows.
One evening in February, 1978, during a session of the Open End Course, a by-invitation class with probably a couple of hundred people in attendance, Andrew Galambos publicly terminated Jay Snelson from his position as FEI’s Senior Lecturer. It had already been decided that Snelson would leave, but only a handful of people knew. It was a complete surprise to Snelson when Galambos called him up to the podium, mentioning vague problems, and giving Snelson some small presents as an apparent reward for his years of service. Snelson appeared to be stunned and said little or nothing. The audience was stunned as well, as most them had been brought into Galambos’ domain by having been Snelson’s students. After all these years that’s all I can remember, and it’s more a sense of what happened than it is a precise account.
As everyone recognized, Snelson, by means of his dynamic presentations of the Institute’s introductory course, V-50, was FEI’s “rainmaker.” The vast majority of new students for Galambos’ advanced courses came via Snelson. The two of them seemed made for each other, and had been together for 14 years. FEI was thriving, but we had just witnessed the forced departure of its number one revenue producer. Without a replacement, the promise of what FEI could accomplish was over. And so it has turned out, at least so far.
At the time I knew Jay only as the one who had taught my V-50 class, a condition that was not to change for another 30 years. I admired him greatly, but our mutual schedules, in addition to the culture of FEI, were not conducive to an ongoing relationship. I believe that most of the others in attendance were in much the same position. We were Galambos’ students now, and FEI was his company, so of course we would have given Galambos the benefit of the doubt. If Galambos said that Snelson had done something to cause his termination, then it must have been so. Snelson’s silence in the moment seemed to confirm it, and I held that view for several years until I learned more. Ultimately, and closer to the end of his life than I would have wished, we did become friends and I was privileged to help proof and edit his book, Taming the Violence of Faith.
The first document is a letter of hearty praise written by Galambos to Snelson in April1976. It shows that Snelson’s importance to Galambos was profound, and the letter bears no hint of what Galambos was to do fewer than two years later.
The second document is Snelson’s account of what led to his termination, written in 1979, and distributed to very few. Even though in one fell swoop Galambos had cast him out of the occupation that he loved, to say nothing of it being his source of income, I never heard Snelson speak ill of Galambos. Quite the contrary, he had much to say in praise of his ideas, and in his last lecture on October 22, 2011, he cited Galambos as one of his three main influences. But in this document he shows us a side of Galambos that his admirers, including me, would rather not see. We’d all like our heroes to be perfect, and when I learned of this and similar bad treatment of others by Galambos I was disappointed and disturbed. Perhaps his actions were a sign of oncoming Alzheimer’s. That’s what I’d like to think, but I’ll never know. Today I look past this sort of thing and concentrate on the quality of his ideas. I have sympathy for Jay Snelson, but also for Galambos, who at times was his own worst enemy.
To aid your understanding, first you should know that around this time Jay, in his early 40’s and as yet never married, was romantically involved with Thelma (Tami) Jefferson, who worked for him in his company, Volitional Science Associates, and was generally at his V-50 lectures performing various administrative duties. They were businesslike and their romantic relationship was never obvious, though some suspected and others knew. Later he became involved, and seriously, with a student, Lauren Gilbert. (Student in this case does not mean teenager, but someone who I’d guess was in her 30’s.) These relationships came to play a key role in his relationship with Galambos.
Second, FEI used the designation “T” to designate courses that were delivered on audiotape, such as V-50T or V-201T. Galambos last gave V-50 in 1968. Thereafter, customers enrolling in V-50 could, depending on the schedule, the location, or other factors, choose either the live presentation of Snelson, given in various nicely–appointed hotel meeting rooms, or Galambos’ version, V-50T, played by a tape course contractor, usually at their home or office.
The documents here were provided to me by Jay’s widow, Nancy Rhyme Snelson. Jay and Nancy were happily married for many years.