Neil Mahoney, Longtime est Trainer and Forum Leader, Dies at 83

image courtesy of Michael Waldman

Neil Mahoney, a former est Trainer and Leader of The Forum, passed away earlier this month from complications of a stroke. He was 83.

Born and raised in the Roxbury suburb of Boston, Mahoney got his undergraduate degree from Boston University, and two Masters degrees in education and psychology, as well as a PhD in public policy.

An army veteran and avid rugby player, Mahoney moved to San Francisco in 1964. He adopted two African American boys at a time when blended families were uncommon.

Mahoney began leading the est training the 1970s, and went on to lead the training and the Forum through the formation of Landmark in 1991, as well as being the Director of the Breakthrough Foundation’s Youth at Risk program.

He made an enormous difference for hundreds of thousands of people before retiring from leading programs for health reasons. His efforts were integral to expanding the work of transformation in the world.

“He was a stand up man,” recalls Landmark Forum Leader Laurel Scheaf. “He was profoundly compassionate – he had an infinite acceptance of people.”

Known for his legendary Boston accent and his ability to see right to the heart of people, Mahoney was also an extraordinary raconteur whose stories moved people to the essence of their humanity.

He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Louise, and his two adopted sons.

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I am sorry to have never met the man. We are so profoundly blessed in our Landmark community to have the honor and privilege of being trained by these exceptional individuals. May his soul rest in peace, and deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Know that his work lives on.


Neil led my est Training in September of 1979 in Pittsburgh, PA. I never got over it! I owe him my life!
He was so fabulous, loving, commanding, strong all at the same time!

Paul Hoffinger says:

I firmly recall Neil’s leading of my first modern version of the Advanced Course sometime in the early ‘90s. I recall his stories of the foundation of the Sunrise district political club in San Francisco, which eventually supported the run for Congress by Nancy Pelosi, and many other accomplishments for people.
Support by Neil and his wife for discoveries around safe condoms in the state of California was exemplary, and his willingness to share personal details of his life that made his own humanity evident, inspired us others for breakthroughs in the face of our own humanity.
I owe him in particular for the beauty of my marriage and (with the other Landmark Forum Leaders) as well for the extraordinary quality of my life!

Diane Bria-Wharton says:

I saw this just now on the Baltimore-DC Graduates Est & Landmark Forum site on Facebook- I am moved by the true words that Laurel writes – I never met Neil and feel the deep love and possibility of his spirit SELF -So Neil – where’s the Party!!
To all the Leaders – I love you and thank you for taking yourself on and being a Trans formative Leader for US –

Andrew Marcus says:

Neil Mahoney and people who assisted at my EST Training changed my life! Neil led my first of two weekends for the EST Training in December of 1982 in Edison, New Jersey. He had trained as a psychologist, held a PhD, and played rugby. He was a tough man and he led with passion and commitment to those around him. I later assisted with him at “Youth at Risk” in the forests of western Massachusetts. We built a ropes course out of flowing treetops, where we created a swaying platform from which to stand and travel by ropes to the ground. I and these teenagers from New York City learned that weekend that anything was possible!

William Cummings says:

I was Neil’s ‘ EST ‘ Staff liaison , at a training in ‘ Claremont Colleges ‘ , when campus protestors ‘ Mooned ‘ us through a sky-lite . Neil made it a ‘ Teachable Moment ‘ ??
I was Breakthrough Foundations Riverside , CA. ‘ EST ‘ staff liaison , when Werner was racing Formula 5000 at our track . Neil loved to here stories from Warner’s Breakthrough Racing days . So I was already on staff there ,10 day Youth-at-Risk , when Neil joined us . He knew I’d been locked-up for 3 years as a juvenile and wanted to know more . We’d talk ‘ Shit ‘ and laugh for hours . He turned me into a Rugby fan . ‘ A Mans Man . ‘

Suzan Oran says:

Neil lead the 2nd weekend of my est training in Houston in January 1979. He was amazing! My heart goes out to Neil’s family! I thank Neil and all of the est trainers and Forum leaders for their incredible dedication!!

I’ll take this opportunity to once again thank Werner for providing all that he did (and does)!!! What I took from the training absolutely transformed my life. I am forever grateful!!!!???

A leader among leaders, a compassionate unwavering stand for the possibility of everyone and everything. Rip

Harry Sloofman says:

As a Training Supervisor Neil was one of the most fun trainers to work with. During breaks when I would try to handle business with him he would tell jokes and stories making me laugh until I would insist the break was ending and we had to…
And of course he would chide me with a twinkle in his eye for letting him waste time.

One of the best days I’ve ever had was going to a Jets game at Shea with Neil, Armand and Jack Lynch. Neil wanted to show us how much he appreciated us.

The world is emptier without Neil. ?

Ian M says:

Neil led my trading in Boston in ‘79. I didn’t know about all his education. To me he was a tough Boston guy who grew up fighting, just like me. He was a cool customer.

Gerry Newman says:

One of a kind! A giant spirit. Unique before everyone else was.

Neil Mahoney led the first weekend of the EST Training that I took in Vancouver in November 1981. If I recall correctly, there were 257 participants at that training. He was an amazing trainer. I can’t remember the name of trainer for the second weekend nor can I remember the name of trainer of The Forum that I took in Calgary. But I have always remembered Neil’s full name because of good he was.

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