About Dr. Chester

Mercy Has a Human Heart — the title of a book she was working on at the time of her death in 1997 — concisely describes the life and work of Dr. Barbara Chester. Barbara lived her 47 years on the frontiers of human courage and compassion. After completing her doctorate in psychology and behavioral genetics from the University of Minnesota, she developed and directed the state's first program for victims of sexual assault. In 1986, as Executive and Clinical Director, Barbara was instrumental in developing The Center For Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, the first such program in the United States. There, until 1991, she treated survivors of torture from over 40 countries, including Cambodia, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Afghanistan, South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador and Vietnam.


As Clinical Director for the Hopi Foundation, from 1992 until her death, Barbara founded and directed the Center for the Prevention and Resolution of Violence in Tucson, Arizona. There she treated refugees crossing the Mexican-American border — including indigenes from Central and South America, and Chiapas, Mexico — as well as torture survivors from Bosnia, Vietnam and Moldavia, among others.


Besides these milestone accomplishments, Barbara found time for teaching, community corrections projects, extensive work with Native American peoples, travel to experience and appreciate the diversity of human cultures around the world, flamenco dancing, and innumerable kindnesses. Dr. Inge Genefke, then Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Copenhagen, said in a tribute, "I don't think I ever met a person with such a fine understanding of the sufferings of others as Barbara. Her intuition and brilliant intellect were combined so harmoniously that we could all benefit."