August 30, 2023 marks the eleventh anniversary of the passing of Don Richard Riso who, with Russ Hudson, co-founded The Enneagram Institute. As many of you know, Don was a major developer of, and contributor to, contemporary Enneagram theory. Known for wisdom and compassion in his teaching style and for his humble and profound love for his students and friends, he continued to work and to teach even when first confined to a wheelchair in late June of 2012, stopping only in late July when he was too weak to continue.

I first met Don in the summer of 1970 when he was a graduate student and a Ford Foundation fellow at Stanford University. At that time, he had never heard of the Enneagram. That would not happen until 1973. When it did happen, it changed the trajectory of his life. Commencing on September 2, 1975, he began his life’s work researching, studying, developing, teaching, and writing about the Enneagram. In the last weeks of his life, he acknowledged, modestly and tearfully, “This is the reason I was put on earth.”

Throughout his life, Don was a writer. During high school he wrote several plays for his school’s drama society, each of which was publicly performed several times by the club. He also acted and interpreted roles in several plays by Shakespeare, including Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night. He felt that, even in those early years, he had a special understanding of human nature and its motivations, and a deep insight into the psychology of individuals, which he was able to transform into the characters which he created (e.g., a nobleman during the French Revolution) or which he portrayed (e.g., Mr. Roberts).

Beginning in his late teens, he started to keep a diary describing in great detail events of the day, observations gathered from his voracious reading, and even personal weaknesses he wanted to work on and overcome. He wrote poems, haiku, short stories, and, when house guests would be coming for the weekend, mysteries in which each guest played a role (these always ended humorously).

From the time he turned down a full scholarship to Loyola University in New Orleans to enter the Jesuits, until his final breath, spirituality was always central to him. He noted that his day could not begin until he had prayed, often on his knees at his desk. And he would regularly jot down the insights that arose during his meditations. Here is one of them:

“Sense and know that simplicity of heart is detachment. See yourself letting fall or dropping all that Is not essential. See yourself letting fall intellectual sickness, prejudices, opinions, and beliefs. Know that to stop [living in] the past or future is the only way to live in the present. You must go from the horizontal to the vertical. Take the present moment and lift it up to eternity.”


We miss you, Don, and I thank you for all you have done for me, for your students, and for your teaching and example. Your work continues, but you are missed.