Dr. Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) Thank you.

Dr. Lynn Margulis (who passed away over the holiday) was a powerful inspiration to me, a mentor who never knew she played the role to a student-of-life outside her area of science. As a sustainability marketing lecturer at UMass, I had no apparent connection, but below the surface, I was in awe. I first met Lynn in 2000 at a conference at Yale hosted by the School of Forestry & the Environment. I had known she was one of the lead gems sparkling throughout the UMass campus, but had yet to meet her. When I did, I was shocked to hear her speak faster than I could keep up, looking at me simultaneously with both judgment and interest, spewing ideas of what I should do back on campus to educate myself and my students. I vowed to find the time to do all these things and more. Of course I could not do them all, but one thing I did do was send my most creative and progressive learners to her class. “What does geology have to do with sustainable marketing?” they would ask. “Just go,” I would say – “you will learn more with her than with anyone else in your life.” She was tough and those who stuck with it adored her.

I waved to her on occasion unsure whether she remembered me. The last time I saw Lynn was in the bank. No one else was there. When I tried to reintroduce myself, she brushed that aside and continued her high expectations of me, rattling off, again at top speed, another list of things I should do to learn more. She had obviously remembered me. When I left her that day, I knew why I admired her so.  She challenged the world to consider new information (in most cases with great controversy), to change long held beliefs, to wake up to new research outside your discipline. Today, I am a marketing lecturer studying endocrine disruptors with  the help of the chair of our biology department to understand their role in breast cancer so my students and I can share with consumers ways to help prevent the disease. It is controversial, changing the long held belief that cancer is attributed most to lifestyle and genetics, and certainly outside my business school focus. Dr. Margulis has been my inspiration all along. I wish I still had a chance to thank her.

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