It is with heavy hearts, deep gratitude, and overflowing love that we share the news that Mary Gergen passed away on the morning of September 22, 2020.
We all knew Mary as a lively, courageous, and innovative trail blazer. With Ken, Mary created a global community — a family of caring, committed scholars and practitioners whose central desire is to make the world a better place for all. And, the world is a better place for her presence in it and her connection to us all. We send our warmest embraces to you all.
~ The Taos Institute Board
Read more about Mary by going to her obituary.
And more about Mary on this website.
The Mary Gergen Memorial Fund – Many people have asked us how they can honor Mary with a donation to the Taos Institute. You may do so by going to this page: Click here.
Share below: We invite you to post a comment here on this page. Use the comment area to share a story, memory, and what Mary meant to you. To share a picture or video you need to include the link to that image/video. Thank you for sharing.
I would love to hear stories, anecdotes, and remembrances you all have of your relationship with Mary.
Almost 20 years ago I invited Mary and Ken to lead a professional development workshop (PDW) at the Academy of Management Conference held in DC. The topic was social constructionist approaches in organization science. That was a time when few people appreciated the role of language in management science. Many in that academic audience were skeptical, and Mary was the energetic force that kept them engaged. I could see that there were many “converts” at the end of the two-hour session! I will miss her energy, passion, and compassion for others.
I made this slide show of Mary and her love of Taos, all the people, events and activities over the years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwwEYgTNt3w
I first meet Mary some 33 years ago when she come to Barcelona with Ken to attend a wonderful small group meeting on “social psychology in the making”. We travelled to different places in Spain and enjoyed all togethers several days in a warm and good feeling atmosphere enhanced by the kindness and the attentions of Mary.
We knew quite immediately that we shared a very large amount of concepts, practices and values so a long standing and friendly relation was created and the oportunities to meet again where manyfold.
Strong emotions, beautiful memories and a deep sadness flows into me when writing these word.
I have this vivid picture of Mary and Ken making Social constructionism a lived experience for us at different occasions here in Denmark. A good and supportive memory, when I teach the theory.
I send lots of warm and positive thoughts to Ken,
I am so sorry for your loss.
Mary Gergen just won my heart because of her fierce intellect, engaging way of being, aliveness, awesome style, unapologetic critique of what needed named. I adore Mary Gergen…the world just got smaller but we’re so much better off for having been in her orbit.
Mary was the very first speaker I heard, at the very first Taos conference I attended (in Taos). Above, Rene described how Mary made this a ‘lived experience’ for them, and so it was for me. Even now I remember it: a simple talk, by Mary and Ken, with a flip chart, a couple of markers, but a profound and positive lived experience–I knew I had come to the right place.
My deep admiration for this professional woman and my gratitude for what she left behind. May she rest in peace and light.
Great memory of Mary
Ken Gergen, Mary Gergen and Diana Whitney talk on the Social Construction.
Recorded at the lunch time meeting during the Taos Institute 20th Anniversary Conference with consulting members of Corporation for Positive Change@ Taos New Mexico in 2013
First, it was her laugh I think, and the way she held herself… so fit and alive that first alerted me to Mary’s power. Then her words, her unique way of addressing even serious issues, her ability to hold space for all of us across the years. Fierce in her desire to create change and connection. A woman of beauty in every way. A Crone of infinite abilities. And her profound love of her partner, Ken, was beautiful to behold.
I met Mary Gergen through her text “Life Stories. Pieces of a Dream” that I found in the library of my university in Mexico. His ideas inspired a part of my undergraduate thesis. I didn’t think at the time that I would see her in person many years later at the 25th anniversary of the Taos Institute. It is beautiful how his siren song was one of the powerful voices that called me to these constructionist lands.
Mary will always have a special place in my memories and heart. She was super smart, quirky and encouraging in just the ways I needed her to be. I loved the Gergen and Gergen way of being. She was inspirational and thinking of her, even now in this moment, makes me feel aspirational. I am thinking of you Ken and sending vibes of wellness, empathy and gratitude for having had the privilege of having you both in my life.
Mary Gergen left a legacy that goes beyond her earthly life. I appreciate what she taught us and hope that we can move forward with her contributions to a better world. It is the best way to honor her.
The year was 2008 and the setting was a 2 day conference in Oldenburg, Germany we had organized in which Ken and Mary were part of the opening plenary discussion. The title of the conference was „Helfende Beziehungen als Ware: Aesthetische Entwürfe jenseits des Ökonomisierungswahns“ (Helping relationships as Commodities: aesthetic imaginings beyond the insanity of commodification). On the plenary along with Ken and Mary were a number of other superstars of the international academic world: the Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild, the German neurobiologist Gerald Hüther as well as the German reform psychiatrist and philosopher Klaus Dörner. Shortly before the start of the conference, we got a voice mail from the professional translator we had hired, telling us that his sister had been in a severe auto accident and that he was flying off immediately to be with her. In our desperation, we searched for replacements on very short notice. The result was captured on video to be preserved for eternity and exemplifies just how adept Mary was at utilizing humor to deescalate and transform a potentially disastrous situation:
Mary‘s quick and warm humor managed to transform this pregnant pause and prevent the conference from devolving into chaos. We will miss Mary, her cleverness, quick wit as well as her communicative talent, and our heartfelt condolences go out to Ken and the family.
With lots of love,
Eugene an Margit
I express my condolences in the passing of Mary.
With my best wishes
William Cole DHS ’53.
I am so grateful for having known Mary. I have long been inspired by her many creative contributions and scholarship which have helped me to appreciate the potential of all we can accomplish together in uniquely, innovative ways. I also so appreciated her playful humour, and direct honesty and candor which for me, and I also imagine for others, pointed to new possibilities for going forward.
Shortly after learning of, and saddened by Mary’s passing, I came across “Late Fragment” the final poem in Raymond Carver’s (1938-1988) last published work, “A New Path to the Waterfall”, which he wrote while he was dying of cancer. This poem – gripping, honest, and beautiful like Mary – led me to reflect on how I believe Mary was not only beloved, but she both loved, and was beloved by the world. And so may we all be …
“Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
“A New Path to the Waterfall”, 1989.
Indeed, so beautiful to behold!
I remember Mary for her warmth and learning. She was also always in treated in others when she met them – it was never about her. However, she was a creative force to be reckoned with as she touched the lives of many in her teaching, workshops and travels. She will be sorely missed but she was one of the flag for our elder’s brigade and will be sorely missed.
There is an old saying in China,the people who has died but others can’t forget him will have a ture long longevity死而不亡者寿. Mary has gone.But her stories will be still alive in our lives. And she just changed another way of being alive.
Mary will live forever in our stories and our lives. Who else would have had the strength and talent to “complement” our remarkable Ken. Her feminine and playful energy was oh so creative and inspiring.
I first “met” Kenneth Gergen reading Realities and Relationships: Soundings in Social Contructions (Realidades y relaciones: Aproximaciones a la construcción social. It was a great experience for me to get familiar with social contructionism by reading it. Later, I did “meet” Mary Gergen when the book Feminist Reconstructions in Psychology: Narrative, Gender, and Performance came to my desk. It was amazing to know that social construccionism as conceived by Kenneth and Mary was a theoretical frame applied to analize gender, identity, social relationships, and others issues. As my academic interest was then focused on gender and masculinity I discovered Toward a New Psychology of Gender: A Reader by Mary Gergen and Sarah Davis.
To know that Mary Gergen passed away is so sad. My warming condolences to Kenneth Gergen.
Thank you for your valuable contribution. All good from DK. Authorized psychologist Ole Løw
My heart goes out to family, friends, and community of Mary Gergen. With deep sympathy and gratitude for her work, Marion Gerlind
I am very sad to hear this. Many years ago I met Ken Gergen in Marburg at a systemic conference. After this I became a fan of the work and writing of both of them and they inspired my positively about the outlook on aging. (Which has happened to me ever since.) Mary Gergen will be remembered by me for her texts and the wisdom and positive energy they transmitted to me. I wish Ken all the best and much strength to deal with this loss.
We met twice. 2010 the first time in Marburg. 2019 in Vienna at the ÖAS-Congress in springtime. I loved her wonderful, energetic, and enthusiastic presentation. We stayed throughout the conference at Corina Ahlers’ home and had inspiring and joyful discussions in the evening with Mary, Ken, Sheila, and our hosts. What a loss – I’m just sad.
Dear Mary, dear Ken
Yes I can address this e-mail to both of you because in my mind Mary (whom I have never met) will remain alive. Myself, widowed since 2013, I encourage Ken to continue on the great job both of you have undertaken for changing views on ageing
Accept my thanks & hugs from Geneva , Switzerland
You will truly be missed.
I met Mary in 1969, Ken a year and a half earlier at Swarthmore, and have been privileged to be friends ever since. Living nearby until 2017 (when I moved to Seattle), in addition to offering supreme and constant friendship, and a warm welcome in their home, they have been treasured supporters of my art and own multiple pieces thereof.
Other than being a subscriber to the Positive Aging Newsletter, perhaps from its inception, my only other connection to the Taos Institute is that I introduced Diana Whitney, a former art student, and then a close-by neighbor in Philadelphia, to Mary and Ken.
I cherish my memories of Mary’s incomparable warmth, clarity of purpose, and her vast contributions to bringing the Positive Aging Newsletter to fruition. She remains forever in my heart.
I first met Mary when I became her PhD student at the Taos Institute. She invited me for a visit and we spent a weekend getting to know one another. I learned she was a fellow Minnesotan by birth as we shared stories of our lives. I cherished her warmth and care, her encouragement for coming back to do academic work later in life, and her unfailing support for me, during and after finishing my PhD. I will always remember an afternoon on a work weekend when she got us all into a non-competitive ball toss in the swimming pool. She was an energy shapeshifter, knowing just when to break into a serious group conversation to lighten things up. I loved that she would advise me on my research, and in the next breath let me know what to wear for dinner! She was a gatherer and connector of others, an advocate for the silenced voices. I will miss her always.