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  • 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.

  • Dawn Dole says:

    I made this slide show of Mary and her love of Taos, all the people, events and activities over the years.

  • Tomas Ibañez says:

    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.

  • Jeff Hicks says:

    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.

  • Max Watanabe says:

    Great memory of Mary

    please enjoy!!

    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

    #1 (9min.)
    #2 (10min.)
    #3 (8min.)
    #4 (8min.)

  • 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.

  • Vanessa Guzmán says:

    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.

  • Myra Virgil says:

    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.

  • Rita de Cassia De souza says:

    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.

  • Eugene Epstein says:

    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

  • Pamela Brett-MacLean says:

    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?
    I did.
    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.

  • Hao WANG says:

    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.

  • Peter Whitehouse says:

    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.

  • Saúl Gutiérrez says:

    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.

  • Ole Løw says:

    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

  • Iris Maass says:

    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.

  • Tom Levold says:

    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.

  • Hans Peter Graf says:

    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

  • Don cox says:

    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.

  • Pedro Martins says:


    As I read through Sheila’s very important questions and concerns about the limits and potentials of our constructionist ideas in the face of global challenges, my whole body is filled with unease. I feel stuck.

    I am a 33 year-old clinical psychologist, but this feeling is not new to me. It takes me back to my youth, when I was struck by a John Mayer song, where he goes: “me and all my friends, we’re all misunderstood; they say we stand for nothing and there’s no way we ever could; now we see everything that’s going wrong with the world and those who lead it; we just feel like we don’t have the means to rise above and beat ‘em; so we keep waiting (waiting!) waiting on the world to change.”

    Sheila’s provocative questions make me ask: are we, as a social constructionist community, waiting on the world to change?

    Of course I do not think we are. Over the last several decades, we have witnessed the blossoming of many different practices which are directed to changing social relations at different levels. From the relationships that inhabit a single individual (i.e., different practices of therapy as social construction) to those relationships where individuals inhabit (i.e., families, local communities, and even governments), our efforts are multiple and widely diverse. I see this variety as our biggest resource, and reason for commend.

    When it comes to global issues, however, there is probably still a long way to go. I do not think we should see this as the way, but an invitation to finding ways.

    Personally, I usually like to look at my surroundings and ask myself: who can I connect with to make my professional efforts more impactful? Can I take these ideas to someone who had the means to broaden and strengthen them? I am thinking here about a big range of social actors, such as politicians, business people, news staff, digital influencers, etc., who might be impactful in ways that my single actions are very often not.

    I am also trying to be aware of how I can use my own privileges in the way of amplifying these connections and making them worth the while of others.

    And, while I am always inevitably left with a feeling of “this is not enough,” I try to take comfort in the fact that this is probably something anyone with a consciousness (including those who are working at a global level, say, at the UN, for instance) also feels at times…

    • Pedro, thanks for your thoughtful comments. My hope is/was not to infuse us all with discomfort (of the “there’s nothing I can do” sort)! Perhaps I’m looking more for a discomfort that calls us all to ask what more can we do. And, you have so nicely responded to that call. If we each just take one small step beyond our comfort zone — like reaching out to politicians, digital influencers, journalists, etc. — we might initiate a ripple of broader social transformation! Thanks for joining the conversation!

  • Greg Spiro says:

    Hello Sheila, In your rich tapestry you ask “is it possible to refrain from judgement of one who believes the color of one’s skin is surely linked to the degree of one’s humanity?” A few years ago I wrote a poem (below) titled “Non-judgement day: a proposal”. It sprang from these thoughts: practitioners in our fields have a committed regard for non-judgemental posture in our practice taking us on a road paved with opportunity and hazard. And secondly, perhaps with a bit of British irony, we need a secular version of Judgement Day (no disrespect towards its sacred context).

    As you imply we are depressingly at the mercy of people, forces and movements for whom ‘non-judgemental’ is an alien concept. Dictators, bullies and racists favour the rhetoric of belittlement and as in Ukraine, violation through violence. We are faced even in the UK, supposedly the mother of parliamentary democracy, with erosion of democratic principles and conventions even as our politicians rightly condemn Putin’s assault on freedom. I must admit to feeling a bit like a ranting teenager, freighted with dangereous thoughts paralysing action. I lack an impactful platform while watching many so-called leaders abuse theirs in a self-serving manner. But yes, as you suggest and Pedro endorses, there are many things we can do if we take power individually and collectively, designing practical initiatives as we go and constantly pushing beyond our expectations even amid disappointments.

    So the specific suggestion I propose, somewhat presumptuously, is that the Taos Institute might be the perfect forum to establish ‘Non-judgement day’. What does ‘non-judgemental’ mean for ourselves and our clients? How does it play out in practice? How do we reconcile this core value with our own opinions and indeed our judgements? The attached poem starts off with some warm and cuddly possibilities but culminates in a darker challenge: we have to find ways of engaging in dialogue with our adversaries. I wonder if there is any appetite to establish ‘Non-judgement day’ as a forum in which we could explore and roll out its possibiities?


    on this day we will swim
    in a sea of listening

    on this day we will celebrate
    description and dialogue

    on this day we will be charmed by
    diversity’s palate of minds and colours

    on this day we will roam in a place of difference
    and wonder at its power

    on this day we will make light
    of our biases and prejudices

    on this day we will be happy
    for those we thought we didn’t like

    and cherish those we love

    on this day we will savour our mistakes
    and learn from them

    on this day we will refrain from belittling cliche,
    and comparison

    on this day we will not slur or defame
    not betray or inflame

    on this day we will open ourselves up
    to intimate and universal empathy

    on this day we will talk with someone who will
    simply understand and we will simply be

    on this day we will choose
    not opinion but not knowing

    on this day we will break bread
    with those who would kill us

    and even those we would kill

    on this day we will forgive others and
    forgive ourselves

    ©copyright Greg Spiro London May 2018
    all rights reserved

  • Sheila McNamee says:

    Greg, it is so nice to hear from you! Your poem captures the spirit of my own reflections perfectly! I would like to think that we all know how to engage with “the other” in productive and respectful ways. Yet I think there is a divide with people, groups, and ideas that we do not come in direct contact with….those are the people and positions with which it is easy to judge, to scorn, to demonize. As I was reading your comment and your poem, I was reminded of the early work of the Milan Systemic team. In those days they talked of adopting a stance of neutrality. I think we all would agree today that neutrality (like objectivity) is impossible. No one speaks or acts from “nowhere.” However, one interesting idea the Milan team proposed was to have what they called a “linear orgy” when they were overwhelmed by their own judgement and opinions. The linear orgy was cathartic — a moment to let out all the judgement and negative opinions so that the group could then move forward toward collaboratively creating more generative understandings of the situation/person. Maybe this is something that would be useful for us all. Rather than act as if our judgment doesn’t exist, what if we write it down or speak it in an attempt to move beyond it? Could we then engage with “the other” with curiosity about our differences rather than the desire to persuade?

    I like the idea of establishing a Non-Judgment Day forum (and I think that, privately, this has been my hope in initiating this dialogue). Let’s see if others will join!

  • Greg Spiro says:

    Hi Sheila I like your reminiscence about the Milan systemic team. I suspect that many of us have daily linear orgies in front of the news. It reminds me of a practice recommended by a psychiatrist friend who occasionally refers clients to me for coaching. He encourages those clients saturated with anxiety to ring fence a limited period each day – a quarter of an hour or so – in which to indulge in rampant anxiety and then to try to move on less undermined by free floating anxiety over the rest of the day. This can sound a bit glib but I believe it helps some curb their anxiety and remain focussed. With judgement or judgementalism, I find it not so difficult to retain a neutral stance within a professional consultation although it does get tested from time to time. If I feel there might be a moment where airing judgement to a client might be constructive then I try to do it mindfully explaining why. An example might be to communicate my perception of an unhelpful belief expressed by the client. Even then I would tread carefully. However, the wider issue your original post addresses has more global terms of reference. Many of us see the planet on a suicide path and if we don’t rein ourselves in the consequences don’t bear thinking about. Something a non-judgement day forum might look at is building a calibrated system accommodating our opinions and judgements and the contexts for witholding or expressing. Do you think there
    might be some interest out there in the Taos world to pursue this?

  • Gita Baack says:

    Mary Gergen was an intellect and a consummate performer. I came here over 3 years since her passing to simply think about Mary. I often shared a quiet space with her in the back of the room after she had pulled off a hilarious and meaningful performative presentation with Ken. Mary, you are missed.
    Gita Arian Baack.

  • Gita Baack says:

    “The Inheritors: Moving Forward From Generational Trauma”

    “Poems of Angst and Awe”

    “Tangled Threads of Time”