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Marian Pettibone

Kevin E. Eckelbarger KevinE at maine.edu
Tue Jan 6 14:27:37 EST 2004

Dear Colleagues:  

    I'd like to add to the Marian Pettibone memories I see flashing around the 
planet. Marian was a member of my Ph.D. committee at Northeastern University 
when I was a student of Pete "Doc" Riser (1969-73). Pete and Marian had been 
friends for a long time and he suggested that she be on my committee even 
though I was working on polychaete life histories (Nicolea zostericola) and 
not taxonomy, per se. She would travel to Nahant for my committee meetings and 
she invited me to work with her at the Smithsonian on two occasions. She 
intimidated me at first - she struck me as a stern grandmother with a short 
fuse - but over time I saw her warmth and humanity. When I worked with her at 
the Smithsonian she would buy me lunch in the SI cafeteria where we'd discuss 
polychaete biology endlessly.  She seemed quite determined to turn me into a 
taxonomist but she failed miserably in the end. She had strong opinions about 
everything and never hesitated to express them - including her opinions on the 
quality of work of other polychaetologists!  Her bluntness could occasionally 
be jarring. With Marian, you always knew how she felt about you because she 
wouldn't hesitate to tell you to your face - a rare trait these days. She once 
severely chastised another member of my graduate committee (a physiologist) 
who suggested that some of what I was doing for my dissertation seemed 
unimportant to him - for example, gathering basic life history information. 
Marian lectured him about our need to understand the complete organism in 
every aspect - its morphology, ecology, behavior AND physiology. As I recall 
the physiologist remained silent for the remainder of the committee meeting.  

     Marian was passionate about students taking their research and their 
careers seriously. When I called her to announce that I had accepted a 
position at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Inst. (Florida) in 1973 before I had 
completed my dissertation, she gave me a stern lecture about what a horrible 
decision I had just made!  She was convinced that I would take the job and 
never finish my Ph.D. and she made it clear that she was very disappointed. As 
I recall, Doc Riser and Trish Morse (another member of my committee) spoke to 
Marian and assured her that I would follow through. To be honest, I was too 
scared of Marian NOT to complete my dissertation so I did so a year later.    

     In subsequent years we corresponded about my work and she always 
encouraged me. Our correspondence ended over a decade ago but I will always 
remember her intense passion for polychaetes.  She loved what she did and she 
liked to inspire and encourage younger workers. Every time I write a new 
paper, I remember her lectures about clarity. I am proud to say that Marian 
left her stamp on me.  

Best wishes from Maine - Kevin

Kevin J. Eckelbarger, Ph.D.Director, Darling Marine Center
The University of Maine
193 Clark's Cove Road
Walpole, Me. USA 04573
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine Orono
Orono, Me. 04469 

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