Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Marian Stankovich

Professor of Chemistry
University of Minnesota

Mr. Bonzo was surprised by the number of people, from all over the world, who recently sought information about Marian. An article about her appeared in the Minnesota Daily today:

Marian Stankovich, chemistry professor,
passed away June 19
She was 59 years old.

By Mitch Anderson

Author and poet Charles Bukowski once wrote, "You begin saving the world by saving one person at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics." Perhaps no one's life embodied this message quite like Marian Stankovich's.

Stankovich, a professor and graduate adviser in the department of chemistry for 26 years, thrived during a period in which few women had careers in science.

She died unexpectedly from heart complications June 19 in her University office. She was 59.

"Marian was a really excellent mentor for female scientists," said Gina Mancini-Samuelson, a former advisee of Stankovich's who now heads the chemistry department at the College of St. Catherine.

"She really was an advocate for women in science when it was a very difficult time," Mancini-Samuelson said.

Stankovich came to the University in 1981, during a tumultuous time in its history. The University had just settled a class-action lawsuit to improve the climate for women faculty.

"She struggled in those early years against some with ingrained antipathy to the role of women in a chemistry department," said Peter Carr, a chemistry professor who worked with Stankovich for more than 25 years. "Marian persevered due to her love of science, her courage, persistence, single-mindedness and very hard work."

In the wake of the lawsuit, she became the first woman tenured in the Department of Chemistry, Carr said.

In her research, Stankovich sought an understanding of the mechanisms of electrical energy transfer in biological systems and focused on this research area through her entire career.

Fred Hawkridge, her scientific "competitor" and friend, said he and others doing bioenergetics studies were envious of her results.

"Everyone trusts her work," Hawkridge said. "She worked hard, on hard samples to make hard measurements and she was the best at it."

Born and raised in Houston, Stankovich made it clear she was proud of being a Texan and a former University of Texas Longhorn alumna. Like fellow Texan Lyndon B. Johnson, whom she idolized, Stankovich was committed to eliminating poverty and racial injustice.

Due to differences in opinion of the role of women in the Catholic Church, Stankovich broke away from the denomination she was raised in, but remained a devoted Christian nonetheless.

Stankovich facilitated adult classes at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and volunteered at the Dorothy Day Center, which provides meals and services for the homeless.

In 1970, she received her bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, and earned her doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Texas-Austin in 1975.

After graduating, Stankovich performed postdoctoral work at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and briefly served as an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst before coming to Minnesota.

Carr and Mancini-Samuelson remember Stankovich as a hardworking scientist and devoted mentor with an affinity for chocolate Dove bars and "Star Trek."

Stankovich took great interest in the lives of her graduate students and stayed in touch with many of them long after graduation. She sent Christmas cards every year and even attended the funeral when Mancini-Samuelson's father died.

"She was always the one who knew what everyone was doing," Mancini-Samuelson said. "Graduate students went on to positions all over the U.S. and (the) world and she kept everyone in touch with each other."

A memorial service was held for Stankovich June 26 at St. Matthew's Church.

She is survived by her brother, Joseph Stankovich; sister-in-law, Patrizia Stankovich; and niece, Emily Stankovich, all living in Houston.

"Her personality didn't match with the person you'd think would be out there promoting women in science," Mancini-Samuelson said. "She did it one student at a time. Instead of making big splashes, she made sure each of us was taken care of and then could go on and take care of what we needed to do."