Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Michael James Thomas (1933-2010), an appreciation
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Volume 29, Issue 1
No one person alone could hope to achieve the task of presenting an overview of the total contribution made by Professor Michael James Thomas, not even the man himself! This editorial has been pieced together by three of us who knew him for many years: Stan Paliwoda, University of Strathclyde, who first met Michael while a postgraduate student; Keith Crosier, a colleague at Strathclyde who worked with Michael for more than 20 years on this very journal that Michael created; and Maciej Rydel, University of Gdansk, Poland, who remained a very solid friend and collaborator since spending a year with Michael at the University of Lancaster in 1974.
This journal which Michael founded had as its mission, to bring together the worlds of business and academe by inviting contributions that expanded beyond the traditional theoretical boundaries of marketing and demonstrated the application of marketing in action and the sharing of best practice.
Michael liked to use quotations in his writings and lectures and one that he used from Alice in Wonderland seems particularly apt at this point:
“Would you tell me which way I ought to go?” asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to go”, said the Cat. “I don’t much care”, said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go”, said the Cat – Lewis Carroll, “Alice in Wonderland”.
Michael Thomas, when he moved to the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, decided to purchase a one bedroom flat in the centre of Glasgow and a large house in Rothesay, Isle of Bute. The central Glasgow apartment was for convenience, being only a very short walk to the university. The house in Bute was for love of that island, its natural beauty wildlife and gave rise to a book on the island’s birds.
Rothesay provides an excellent resting place for a tireless man, where the birds that he much admired, respected, photographed and wrote about, fly ceaselessly above an island that is both remote to a degree but is also well connected. At the time of writing this editorial, the death was announced of the former Govan shipyard shop steward, Jimmy Reid, also a resident of Rothesay. Further along, there is the splendid stately home of Mount Stuart and its 300 acres of grounds, the home for more than seven centuries of the Stuart family, descended from Robert the Bruce. From rather humble beginnings, the Stuart family rose to become one of the wealthiest families in Britain, building a power base on coal in the nineteenth century, owning both the mines and the port of Cardiff which was in its day, the largest coal port in the world. The point is that Michael in choosing Rothesay, Isle of Bute, as home, was very much at the centre of a well connected community that few outside of it realised or could fully appreciate.
In this issue, we have invited 11 established marketing academics, led by Philip Kotler, to help us achieve this task of shedding some light on the contribution of Michael J. Thomas. We have Stephen Brown, University of Ulster; who, in his own inimitable and erudite style, comes closer than most to defining the quintessential Michael Thomas; Keith Crosier who worked with Michael on this journal for more than 20 years and so was familiar with many of his writings and editorials, hence the title: “By his Works ye shall know him”; Gerard Hastings, University of Stirling, on social marketing, forever an abiding passion of Michael’s; Helen Borland and Stan Paliwoda, on marketing responsibility in an era of climate change and the internationalisation of Chinese firms; Mike Saren, University of Leicester on “Marketing Empowerment and Exclusion in the Information Age”; Helen Woodruffe-Burton and Susan Wakenshaw, University of Cumbria, in an interpretive piece on revisiting experiential values of shopping. Taking a cue from Michael that theory building is more important than theory testing, they engaged in qualitative research as opposed to quantitative research, which places greater emphasis on the model than on the concept. Finally, Tomasz Czuba from the University of Gdansk, which Michael visited frequently, in a study of Polish brand identity.
As an endnote, we have included the Eider’s Tale, taken from a collection: Ornithological Tales, by Michael J. Thomas (2007), because it captures his power of observation and demonstrates also his light hearted sense of humour.
Let us finish with a quotation used previously by Michael, that of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of success:
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived; this is to have succeeded.
More information on the life and work of Michael Thomas is to be found on the memorial web site that has been created: http://michael-thomasobe.memory-of.com/
Stan Paliwoda, Keith Crosier, Maciej RydelGuest Editors