CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Dr Su Olsson
Dr Su Olsson1942-2005Member of the Editorial Board of Women in Management Review and Senior Lecturer, Department of Communication and Journalism, Massey University, New Zealand
Sudden death is always hard to accept and the friends and colleagues of Su Olsson were disbelieving when her trip to the Academy of Management conference this year, which was to be followed by a week's holiday in the Hawaiian sunshine, turned into an immediate admission to intensive care at the Straub Clinic soon after she arrived. Her gallstone was removed, but she had necretising pancreatitis which she fought for a month in Hawaii remaining on the ventilator surrounded by high-tech equipment throughout, just briefly gaining sufficient strength to communicate by writing on her hand and demanding to come home. She was flown back to New Zealand but died 2 days later on September the 10th. She is hugely missed by everyone who benefited from her warm and generous spirit.
Su Olsson's connection with Massey University began when she was working as a busy primary school teacher and studying as a distance student gave her the chance to explore her love of literature. Her study of literature culminated in her PhD for her thesis on those novels written in English by Nabokov, the Russian writer. By this time she was also an assistant lecturer in the English Department at Massey University. When she came to the end of her contract in the English Department, she moved to work in the Business Faculty's Writing Centre, later becoming a lecturer in Communication in 1989.
Her record of study at Massey, both as an internal and an extramural student showed that she was a high achiever. She gained a BA Hons, First Class, an MA, and a PhD in English. Yet her approach to teaching was very student-centred and she was patient and encouraging of students of all levels and abilities. While at first many of her energies went into serving the needs of students in the 200-level business communication paper, the largest in the Department, Su did not neglect her creative side and kept writing poetry and short stories. An outstanding early success for Su was the 1990 award of the QUII Arts Council's Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary which permitted her to spend 6 months full time in 1991 on creative writing.
Typically, however, Su was happy to demonstrate her multi-tasking abilities, and at about that time the then Head of the Graduate School of Business, Professor Devlin, commented on her assessment of student research, “I cannot recall when I last received such an excellent report”. This professionalism and care to ensure that students received the best possible feedback were characteristic of Su. Her unstinting work on behalf of others was further recognised by the award as “New Zealand Reviewer of the Year” by the Writers, Publishers and Booksellers Committee of the Auckland University Press. She continued to demonstrate her eclectic interests in her ongoing publication of poetry; contribution of chapters in business communication texts; and the editing of both creative writing and a groundbreaking book about women in organisational life, The Gender Factor: Women in NZ Organisations, Dunmore Press, 1992.
Her commitment to the advancement of women in organisational life was further illustrated by her development of the paper “Gender Issues in Organisations”. Of this, one student, herself a staff member at another University, wrote to the Dean to say that enrolling in this paper was the best decision she had made in her years of extramural Massey study – “although this was a very demanding paper, it was well organised – the students knew exactly what they had to study and where they had to be each week in order to keep up with the work expected”. The student went on to describe how Su was both impartial and open in her marking of essays and in her responsiveness to the students' needs. These kinds of comments were typical of student reaction to Su's work.
Su was also an enthusiast for Women in Management Review, publishing much of her own work in the journal and encouraging others to do so too. For the last 2 years she has served on the editorial board sharing the role of book reviews editor with me. She also held the post of Director of the Centre for Women and Leadership at Massey University and had worked on a large research project documenting women's experiences of management and their strategies for survival in unfriendly organisational cultures. At her funeral I spoke on behalf of her friends and colleagues and made the point that, at a time when many organisations, including universities are becoming more competitive and individualistic, Su spent much of her time helping others to write and publish to improve their writing confidence and their publishing records. We miss her warmth, her unpretentious intellect and her joy in living. She had the knack of finding the best in you and helping you to be true to that best. Maori believe that those who die become stars in the sky. So now, I look for the brightest star to feel Su's spirit leading the way forward.
Marianne TremaineDepartment of Communication and Journalism, Massey University, New Zealand