Like so many organizations, PLoS owes its existence and success in large part to the generosity and foresight of Marion Sandler, who together with her husband Herb at the Sandler Foundation, invested in PLoS during our earliest years. She died on Friday, June 1st 2012 at the age of 81, and was still engaged in our progress right up until the end of her life.
I was recommended by the Sandler’s for the role of PLoS CEO and knew Marion personally, having worked for her over about seven years in a previous role. Like many executives, she was tough and tenacious. But even during our more challenging interactions, you sensed her penetrating intelligence, her drive to improve your work, to make you a better manager. “I don’t ‘do’ compromise,” she warned me once, fixing me with an intense look. I was there for more than one meeting in which a hapless presenter underestimated the tiny figure, seemingly distracted–often knitting. Suddenly, Marion would look up from her clattering needles and fire a series of questions that revealed not only that she had been listening all along, but often that she grasped the subject better than did the presenter. Those were the best kind of meetings: amusing and instructive!
An equally accomplished editor, Marion set upon everything that came her way: annual reports (which she designed herself for many years), web page copy, even individual customer letters. Many times I looked in despair at a sea of red-penciled copy, but always, the next draft was stronger, clearer, more persuasive. And there would almost certainly be more than one draft. A colleague once ducked his head into her office, and waving a piece of paper, said “Mrs. Sandler, do you want to see this again?” To which she replied: “Not if you don’t want to change it again.”
Not content to be just a top flight business executive, Marion, along with her husband Herb, took a long term view of the world and its problems. They shrewdly invested in medical research, progressive politics, investigative journalism, and programs for the downtrodden and disadvantaged. Marion was a singular, lavishly gifted person who used those gifts to make the world a better place.
I was honored to be her friend and I will miss her a lot.