Today I attended a celebration for the life of Mark Hines, a colleague from the Biology Department, most recently the Dean of the College of Sciences. I knew him only in passing, but his wife, Elaine Major, who has been the driving force behind the development of our Institutional Review Board (IRB) for the last 15 years is someone I work with frequently.
It was a memorable celebration for many reasons. The ballroom of the Inn and Conference Center was filled with people from across campus. Behind the podium, a wonderful montage of photographs from Mark and Elaine’s life rolled before our eyes. Children, grandchildren, in-laws and others shared memories of the pieces of life they had shared with Mark.
It gave me pause to think about two things:
1) How much our university (like many others) has changed and grown over the last ten plus years; and,
2) The massive growth and change in the IRB processes over the same period.
Universities Growing and Changing
I looked around the room and saw some familiar faces (admittedly more gray…and some limping), but also many, many new faces. University of Massachusetts Lowell is one of the fastest growing institutions of higher education in the United States (if our statistics are to be believed) and the proof is in the growing number of new faces.
As several speakers pointed out, Mark had been important to bringing new people to campus, faculty who are interested and eager, excited about their field and concerned about students. What a legacy!
Institutional Review Board Growth
Elaine Major has been the parent of the current IRB processes we now have in place. They are really a model of what things should be. I just helped two doctoral students navigate the process for their dissertation studies, and I was amazed with the care Elaine’s office took with each item. I remember the days when (at least for qualitative researchers) IRB was an afterthought. That’s no longer true, and much as I groan when I have to get my human subjects certification or fill out another form, I do think that we are conducting research with others in ways that are more safe for them and for us, more ethical, and more just.
Today, as I think about Elaine, her family, and their loss—I see them situated within an amazingly thick and rich context, of which both Elaine and Mark have contributed so much.