Dr Karen Mann was an amazing woman who left us far too soon. She attended Edgehill from 1948-1958; served on the KES Board of Governors and was the Chair of the Inglis Education Foundation. She passed away on November 28th, 2016 .
Below is a small excerpt from the poignant eulogy her son, Dr. Geoff Mann, gave at her funeral.
Little did we know it at the time, but our mom was in fact a superhero. It was her secret identity. The unobtrusive names she went by in everyday life -- Karen, Mom, Dr. Mann, Nan -- these just threw us off the trail. Now we know.
The first clues we had were subtle: Who but a superhero could remember the birthday of every single person she ever met? And their children.
Who else could write so perfectly neatly, and yet so microscopically small?
Think about it a little more, and we should be embarrassed we didn't figure it out earlier.
For example, everyone who knows her can now recognize she had the power to stretch time, so she could fit three times as much into a day as the rest of us. Who but a superhero could, all in one day, write a book chapter, walk the dog, sit in on three meetings, make a flat of raspberry jam, play piano at choir rehearsal, teach a seminar, call on two friends, send 50 emails, and knit a sweater all while the apple tart and two kinds of lasagna (veggie and meat) were cooking for a dinner party in the evening?
No one but a superhero could do that.
Everyone who knows her knows her memory was superhuman. Who but a superhero could, in one day, remember to edit the 5th draft of the research proposal, bring a colleague flowers on their anniversary, review three journal articles for the editorial board, schedule the next meeting in Boston, buy dish detergent (we're almost out), talk to the bank, call each of her children, and send off that birthday card to her great- nephew in Wales just the right number of days beforehand so it arrives on the exact day?
And then get on a red-eye to Malaysia.
No one but a superhero could do that.
And yet I worry that somehow, talking about Mom on these terms might diminish her amazingness, because it might make her extraordinariness less extraordinary, as if she was gifted and we aren't, so we couldn't do what she did, and we couldn't be what she was. Speaking only for myself, I often think that's true.
But if it's true, I now realize, it's not because she was endowed with powers most of us don't have. She really was extraordinary, but it's not because of that. It's because she made so amazingly much of the same ordinariness we all share. She worked, and she worked very hard, sometimes it seemed to us maybe too hard. She liked to go for walks or sit on a deck with a drink in the sunshine. She loved a lot of people a whole lot, and she thought about them all the time. She could hardly contain her joy in h
er family, especially Ian, Peter, Gillian and I, and her grandchildren. She made new friends all the time, but was always bound closely to her oldest and best friends.
Like everyone else, sometimes she got scared, or embarrassed by her mistakes, or looked back on the past with some regret. And like all of us, maybe more than a lot of us, she worried, almost always about the people she loved. She hurt when they hurt, and she fretted ceaselessly when things went sideways for them.
Which is all to say that her life had the same crazy mix of everything that ours has in it.
What makes her extraordinary then is only partly how much she accomplished in her super-hero like packed days, with her remarkable memory and intellect. But in the end that's not really it. It's ultimately more about how many people and places she touched so deeply while living out those days.
Dr. Karen Mann's family has honoured Karen by creating "The Karen Mann Young Woman of Courage Scholarship." We feel privileged to have a scholarship prize carry her name.
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This article was originally printed in the Alumni magazine, read more alumni stories here: https://bbk12e1-cdn.