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We Honor Pamela Hartigan

August 15, 2016

By Sally Osberg

My dear colleagues, friends, and fellow travelers,

I write to let you know that we lost our beloved Pamela Hartigan on August 12th, valiant to the end, but as she wished: together with her husband, Martin, and family, at her home in France. As some of you are aware, Pamela had been battling cancer, so while the news was not unexpected, it still comes as a devastating blow to all of us who so loved and admired her.

Together with you, the extended Skoll family, we celebrate the life of a woman we knew to be utterly remarkable, a tireless champion for social entrepreneurship whose mark on this emergent body of work cannot be overstated.

Throughout her career, Pamela was steadfast in dedicating her life to making a difference in this world. To her work in public health with the WHO, her founding executive role for the Schwab Foundation, her co-founding role for Volans Ventures, and ultimately, her brilliant leadership of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Pamela brought immense gifts: relentless energy, a formidable mind, and a radiant spirit that infused everything she did with life and meaning.

At the Skoll Foundation, we feel immensely fortunate to have partnered so closely with Pamela over the years. It was a privilege for us to support her co-authorship with John Elkington (whose inspired tribute to Pamela can be seen here) of The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World and help make possible the distribution of that terrific book at Davos; to have reaped the benefits of her always innovative and vital contributions to each year’s Skoll World Forum; and most of all—to have seen her thrive as Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, a role she relished and which spoke to her immense talents as a leader, a thinker, a mentor and a provocateur.

Over her eight years with the Skoll Centre, Pamela didn’t only touch thousands of students, she transformed their thinking and shaped their life’s decisions profoundly. Today, those thousands of women and men believe they can change the world, and they are hard at it—in every corner of the planet, joining legions of social entrepreneurs whose work she supported through the Schwab Foundation, her partnership with us over nearly two decades, and through the Skoll Centre.

There is more to say, and so much to remember about the woman we cherished. Both the Skoll Centre and the Foundation are mounting on-line tributes, and of course, we will find ways to honor Pamela in Oxford. For now, though, George Bernard Shaw’s memorable words seem right:

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

As we grieve for Pamela’s loss, I believe we will all find ways to keep that torch burning. Having passed it on, she is counting on us—to bring light where there is darkness, hope in the face of despair, and determination as spirits falter.

With full hearts,

Sally and the Skoll Foundation family

 

P.S. For those of you who would like to share memories, thoughts, wishes, or reflections, Pamela’s family has set up a memorial page.

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