MARY FRAN the VISIONARY

The following comments were taken from a tribute made by Thomas Brennan, a close friend of Mary Fran and co-founder of the Green Garage, Detroit, Michigan. 

“I’ve been a lifelong student of leadership and in my former career I had the chance to meet and work with leaders from government, education, and business from around the world. The challenges of the 21st century are calling for a new generation of leadership and Mary was prepared for these challenges and was one of our truly great 21st century leaders.

SHE WAS EMPOWERING
because she helped us see that the real power is within each of us. Early on she bought us a copy of Margaret Wheatley’s “Turning to One Another” which talked about what Mary believed…that community-based conversations was the way to transformative change. Well it works! Community –based conversations is now the essential way that we (at Green Garage) move forward on everything … creating sustainable communities, designs, buildings and businesses. She loved to see people empowered. At the end of a community conversation she’d do her great smiling, nodding look … raise her eyebrows and say “Oh really good energy.”

SHE WAS ACCOUNTABLE
most importantly to herself. One day it dawned on me the stunning beauty of her self-accountability. In her decisions and actions she held herself accountable for:

  • growing community
  • growing family
  • growing peace
  • growing a healthy relationship with the earth
  • growing a spiritual awareness and connectedness , and
  • growing stewardship of the resources she was entrusted with.

HER LEADERSHIP WAS LIGHT
always hope-filled and gentle, the strong gentle. I remember calling Mary when we were envisioning the Green Garage project being located in Ann Arbor. She was so excited that we’d be moving forward with the project and at near the end of the conversation she said “Well that sounds really wonderful…silence…Oh, I was just wondering how a project like that might influence Detroit’s future”…silence. Well, the Green Garage is in Detroit and thriving due to Mary’s suggestion.

SHE VALUED HUMOR AND LAUGHTER
when working in a group she always made room for the court jesters in case we took ourselves or the situation too serious. Her easy and free laughter made her a co-conspirator to silliness. She told me how conducting IHM meetings in her room in her bathrobe with a bald head were such great ice breakers to begin a challenging meeting.

THE RIPPLE OF HER LEADERSHIP HAS CHANGED PEOPLES LIVES

  • what they dream
  • what they value
  • what they feel capable of doing
  • and what they decide to do

I know this because she has changed my life and the lives of people I live and work with everyday.”

We invite you to join in the dialogue.  Please share your memories as well as your reactions to the comments posted here.  Go to the Comments page.  We would love to hear from you.