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FNR Remembers Marlene Mann

The heart and soul of Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources.

The face of the department.

Supplier of kind words and chocolate.

The heart and soul of Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources.

The face of the department.

Supplier of kind words and chocolate.

A pleasure to work with.

Dedicated, positive, professional, genuine.

Those are just a few of the words used by her colleagues and friends to describe Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) lead administrative assistant Marlene Mann.


Mann made an impact on many people at Purdue and in the Greater Lafayette community until her passing on June 10, 2021. The Lafayette native graduated from Benton Central High School in 1975 and began a nearly 45-year career at Purdue University in February of 1976. She worked in several departments, including psychological sciences, life sciences, and the Office of the Provost. Mann spent the last 12 years as an administrative assistant in Purdue FNR, after being hired by then department head Dr. Rob Swihart in October 2009.

“I shared an office in Pfendler Hall with Marlene for seven years,” Swihart said. “She saw my best and worst, and never passed judgment. She was hard working, thoughtful, and loyal, and made herself indispensable in innumerable ways. As our relationship grew, we shared our frustrations, and our hopes and dreams. I will cherish her friendship forever.”

Current department head Dr. Bob Wagner echoed Swihart’s sentiments of Mann’s multi-faceted impact.

“Marlene not only made it possible for me to do my job as department head, but she served as the communications hub for most all aspects of the department,” Wagner said. “Marlene was always available to help people in the department and loved a quick chat about life in general with those that visited our office. She always brought a cheery disposition and a kind ear to all FNR faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders. We shared a similar sense of humor about the challenges of life and work, which I miss very much. She is sorely missed by all in FNR.”

Dr. Eva Haviarova recalled Mann’s interest in her life outside of work.

“I will miss our conversations about books and movies, talking about beloved pets and the challenge of how to maintain our gardens and older homes,” Haviarova said. “For many of us, losing Marlene means also losing the essential connection between the job and real life. May our sadness pass with the best of all memories for someone so loving and caring.”

Forest products lab manager Dan Bollock also shared about small but memorable conversations with Mann.

“Marlene liked to talk and was interested in how you were doing, often asking ‘what is happening in your world?’’’ Bollock said. “When asked how she was doing, her reply was ‘just peachy,’ sometimes it was genuine and sometimes it was with a hint of sarcasm. She was helpful and kind and will certainly be missed.”

Mann’s unselfish nature and devotion to the Forestry and Natural Resources department was exemplified in many ways. She would frequently arrive at work early to make sure coffee was made, water was ready and rooms were set up for 8 a.m. meetings, continuing building deputy duties she had taken on early in her career although they were no longer part of her job description. She also stayed after work hours to clean up after late meetings so rooms would be ready for the next day.

“Marlene always had the best interest of FNR at heart,” said Theresa Baker, business assistant-lead in FNR. “Any guest who came in the main office was always met with cheer, a warm smile and a bottle of water. She wouldn’t hesitate to escort someone to another office or building no matter how she felt. She had a card for every occasion ready for the department to sign and loved celebrating everyone’s life events. She always had open ears and an open heart for anyone who wanted to talk. Her smile, willingness to help others and cheerful greetings, even the sarcastic ones, will be greatly missed by anyone who knew her. We are all blessed to have been able to call Marlene a friend and colleague.”

Mann made sure faculty and staff members had whatever they needed in order to succeed, whether that meant making a color printer or other needed office items available well before work hours for early classes or labs, or providing donuts or baked goods for anyone who stopped by the office.

“Marlene was one of the most thoughtful, loving, and amazing women I have had the pleasure of knowing,” said Christine Hofmeyer, assistant director of the office of continuing education and professional development in the Purdue College of Pharmacy. “She noticed everything about people and the environment around her. She did her part to try to make others feel welcomed and comfortable and wholeheartedly valued every relationship. She was a straight shooter, so I could always count on hearing the truth from her and trusted her loyalty and friendship. There are people who either fill or drain your emotional pitcher. After spending time with Marlene, I always felt as if my pitcher was spilling over with the moments and memories of a great time.”

Mann aimed to ensure all who interacted with Purdue FNR had a positive experience. She was known for her listening skills and genuine nature as well as her exacting workplace standards and efficiency.

“Marlene was a genuine person,” Professor Emeritus Rick Meilan said. “She wasn’t pretentious in the slightest and she never had any ulterior motives. She was the real deal. No matter how busy she was, she always had time to listen to people and the reason you knew she was listening and genuinely concerned about your well-being is because she remembered it. The next time she would see you, she would ask you about it. She always put other people’s well-being and happiness ahead of her own and doing things for other people brought her great joy. She was a good friend who looked out for me and always wanted me to feel accepted and appreciated. My wife says Marlene was like the older sister I never had.”

Faculty support administrative assistant Telaina Minnicus shared about the impact Mann had on her personally and professionally.

“Though I only had the pleasure of working with Marlene for a few short years, I was able to grow so much professionally through her supervision,” Minnicus said. “Marlene never missed a chance to let me sign up for professional development activities no matter how much more work it created for her. I will miss being able to sit in the chair in her office and vent about various things while enjoying an Andes Mint. Marlene knew of the adventures I took my nieces and nephews on each year and she truly cared and was eager to hear each time what we would be up to for birthday and Christmas celebrations. She always told me she wished she had an aunt like me. Marlene will be truly missed by all who had the pleasure of working with her or for her.”

Mann preferred to celebrate others rather than herself and chose to keep her own life events quiet and to herself. In fact, she never worked on her birthday. Her personal celebrations usually included a trip to Indianapolis to catch a movie, go shopping or collect books, especially cook books and historical novels.

Outside of work, Mann enjoyed nature, going shopping, eating at her favorite restaurants, walking around her neighborhood, visiting her neighbor Anne and spending time with her best friend Julie Smith.

Mann loved animals, especially her dog Daisy, who preceded her in death, and her cat Bailey. She also had a soft spot for neighborhood cats, for whom she placed extra food on the patio of her home.

“When I met Marlene in 1980 little did I know that I had hit the friendship lottery,” Smith said. “She quickly became the yin to my yang. We’ve shared many things during our 40-plus years of daily conversations and weekly luncheons. I loved how Marlene thought a cookie or piece of candy with a smile could solve anything. I will dearly miss my mentor, partner in crime and best friend. I’m sure she and Daisy are having a great reunion.”

Mann enjoyed going to the beach, especially in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She even considered moving to the warmer temperatures in South Carolina or Florida for her retirement years.

Mann cherished time with her family and enjoyed her time as Aunt Marlene, cooking, baking and planning special outings to spend time with her nieces and nephews to catch up on their lives.

There is no question that Marlene Mann’s impact on Purdue FNR, the Purdue community as a whole and all who knew her will be felt for many years to come. Her name, face and nature became synonymous with the family atmosphere of FNR and her positivity and caring nature will live on in all those who knew her.

A celebration of life will take place later in the summer or early fall. A full obituary is available online and memories and condolences can be shared on this tribute wall.

Marlene Mann

Nov. 15, 1956 – June 10, 2021

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