INFORMS News: In Memoriam - Mary R. DeMelim (1930-2012)

Mary R. DeMelim

Mary R. DeMelim, a long-time executive director of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) and the only “non-scientist” to receive the organization’s Distinguished Service Award, died Sept. 21 while fighting cancer. She was 82.

Mrs. DeMelim served as executive director of TIMS from 1968 until 1995, when the Institute merged with the Operations Research Society of America (ORSA) to create INFORMS. Following the merger, she continued to work for several years as a consultant to the INFORMS College on the Practice of Management Sciences.

As executive director of TIMS, Mrs. DeMelim oversaw the daily operation of its business office in Rhode Island, as well as managing the publication and distribution of several scientific journals. In addition, she was responsible for planning and running the organization’s national and international meetings. This part of her job gave Mrs. DeMelim and her husband John the opportunity to travel the world.

“As executive director, Mary was a tough task master, a mentor and a perfectionist,” said Julie Eldridge, a longtime friend and staff colleague of Mrs. DeMelim at TIMS. “A project could always be improved upon – sometimes many times – and most often she was right.

“We worked hard, we learned from her, and we always had fun,” Eldridge continued. “Under Mary’s direction, TIMS grew from an organization with a part-time executive director to a thriving association with 15 employees. In 1994, TIMS recognized her efforts by awarding her the Distinguished Service Medal. Mary was the first and only ‘civilian’ to receive the medal, which was awarded for recognition of distinguished service to TIMS.”

Born in 1930, Mrs. DeMelim was the youngest girl in a family that included her four strong-minded sisters and two brothers. Her honeymoon in Bermuda in 1952 marked the beginning of a 60-year marriage to John and the spark of a lifelong love of travel and a fascination with other cultures and peoples of the world.

Mary and John DeMelim’s travels took them to many of the world’s top tourist attractions, but their real interest was in the places less traveled, from a canoe trip up the Sepik River in New Guinea to a camel trip to a desert oasis along the old Silk Road. Traveling for them was seeing and experiencing places as the locals did, from a stay in an Eastern-style hotel in Japan in 1975 to a camping trip across Mali in West Africa by Land Rover.

Mrs. DeMelim was also an accomplished artist, active in the art jewelry movement in the early 1960s while working with renowned jeweler Joseph Showenfelt.

A resident of Greenville, R.I., at the time of her passing, Mrs. DeMelim is remembered by her family as a loving wife, a caring and dedicated mother and “the best mother-in-law anyone could have.”

Mrs. DeMelim is survived by her husband John, sons John and David, daughters-in law Pam and Jeanne and five grandchildren.

Letter to the EditorRemembering Mary

It’s so sad to hear of Mary’s passing.

We first met about 30 years ago when I joined the Management Science Roundtable, then a new subdivision of TIMS. I soon met Mary and quickly became aware of her prodigious knowledge of the entirety of TIMS operation, and the boundless energies she poured into all facets of the Institute.

She and her staff kept TIMS on track through changing times and changing regimes, and she always seemed to hold the welfare of all involved close to her heart. Mary was always helpful, courteous and kind. She knew well the protocols and policies of the organization, and gladly aided any and all through tasks and challenges of every description. Additionally, Mary was a charming and soft-spoken person who helped to calm the waters of organizational drama. This continued through the sometimes trying merger and transition into INFORMS, and beyond.

It was a genuine privilege to know Mary, to work with her over many years, and to enjoy her generous friendship. It was also a privilege to meet and enjoy the company of her husband John, a true gentleman with a friendly manner and a ready smile.

It’s certain that Mary will be sorely missed by many, many people who met and worked with her over the years, in addition to other friends and family. Count me as one of that fortunate group. Mary will stick in my memory as one of those very special people who come along only not often enough in a lifetime.

Burnell A. Brown Jr.
Drexel Hill, Pa.
Burnell Brown is a longtime member of INFORMS and its predecessor, TIMS.