Guest article by Jaqueline Pels

Four colleagues were, at different stages, my role models: Hans Thorelli, Jag Sheth, Evert Gummesson and Rod Brodie. They all share four characteristics: the will to help others; the courage to move beyond conventional and mainstream thinking; the passion for their work and the capacity of team building. I’d like to share how I came to meet each of them and what they have taught me.

Back in the early 90s, I was living in Argentina. One day in the social e-newsletter ELMAR I read a post by Hans and wrote to him. To my huge surprise, he answered and we started an electronic relationship, his generosity (reading and commenting my work as well as suggesting further readings) was fundamental to my academic growth. A couple of years later at an AMS conference, after my presentation, an elderly person with two walking sticks come up to me and said: “Very interesting presentation Jaquie, I’m Hans“. He had not told me he would be attending so it took me a few seconds to realize that this physically restricted person was the energetic, funny, witty electronic friend and colleague. Hans taught me that there is no age, there are no restrictions other than those we, ourselves, impose on us.

I remember listening to Jag at an opening plenary session. Contrary to most presentations that are extremely focused and usually forward-looking, his talk was holistic and deeply grounded in history. These deep roots allowed Jag to predict what would take place with a broader scope and higher precision. Years later, everything that Jag had predicted came to be. It took me some years until I built the courage to talk to him, to my surprise he knew exactly who I was and was extremely kind and open. We have now collaborated in different projects and publications. Jag taught me that the measure of our forward-looking capacity is intimately associated with the breath and deepness of our sources.

At another conference, as it often happens, a few of us had agreed to meet in the lobby to go out for dinner. Of course, not everyone knew everyone else. At the appointed time, I go downstairs and the only other person was Evert, we look at each other and asked ourselves if we had misunderstood the meeting time. After a few minutes, it was clear that no one else was coming and Evert suggested we go for dinner. I was very intimidated but the conversation flowed harmoniously and interestingly. For the next 15 years, we have always found time to chat (face-to-face or by mail). To exchange views, to share where we stood and where we thought the discipline was heading and, more broadly, where we -individually- were standing. Evert taught me that if we are capable of seeing beyond the ‘academic’ status and see the person as an individual, we can develop enriching relationships that will nurture us in all the human dimensions.

At a conference, David Bejou, listening to my presentation said I needed to get in touch with Rod. As I did know him, David introduced us and Rod invited me to an event in Auckland. Though we did not know each other we soon discovered that David was right; we had many interests in common and, over time, we have co-authored many papers. Rod showed me, many years before the BRICs, Chindia or the Emerging Markets came into the radar of mainstream literature, that it was possible to make a contribution to knowledge from a small, faraway university. That there are no limits other than those we impose on ourselves.

In short, Hans, Jag, Evert and Rod, have told me that in the liquid modernity (Bauman, 2013), where being young, living fast and having tweeter seem to be the formula for success; the soul, the deep understanding of our roots and the eternal child-like curiosity are the core ingredients to wellbeing. Additionally, they showed me that there is no luck, there is no chance; life is full of ‘unexpected’ opportunities. People and situations come our way and it is up to us to avoid prejudices, to see beyond face-value and that life is about giving.

Finally, I would like to nominate Rod Brodie as next guest author of this series.

Jaqueline Pels
Directora Espacio Negocios Inclusivos (ENI Di Tella)
Universidad Torcuato Di Tella
Buenos Aires, Argentina







Bauman, Z. (2013). Liquid modernity. John Wiley & Sons.