APRIL 2014 • Vol. 3, Issue 2

ISMRM Executive Director Shares Memories of Jennifer Olson

Roberta A. Kravitz

“Jennifer has been my constant, my colleague, my support, my teacher, my friend.”

In 1991 I was asked by the Executive Director of the SMRM to travel to Berlin and help out at the 1992 annual meeting. With my third child under two years of age, and all three children under seven years of age, the prospect of working only 12 hours a day for seven days in a row in a convention center without children seemed like a vacation. The added bonus was a hotel room to myself with a working remote for which I didn’t have to compete for rights! A month or so before leaving for Berlin, the only person I knew at the SMRM resigned, and I was left traveling to Berlin to work with a group of people I did not know. Yes, I was a bit nervous.

I met the SMRM staff at the airport. All of them looked at me suspiciously, but Jennifer Olson and Jane Tiemann welcomed me warmly, though both looked a little dubious about what I could bring to the SMRM family. However, I quickly became Jane and Jennifer’s “go-fer” - Xeroxing papers, deciphering notes, running from one end of the convention center on stilettos (which prompted lesson number one from Jennifer: Stilettos are not the shoes of choice for those in the meeting industry!).

At the end of each day, Jennifer and Jane would meet me in the staff office, where we would lock the door, all of us hoisting our mangled feet up on empty chairs, comparing how many bandages each of us were consuming (being the neophyte, I believe I won). Then Jennifer, who was the Society’s accountant at the time, would have me help her count the day’s registration receipts. While we worked, we talked about the day’s events, our children, our work, our belief systems. . . in other words, in just a very short period of time I felt I had known Jennifer for years. This is what I wanted to do – I wanted to work with Jennifer and I wanted to work with her at the SMRM.

In the 22 years since that time, we have never looked back. Jennifer and I have administered 22 meetings together - with Milan 23. We have traveled and worked side by side in Berlin, New York, San Francisco, Nice, Honolulu, Sydney, Glasgow, Kyoto, Stockholm, and at least ten other cities. We have progressed from WordPerfect and Lotus to Word, Excel and Google. We have spent days opening and cataloging abstracts and stipend applications to monitoring mere hours of electronic abstract and stipend submission. We have gone from 9 to 17 employees, from 2500 members to 9400 members. We have been through a merger. We have said good-bye to former employees. We have cried together over losses in our families. We have stood by each other in times of adversity, strategizing our solutions. We have joyously danced at concerts together, sharing our love of music. We have walked all over New York with sore feet looking for a bottle of wine and good food. We have shopped for lace curtains in Germany and art at New York’s MOMA gift store. And I would definitely be negligent if I did not mention trekking to Carnegie Deli in New York where we feasted on pastrami and cheese cake before packing out treats for family at home.

The ISMRM, with the SMRT, owe a lot to Jennifer for her 26 years of service to this organization, but I owe her so much more. Jennifer has been my constant, my colleague, my support, my teacher, my friend. Jim Morrison (of The Doors!) summed it up perfectly when he said, “A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” I think Jennifer knew him back in the ‘60s – at least I wouldn’t be surprised if she did since she knew everyone else! He was clearly writing about her.

I’m going to miss you here at the office, Jennifer. Enjoy the next chapter, be it in your beautiful garden, at Spirit Rock, or hiking Mt. Tam with your dog. And remember, I’ll save a seat for you at Bridge if you save one for me at Nicasio the next time Elvin plays!


My favorite photo of Jennifer! Vancouver 1997!

San Francisco 1994! Jennifer’s son, Aaron, who is now an engineer, is standing in front of her. He towers over her now.