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Saturday, October 10, 2015

我的S教授 Sara Little Turnbull

"The quality of life of a people dictates what they design, what they make.  It is a reflection of life itself."
____ Sara Little Turnbull (September 21, 1917 - September 4, 2015)

I raised my micron 0.1 to the north.  R.I.P, the mother of invention, the corporate America's secret weapon and the most endearing professor.

Laden with strands of pearls yet high in spirit, here she came.  No more than 5' and certainly well into her 80s, she held the podium of GSB like no one else could.  With one glance, both the MBA students and the engineering clan quieted down, then she spoke in the simplest language imparting a design wisdom through her anthropological approach, the why-why-why-why-how.

Sara mentored me at Stanford.  The IDMM project for the year was to design a wake-up devise.  Her method of teaching started with layers of questioning and followed by exploring possibilities together with her students.  My team of four(our team leader, Patrick was an Olympic swimmer!)created an electronic cube that in order to turn off the alarm a simple puzzle must be solved.

Sara often amused the crowd by declaring 'I work in bed(for daydreaming ideas :)'.  When I read an interview verbatim involving F words for a class project, she reminded me that a lady should refrain from profanity.  When I translated a rather difficult ancient Chinese prose for her research project, she responded with a handwritten sonnet of gratitude titled She Is Learned, She Is Intelligent, She Is A Lady.

Sara invited me often to her downtown Palo Alto apartment for tea and dinner parties.  A gourmet cook herself, she appeared like a mischievous magician behind the blue flame when she made chicken flambé.  For one of her gatherings, I attempted making the Nobu style miso marinated black cod.  To devise the operation sequence from keeping the ingredients fresh to working efficiently in her small kitchen required much brainstorming.  The effort paid off with her applaud in front of other guests - 'She who seeks orders creates elegant designs.'  Her words walked with me through crests of glory and vales of disappointment for years after graduation.

Thank you, Sara!  I will continue to carry your teaching and carry it in my heart.

Trinkets from Sara.  Artifacts she collected.

九月過得兵荒馬亂, 月初公司高層地震, 品牌的頭號對手動作頻頻, 我後知後覺, 正奇怪怎麼LinkdeIn信箱許多獵頭公司的詢問. 我的忠誠度並非對品牌, 而是於我自己, 對手的設計方向從不是我的那杯茶.  勞工節後人事命令班佈無新意, 我被指派擔當救火隊, 樂觀的說法是天將降大任於斯人也... 可廉頗老矣, 腦海浮現'炮灰'兩個字.  當晚翻來覆去失眠, 午夜忽聞簡訊已睏得睜不開眼查, 隔天起床看, 是M傳來紐約時報的悼念文章, 我們的S教授高齡安逝.  種種情事碰撞心頭, 頓感人生無趣, 你追我逐爭頭銜搶名號, 到頭來不過ㄧ杯淨土掩風流.


S教授懂人性, 懂世情, 懂商機, 懂進退, 懂她的門生, 她懂我. 我們年紀相差超過半世紀, 她從不倚老賣老, 尊重每個獨立的思想, 不停發掘新的角度觀察事物.  記得多年前設計雜誌Metropolis訪問S教授提到研究所頗有指標性課程的某項企劃案, 她囑咐訪問者必定要列出學生名字(我是其中之ㄧ), 覺得自己沾光, 她慧黠的說怎麼會?  你也是我的夥伴啊!  如此身教言教於我影響深遠, 工作十幾年大大小小發表會, 身為領隊的我總是將屬下設計師推向臺前接受掌聲, 絕不獨佔風頭.  她的真知灼見饒富幽默感, 諄諄教誨天之驕子們長的愈漂亮愈要培養見識和內涵, 當個有意思的人.  S教授亦有嚴厲時刻:  某次我與她有約, 卻誤估交通狀況遲到半小時, 她劈頭大罵ㄧ頓後實事求是繼續開會, 會終慈藹相詢:  你向來守時, 今天遲到, 要不要檢視自己內心是不是逃避著什麼?  S教授懂的溫柔, 過份犀利的懂可能會教當時渾沌的自己落荒而逃.

人生碰到危難有兩種原始回應:  fight or flight, 反擊或逃避.  年紀漸長我慢慢領悟多層次的含意, 盲目的反擊很可能在逃避問題核心, 而逃避大可是迂迴冷漠的反擊.  情緒不能沒有出口, 慾望該具備導向, 畢業多年來每碰到棘手難題, 我常自問自答, 如果是S教授會怎麼處理?  這當口踏足事業的臨界點, 不能再委屈求全.  分析問題原由, 規劃三年願景, 排列團隊哩程碑, 準備堂堂正正向總裁提出協議, 我要對得起自己.


Echo said...

紐約時報刊出的S教授半個世紀前設計的商品 還是很搶眼 timeless, 她喜歡配戴倒過來的胸針錶也很有意思 可以偷看時間又不致不禮貌 可以理解妳的 loss 不過Miss LK 也可以成為另一個 trail blazer

Miss LK said...

Pepperidge Farm的小金魚餅乾也是S教授的傑作 :)

ps. 我總算到泰姬瑪哈陵一遊,可惜人算不如天算,管理局不準遊客畫圖,虧我行前興沖沖將水彩畫紙裁得整整齊齊... 一氣之下改機票早一天溜去上海,我要大啖紅燒肉和滷蛋彌補此行遺憾 :p

teri said...

Your stories are always so engaging and beautiful.

thank you for sharing.

聚水藏風 said...


嗯,blogger mobile 好像留言有點問題。

Miss LK said...

Dear Teri,

Sorry about the delayed response! I just got back from a business trip to Asia. I went to SZ but not Dongguan... are you still there?

I miss your creative doll work immensely!

Miss LK said...


我十分幸運, 生命中遇見數位良師益友, S教授更像ㄧ位忘年之交, 也是同為女性的典範.

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