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  • Helen Ingram, Mentor and Colleague:An Introduction to the Festschrift
  • Margaret O. Wilder (bio)

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Helen Ingram and her husband, David Laird.

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Many people stand in awe of Helen Ingram: her intellectual firepower, her incisive analytical capacities, her ability to derive exciting theoretical insights from apparently bland environmental policies and processes. This awe is much deserved. As this special festschrift double issue of Journal of the Southwest attests, Helen not only has been a scholar in her own right for over 50 years but has also served as a mentor for numerous junior colleagues in multiple disciplines, many of whom have now themselves reached important pinnacles in their professions and, in turn, have passed on some of Helen's intellectual genes to newer generations of environmental researchers.

Through her own research and publishing, and her mentorship of academics both in the United States and internationally, Helen has left her imprimatur on transdisciplinary environmental policy studies. Her major contribution has been to guide water and environmental policy in the direction of greater equity for marginalized peoples, communities, epistemologies, and cultures. She has made sure that we do not forget there are diverse groups who must have a seat at the table. In this issue, we celebrate Helen Ingram's transformational impact on regional and global water policy studies.

My journey with Helen began in 1984, when I was a master's student at the University of Chicago (in what is now the Harris School for Public Policy Studies). I was a young woman who grew up in urban northern Indiana, living in a region that was then turning from a place of thriving industry to the Rust Belt. I had lived in Mexico as an undergraduate for a year and spoke Spanish, and I had a vague idea that I could bring my Mexico and policy interests together by studying water policy in the Southwest borderlands. My husband hailed from a family with roots in Arizona Territory and our plan was to build our lives in Tucson. I was [End Page 2] enrolled in a water resources class taught by then assistant professor Jim Wescoat, working on a research paper about the Central Arizona Project (CAP). And I came across a citation of an article by Helen Ingram that was critical of the CAP. At that time, we were still a few years' shy of full-tilt use of email or even faxing, so I wrote an old-fashioned letter to Professor Ingram at the University of Arizona to ask for a copy of her paper. Imagine my surprise when Helen wrote me back, sending her paper and encouraging me to stay in touch.

By "stay in touch," I doubt if she meant I should call her while on her honeymoon, but that is what I did when I was in Tucson for a summer internship. Helen was kind enough to meet me for lunch on a scalding July day, one week after she had married the wonderful W. David Laird, University of Arizona librarian (a position that is now known as the dean of Libraries).

From that point on, Helen and I did stay in touch, and she encouraged me many years later when, at the age of 35, the mother of one child, and the assistant dean of a college at the University of Arizona (UA), I decided to enter doctoral studies in geography. Seven years later, now as the mother of two children, and as an associate dean, I finished my Ph.D. and ultimately was offered a full-time faculty position at the UA.

Throughout three decades, I have seen Helen in multiple contexts and gotten to know and admire more facets of her character. Helen is a person of petite physical stature yet she has an outsize presence; I have seen small crowds part at international conferences when she entered the room, then circle around her to share ideas or compliment her work. Helen is worth listening to, quick with a sharp wit and wry perspective. She couples brilliance with being eminently prepared, and thus is capable of advancing compelling critiques of accepted truths where other scholars...


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