In Memoriam: Tracie Gibson, College of Natural Sciences

Tracie Gibson
Tracie Gibson

Tracie Gibson, director of the College of Natural Sciences office of student success and diversity has died.

Gibson began working at the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) in 2017. Trained as a biologist, Gibson received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and master’s and Ph.D. degrees in cell biology from Purdue University. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin and the Salk Institute before joining the faculty at the University of Texas - Permian Basin and later at the University of Missouri - Columbia. Tracie won multiple awards and honors for outstanding teaching, mentoring and classroom innovation. She was a member of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and served on the ASCB Minority Affairs and Education Committees. Tracie valued the power of mentorship in guiding her own career success and was dedicated to creating similar opportunities to help students as they built their own careers.

In an email to the CNS community, Dean Tricia Serio wrote:

“As director of the CNS office of student success and diversity, Tracie brought her warm and welcoming spirit to everything she approached. She was instrumental in establishing now-flourishing programs to support success for our students, and her mission was to ensure that every student felt that they belonged and could realize their dreams at the university. Her passion for empowering new scientists was matched only by her natural energy and inclusive spirit. Tracie never accepted ‘no’ for an answer when advocating for our students; she simply found another way to raise us all up.

Tracie was especially excited to connect students with research opportunities. She said, “it was participation in undergraduate research that ignited my science passion and allowed me to envision a future as a scientist.” Tracie excelled at assembling and inspiring cross-campus partnerships and building leadership teams to promote inclusive excellence at UMass. She initiated and directed several academic programs for students including BioPioneers, a living and learning community for first generation life science students, the Lee Science Impact Program, a summer and academic-year research experience, and both the Forsythe-Grange and the Transfer Student Alliance peer mentoring programs. She served as director of the UMass NSF-funded LSAMP program and was a member of the UMass HHMI Inclusive Excellence program leadership team. In each of her endeavors, Tracie had high expectations for herself, her colleagues and her students, and she ensured that we reached those lofty heights by providing a clear path to success. She was fiercely proud of her students.

Tracie’s passion, commitment, creativity, genial presence and leadership will be deeply missed by us all. Her spirit will live on in the work she began at CNS, which has already lifted and encouraged hundreds of students. Inspired by her example and in dedication to her memory, we will continue that work. She would expect nothing less and deserves much more. We extend our sincere condolences to Tracie’s family and to all who have been fortunate enough to have been touched by her life.”

Plans for a celebration of life will be underway in the coming weeks.