Sunny Marche was trained as a fighter pilot, which may come as a surprise to people who only knew him as the warm, welcoming faculty member at Dalhousie. But even as he worked his way through a broad, interdisciplinary career as a teacher, consultant and scholar, he still loved to tell the story of one particular flight incident.
“I’m the only faculty member at Dalhousie to have attempted to land an aircraft with the landing gear in the upright and locked position,” he would say with a laugh. “The damage was limited to a large, young and resilient ego.”
Reflective, knowing, and in good humour – that story sums up so much about Dr. Marche, who passed away suddenly in Toronto this past Friday as the result of a pulmonary embolism. He was 64.
Across the Dal community, friends and colleagues remembered an inspirational, supporting campus leader.
“Dr. Marche was very collegial, and took great pleasure in seeing others succeed and being acknowledged for their accomplishments, whether they were students or faculty,” says Peggy Cunningham, dean of the Faculty of Management. “He was always ready to mentor and advise students and his junior colleagues.”
“He always had a story, quote or joke to tell to illustrate a point in a conversation or class,” says Philp Rosson, professor emeritus at the School of Business and a close friend. “He was widely read, able to see and make connections that others could not. He was generous with his time and advice for colleagues and the university. He was a wonderful colleague and contributed greatly to Dalhousie.”
A passion for interdisciplinary learning
Dr. Marche was born in Winnipeg, and after his undergrad at Royal Military College, he worked in Edmonton as a teacher and certified management consultant. Mid-career, at the age of 38, he switched paths and completed his PhD at the London School of Economics.
When he arrived at Dalhousie, Dr. Marche quickly became a highly respected member of the Faculty of Management. An inspiring teacher, he was the inaugural winner of Dalhousie’s A. Gordon Archibald Award for Teaching Excellence, received three MBA Professor of the Year Awards (2002, 2003, 2005) and also won the Teaching Excellence Award in Management Education, the Faculty of Management’s top teaching award, in 2007.
But a great deal of his Dalhousie contributions came through his passion for interdisciplinary learning and research. He played a key role in Dalhousie’s successful Interdisciplinary PhD program. He was instrumental in creating the Masters of Electronic Commerce and Executive Electronic Commerce programs, collaborations between Computer Science, Law, Medicine and Management. And when he became associate dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, he brought postdocs under the Grad Studies banner and launched an inaugural program for them to develop professional skills –the first such program in Canada.
Michael Shepherd, dean of the Faculty of Computer Science, was in an ideal position to observe these interdisciplinary contributions, as many of Dr. Marche’s research interests in knowledge management crossed over into computer science.
“Dr. Marche made a rich contribution to the graduate programs of MBA, Master of Health Informatics and Master of Electronic Commerce,” notes Dr. Shepherd. “In addition to publishing in various management journals and conferences, he published in Tier 1 and Tier 2 research conferences in computer science, electronic commerce and health informatics – and taught and supervised students across all four of these disciplines."
Dr. Marche was a creative thinker and, as noted by Dr. Rosson, an impressive reader too. His passions outside of work included classical guitar, bird watching and Buddhism. Two years ago, he completed the 88-temple Shikoku Pilgrimage in Japan, a walk of more than 1,100 km.
He also served as faculty representative on Dalhousie’s Board of Governors, and launched the “Write Here in Plain Sight” (WHiPS) event, celebrating the act of writing.
“Sunny’s contributions were always wholehearted and for the team,” says Carolyn Watters, Dalhousie’s vice-president academic, who was dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies when Dr. Marche was associate dean.
“You could not have a better friend than Sunny. His presence at Dal was felt by many, and he will be missed.”
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