Remembering Lisa McIntyre (1953-2023)

As we shared in our spring issue, Lisa McIntyre passed away in February 2023. Lisa educated (and entertained) thousands of students over her extensive and extraordinary career as a sociology professor, through her lectures, mentoring, and textbooks. We asked two alumni to share their perspective about Lisa McIntyre’s deep and enduring influence. 

Kristin Cutler (’07 MA,’13 PhD, sociology)

Assistant Professor, Career Track, Washington State University

Lisa McIntyre played an instrumental role in my development as both a teacher and scholar. I would not be in my position at WSU today as a career-track assistant professor and director of our global program had it not been for the continued support, guidance, and opportunities that Lisa provided me throughout my time as both a graduate student and teaching fellowship at WSU. Lisa sat on both my M.A. and Ph.D. committees and served as my primary agent of socialization when it came to teaching, learning, and innovation in the college classroom. Lisa’s big Introduction to Sociology course was considered a rite of passage into independent teaching because it provided graduate students with the tools, knowledge, and inspiration necessary to start their journeys into teaching. I mean, who better to learn from than the woman who wrote one of the most engaging, humorous, and student-friendly, introduction textbooks on the market, and who won teaching awards for her ability to story-tell (not lecture!) and captivate the attention of 500 students every semester. I remember standing in that big lecture hall watching Lisa in her element, in awe of her, hoping one day that I could be that good, or gosh, even just half as good, because she was that fricking good! I now stand in that same lecture hall, in the same spot that she did for all those years, teaching the big introductory class. Lisa is still with me when I am up there—and I do my best to keep her spirit alive.  

In addition to her ability to captivate an audience through storytelling and humor, Lisa was dedicated to her students—both graduate and undergraduate. At the start of each academic year, she was known for having a welcoming party out at her home in Palouse, allowing new (and old) graduate students to meet, mix, and mingle. She was also the go-to problem-solver when it came to issues that graduate students faced in both their professional and personal lives. Among other things, she was known to open her home to those in unstable living situations and to provide odd jobs to those struggling financially. She was a trustworthy ally who we looked up to and knew we could count on. 

For the undergraduates, she had two very memorable tag lines: “There is no such thing as an emergency in sociology” and “Lattes with Lisa.” The former let students know that Lisa was understanding and caring when it came to personal matters and recognized that sometimes coursework would take a backburner to more important and pressing life issues. In other words, students could trust her to work with them in times of struggle. Each week, she also held “Lattes with Lisa,” (now, “Coffee with Kris”) in the Student Union building, to make herself more approachable and available to students needing extra help or just wanting to get to know her. She was also one of the first faculty members involved in the First-Year Focus program which to this day continues to help first-year students find community and build relationships with their professors.  

Speaking of community, Lisa also had a way of creating community within the department during her tenure as department chair.  She liked to do what graduate students called “hall checks.” This simply consisted of Lisa walking the halls, looking for open office doors, and stopping in to say hi or drop off “soc swag.” While we all knew this was a good way to keep tabs on who was in the office, it was also highly effective in creating an environment where there was a constant, lively buzz. Another way Lisa created community was by encouraging us to gather as a department, whether it be for the kick-off-of-semester gatherings, the holidays, or the annual Sociology Banquet. The banquet marked the end of another academic year, celebrated our many accomplishments as a department—faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates alike—and allowed us all to let loose and have some fun. It no doubt helped that Lisa was a hilarious emcee, which was for many of us the highlight of the event.  

About that soc swag. It was, and still is, a reminder of someone who liked to bring humor and lightness to sociology.  I still use my “Sociology is Tasty” lunch bag daily and have nearly a full shelf in my cupboard dedicated to sociology mugs and glasses, many with witty phrases. “Sociology Du Jure,” anyone?

All this is to say that Lisa is remembered not only in the classroom and in the hallways of Wilson-Short (diet coke in hand), but in our homes, and in our hearts. Thanks for everything, Lisa.  

Kristin Cutler.

Some of Lisa’s fun swag that can still be found around the office!
Left to right: Lisa McIntyre with Kelma and Jim Short at a department picnic. While it might not be visible in the smaller web image, we confirmed in the original photo print that is a Diet Coke held by Lisa. No one who knew Lisa will be surprised by this beverage choice.

Photo courtesy of: Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman
More examples of Lisa’s fun swag!

Deborah Thorne (’94 BA,’96 MA,’01 PhD, sociology)

Professor of Sociology, University of Idaho

When I learned that Lisa McIntyre had passed away, it took a long time for that loss to sink in. For quite a while, I caught myself reflecting on that news and wondering, “Seriously? How is it possible that Lisa passed away?” I wonder if, when people who are exceptionally full of life and energy pass away, it is even more difficult to believe that they are gone? Anyway…

There is a powerful quote by Maya Angelou that reads: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Truly, I cannot remember anything specific that Lisa ever said to me, but I will never forget how she made me feel—and that was capable.

During my undergraduate work in sociology at WSU back in the early-1990s, I thought I was a good writer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. And when Lisa returned my first theory paper (graded with a C-), I was crushed and deeply ashamed. When I went to talk with her about my paper, she walked me through how to better respond to the assigned question and how to improve my writing. Not once during that conversation did I feel stupid. I rewrote the paper and did just fine. She made me feel like I could do better.

When I finished my undergraduate work, I was encouraged by many people to go elsewhere for my graduate work. I understood the reason for the push, but I refused to move too far away from my parents who lived in Eastern Oregon. I saw two options: stay at WSU for my graduate work or skip graduate school altogether. In so many ways, I felt like I was a disappointment to many of the folks with whom I had worked in the department. But when I talked privately with Lisa, she accepted my decision and reasoning without judgment. I felt heard.

And when I was writing my dissertation, I was bound and determined to use the phrase “And the survey says…” (from the “Family Feud” game show) when I presented my survey results. Lisa told me that Jim Short (the ultimate academic) would not be impressed with that wording. I dug in my heels and resisted. Lisa shrugged her shoulders and said something along the lines of, “OK, it’s your dissertation.” There was no judgement. I felt respected.

When I drive to Colfax from my home in Viola to buy quilt fabric, I drive past Lisa’s home in Palouse. I remember going there to get help with my dissertation. Her home office was lined with a gazillion books and Pez dispensers in the beautiful display case that she had built for them. And always, on her desk was a can of Diet Coke. And now, when I drive by, I feel sad and a bit lonely. She was an incredibly positive force in my professional life, and I feel so, so grateful.

P.S. Lisa always encouraged her students to use the phrasing, “I believe/think/know,” rather than “I feel.” She believed that feeling statements were often interpreted as weak. But as I read back over what I’ve written, I think feeling statements are some of the strongest. She made such a difference in the lives of so many.

Deborah Thorne.

There is a powerful quote by Maya Angelou that reads: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Truly, I cannot remember anything specific that Lisa ever said to me, but I will never forget how she made me feel—and that was capable.

Left to right: Amy Wharton, Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman and Lisa McIntyre in graduation regalia.  In characteristic “Lisa-style,” the eyeglass frames match her distinctive University of Chicago regalia.

Photo courtesy of: Marliyn Ihinger-Tallman