Grieving the loss of Pamela Hartigan

Aug 16, 2016 Published under Entrepreneurship and Management, Life, Loss

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Pamela Hartigan over close to two decades, and at every turn I noticed her commitment to excellence and her wonderful warmth and positive energy.  I am sharing Sally Osberg’s words below as a fit tribute to an extraordinary leader in the social entrepreneurship world.

My dear colleagues, friends and fellow travelers,

I write to let you know that we lost our beloved Pamela Hartigan very early this morning, valiant to the end, but as she wished: with her husband and family, at her home in France. As some of you are aware, Pamela had been battling cancer, so while the news was not unexpected, it still comes as a devastating blow to all of us who so loved and admired her.

Together with you, the extended Skoll family, we celebrate the life of a woman we knew to be utterly remarkable, a tireless champion for social entrepreneurship whose mark on this emergent body of work cannot be overstated. Throughout her career, Pamela was steadfast in dedicating her life to making a difference in this world. From her work in public health with the WHO, to her founding executive role for the Schwab Foundation, to co-founding Volans Ventures, and ultimately, to her brilliant leadership of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Pamela brought immense gifts: relentless energy, a formidable mind, and a radiant spirit that infused life and meaning into everything she did.

Over her eight years with the Skoll Centre, Pamela didn’t only touch thousands of students, she transformed their thinking and shaped their life’s decisions profoundly. Today, those thousands of women and men believe they can change the world, and they are hard at it—in every corner of the planet, joining legions of social entrepreneurs whose work she has supported through the Schwab Foundation, her partnership with us over nearly two decades, and through the Skoll Centre.

There is more to say, and so much to remember about the woman we cherished. By early next week, the Skoll Centre and the Foundation will mount on-line tributes, and of course, we will find ways to honor Pamela in Oxford. For now, though, George Bernard Shaw’s memorable words seem right:

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

As we grieve for Pamela’s loss, I believe we will all find ways to keep that torch burning. Having passed it on, she is counting on us—to bring light where there is darkness, hope in the face of despair, and determination as spirits falter.

With a full heart,


Sally Osberg

President and CEO, Skoll Foundation

The Skoll Foundation drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help them solve the world’s most pressing problems.


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