Mary Ann Tétreault died peacefully in her sleep at home in Newport, Vermont on November 11, 2015. She was a spectacular human being, a gifted intellectual, and a generous mentor and friend.
Mary Ann earned her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College and her masters and doctorate at Rice University. She wrote her dissertation on the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. She taught at Old Dominion University and Iowa State University before moving to Trinity University in San Antonio where she was the Una Chapman Cox Distinguished Professor of International Affairs from 2000-2012.
Trinity’s Sussan Siavoshi remembers Mary Ann’s “unbound intellectual energy and her interest in everything, from the most mundane to the most profound.” She cherishes also Mary Ann’s hennaed hair and her laughter. Nannette Le Coat adds, “We all miss Mary Ann’s passionate commitment to human values and the intellectual energy she brought to the study of international politics on the Trinity campus.”
Mary Ann guided and inspired generations of students. She taught more than 50 different courses over her career and once wrote, “To me, the greatest enemy of democracy and autonomy is ignorance. My goals in teaching are to transmit not only knowledge but also the skills and confidence that will enable students to continue to educate themselves throughout life.” Her page on Trinity’s website speaks volumes. She writes, “A T-shirt slogan of my youth was, ‘Question authority.’ To that, I say, ‘Amen,’ even when I am the authority.”
Mary Ann pioneered many aspects of the study of the Middle East that are now taken for granted. She wrote extensively (including for this magazine) about women, oil, political economy, social movements, norms, human rights, democracy and all things related to Kuwait. Women were the focus of many of her projects “because the actions and experiences of women are often so different from men that they enable me to test global theories—which I often find wanting.”
Among her publications are three books on oil. Ellis Goldberg writes, “Her book on the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries published in 1981 was hands down the most complete book written about it.” It was “a technical tour de force” and the “most imaginative and whimsically insightful thing I’ve ever read about the oil industry. Mary Ann was an avid investigator of fault lines whether in parliamentary politics, women’s liberation or even the price of oil.”
Mohamed Al Ghanim recalls: “Her work never failed to offer original and often missing nuances to the topics she scrutinized. She contributed greatly to unraveling complex dynamics facing the Middle East and Kuwait especially.” Mary Ann’s book Stories of Democracy: Politics and Society in Contemporary Kuwait is still used in classrooms even though it was published in 2000. Farah Al-Nakib credits Mary Ann for establishing “the foundation that those of us who write about Kuwait continue to build on. I owe much of my career to her, but it is the joy and warmth of her friendship that I will miss most.”
Mary Ann wrote World Politics as if People Mattered with Ronnie Lipschutz (2005). I was privileged to co-edit her final book Political Change in the Arab Gulf States: Stuck in Transition along with Andrezej Kapiszewski. Her friend and frequent publisher Lynne Rienner says, “I will always miss Mary Ann, her heart, her glowing hair, her just plain feistiness and of course all the rest. To know her was (and still is) to love her, so though it may seem strange, I feel lucky to be able to miss her.”
Mary Ann was something of a rebel and always tackled hard issues head on. Donna Lee Bowen remembers that “Mary Ann had one of the most incisive intellects I have been exposed to—her powers of logic and judicious thought were astounding. She employed these abilities in a continual search for human justice.”
She was very active in the International Studies Association, the international political economy section of which awarded her the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2012. She also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Arabian Studies.
Mary Ann was an exuberant spirit and she loved friends, family, food, drink and rollicking conversation. Her generosity knew no bounds. She had a special knack for bringing together people who would go on to become life-long friends.
Upon retirement in 2012, Mary Ann moved to Vermont. She continued to inspire others and was writing on Gulf security and education even in her final months. But she also made sure to tend her beloved garden with its plethora of produce—peas, cherries, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers—and to rejoice in hummingbirds, grosbeaks and other feathered creatures. As they had for more than 20 years, she and her husband Richard made their “annual hijra to Iowa” to enjoy three operas.
Mary Ann is survived by two sons, Paul and Charles, as well as Richard, the ground beneath her feet. The two of them shared a deep love and a wicked sense of humor. With that foundation, she fully embraced life with all its challenges and opportunities. We shall all miss Mary Ann and remain grateful to her.