IBM Vice President gives Meijer Lecture


Mary Coucher, vice president of Intellectual Property Management for IBM, presented the Winter 2014 Frederik Meijer Lecture on February 24. The Meijer Lecture Series, which started in 2010, focuses on helping students understand the benefits of a liberal arts education and how to apply it to succeed professionally and personally.  

Mary has had a career in information technology and international business for 30 years. She currently is responsible for various aspects of IBM’s Intellectual Property business including Patent and Technology Licensing Engineering, Geography Business Development and Financial Operations. 

In the lecture facilitated by Bill Holsinger-Robinson, Frederik Meijer Endowed Honors Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Mary emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education and the benefits of having a wide range of knowledge.

For example, while Mary was attending college, computer science was not what it is today – there was not an information technology or computer science degree. Many of her fellow classmates were musicians, and like Mary, studied music in college. She said that musical minds can understand computers and coding and that this broader perspective still helps her today.  

She also discussed the importance of her music education and its unexpected help in working abroad. Mary talked about how music helps to communicate with others in a different culture. She explained how music is a leveler and that it can bring people together and can create common ground.

During the lecture, Mary also discussed her time spent in Japan where she was relocated for work. Mary explained the difficulties of adapting to a new culture and how it is important to take the time to learn another culture’s norms and language, no matter where you are.

Mary’s presentation emphasized the importance of having a broad knowledge and understanding of the world, something that liberal arts studies can teach.   

In order to communicate with other business representatives like herself, she said she had to learn the culture and truly listen to people. Mary explained that by putting in an effort to connect with people of another culture, you can learn to communicate together and understand each other.

Presenters like Mary Coucher help make the Meijer Lecture Series helpful to students by discussing the importance of a liberal arts education and its role in the professional world. The Meijer Lecture Series is endowed and supported by donors who value Grand Valley students’ education. Other privately supported lectures at Grand Valley include the Arnold C. Ott Lectureship in Chemistry, the Peter F. Secchia Breakfast Lecture Series, the Huntington Breakfast Lectures sponsored by the Seidman College of Business; and the Professionals of Color Lecture Series, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.  

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