An Enduring Influence

Craig MacPhail

My deepest condolences.

I met Ulrike in the late ’80s working at an ad agency in Hamilton before she left for Vancouver. While our paths had not crossed before, we shared having attended the University of Guelph and working on the Ontarion, the student newspaper. We hit it off right away while we worked across from one another in a graphic arts studio (it was before computers). The day was filled with conversation and music – through Ulrike, I was introduced to The Selecter, the Violent Femmes and the Cocteau Twins, to name a few. I recall many enjoyable lunches and after-work beers.

Ulrike was bold and forthright in her views and did not refrain from challenging accepted wisdom. One particular conversation that has stayed with me was on gender-neutral language. Back then, common usage was to assign the universal “person” with the male gender. Ulrike argued that instead, we should be using “they” or “them,” which led to the discussion that as marketers should we follow our audience with the words they expect or lead them with an example of more fair usage? Ulrike, of course, argued that we should lead them. She was right. As I have continued in my career, I have followed the view that one can be an agent of change, even in seemingly mundane communication projects.

After Ulrike moved to Vancouver, we stayed in touch for a time, but like all things, we drifted apart. For the last long while, my contact was limited to reading about her adventures and liking her career progress on LinkedIn. From my experience with her and the many recollections here, clearly, Ulrike was wonderful. I am thankful for having known her and wish her well on her journeys.