From Barbara

To the Jichev family,

I had the immense pleasure of meeting Maria the very first time some years ago in London during one of the Learning programs McKinsey was holding for its managers. Maria was one of the Incite faculty and we made an immediate connection. She asked if we could have dinner one night while I was in town, as she wanted to get to know me better and talk about cultural diversity, a topic about which we were both quite passionate. Four hours later, we said our good-bye for the night, and I left marveling at our experience.

Maria was a lady who seemed fully engaged in a vibrant dialogue on all sorts of topics, both professional and personal. She was always in the spirit of learning, exploring ideas, understanding what was important in your life. At one training session, I brought my 88 year-old Dad along, and the three of us enjoyed a special breakfast together. After that, she would always ask about him, as Maria really cared deeply about the full spectrum of my life.

Over the years, at every program in Europe when we worked together, she and I would find time to go out for a bit of personal time. Sometimes we would just sit and catch up over a glass of wine; other times we would partake in some ‘retail therapy’, looking for that special item of jewelry, clothing or footwear:-) that would serve as a reminder of our time together. At one spot in Cologne, we found a necklace we both loved and decided it would be good ‘karma’ if we each purchased the same item. Every time I wear it, I smile thinking of her. When she came to my hometown in Boston, we would always find time to connect, the last time I chose a beautiful stately, elegant, classy spot at the Copley Plaza which seemed only fitting for her!

It is quite heartbreaking for me to imagine the world without her special gifts — ones that remain close to my heart are her compassion, purpose and love of life. Even when she was struggling with her illness, she always remained positive, exploring new ways of healing… always focused on others and committed to her life’s work. I hope in your time of grief, you carry with you the clarity of Maria as a one-of-a-kind grand lady who made a huge difference in the lives of so many. May her spirit live on in all of us.

With my deep condolences,

Barbara Stern

(McKinsey & Company)

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