Lifes work lives on through conference
- Janine Robben
- Portland Tribune - Features
Lori Irving was the only professor at Washington State University's Vancouver campus to twice win its students' award for teaching excellence. She was the founder and coordinator of the Columbia River Eating Disorder Network, a professional and community organization that addresses eating-related problems in two states. And she would have been a mother as well, if a heart defect had not taken her life last year in her ninth month of pregnancy.
The network's annual professional conference Ñ on the verge of being canceled after her death Ñ will take place next week after all, largely because her husband, Mike Morgan, stepped in and took her place.
On March 7, the network also will sponsor a nonprofessional community presentation on issues related to weight and body image that will include a panel discussion on recovering from eating disorders.
Irving and Morgan met in 1993 when both arrived at their new jobs at Washington State University at Vancouver on the same day and were given adjacent offices. She taught psychology, including a class on abnormal psychology that covered eating disorders; he also is a professor of psychology and directs the university's psychology program.
They were married a year later. In 2000, Irving became pregnant with their first child and made plans to step down as the eating disorder network's coordinator.
But on April 29, 2001, after several apparently minor and pregnancy-related health problems, she died of what turned out to be a genetic problem with her aorta. Doctors delivered her baby, MacKenzie, who died the next day.
Until Irving died, Morgan says, he hadn't been involved in the network's annual conference or his wife's other professional activities.
'Other than to be a supportive husband,' he says. 'I didn't even know all the things she was involved in.'
But after her death, he says, he was cleaning out her office, went on the computer and saw that this year's conference was going to be canceled. 'I didn't want that to happen,' he says. 'That's letting her death destroy something, and Lori wouldn't have wanted it destroyed.'
So Morgan got together with Valerie Edwards, a nutritionist at Providence Portland Medical Center who also is the network's acting coordinator, and Sandra Taylor, a social worker in private practice. Together, they and other organizers put together a conference that will include speakers from around the country.
With only days to go before the March 1 event, Morgan is looking thin and weary. In past years, he says, he tried to listen sympathetically while his wife talked about the stress of getting the event organized.
'Now I'd like to tell her I understand,' he says. 'Organizing it is a lot more work than I realized.'