August 11, 2022 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
After spending four decades teaching at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, Professor Emerita Mary Gilly is continuing to give back. Most recently, Gilly and her husband, Professor Emeritus John Graham, established a new endowed chair at the Merage School to continue the School’s legacy of outstanding marketing thought leadership.
A $2 million gift from the family will be devoted towards the Gilly Family Endowed Chair in Marketing, which will specialize in the area of Consumer Culture Theory. The money that the endowment earns will allow the chair holder to invest in research and other associated costs, like travel and transcription.
Universities use endowed chairs to attract and retain top scholars.
“It’s important for the Merage School to continue to attract and retain top scholars,” Gilly said. “I spent much of my time at the School researching consumer culture theory and it’s important to pass the torch and continue to see innovative thinking in this field.”
Gilly’s donation will help further the study of Consumer Culture Theory, which seeks to develop a better understanding of how consumers think and why they act the ways that they do.
Gilly and Professor Alladi Venkatesh have provided important contributions to the study of the theory since the 1980s. This was accomplished through their own research and by training doctoral students. Some of these notable students are Mary F. Celsi, Steven Chen, Samantha N.N. Cross, Burçak Ertimur, Merlyn Griffiths, Russel Nelson, Lisa Peñaloza, Cecilia Ruvalcaba, Hope Jensen Schau and Mariella Zavala.
Gilly said that she hopes the chair will attract a notable scholar in the area of Consumer Culture Theory who will attract doctoral students to further the research of the discipline. “I want to ensure that UCI continues its reputation in that area,” Gilly said.
Gilly credited her parents for inspiring her to give back to the Merage School and various arts organizations. Her parents supported her father’s alma mater, Southern Methodist University.
Over her career, Gilly has witnessed the incredible growth of the Merage School, and she wants to help assist in the School’s continued evolution.
“My Merage School colleagues publish research that has impact on other scholars and on practice,” Gilly said. “The fact that the Merage School has the highest proportion of women of any ranked business school indicates that it is well-positioned to succeed in an increasingly diverse California and US.”
Gilly has a long and storied career at the Merage School. She began teaching at the School in 1982, when there were only 18 other faculty members teaching at what was then known as the Graduate School of Management. Over the course of 38 years, she served as an Assistant, Associate and Full Professor. In addition, she had several Academic Senate and administrative roles throughout her career, including Associate Dean, Chair of the Irvine Division of the Academic Senate and Chair of the systemwide Academic Senate.
Gilly has many accomplishments under her belt, including receiving the Williams-Qualls-Spratlen (WQS) Multicultural Mentoring Award of Excellence in 2011, being inducted into the PhD Project Hall of Fame in 2018 and being named an American Marketing Association Fellow in 2019. She has also been widely published in publications like the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Consumer Research, California Management Review and the Journal of Retailing.
Yet despite all those honors, she is most proud of the impact she has had on her students. Many of her students have become marketing professors in Arizona, Iowa and France.
“While I am proud of my scholarly accomplishments, I’m most proud of my doctoral students who have gone on to be respected scholars,” Gilly said. “Several of them have been involved in the PhD Project, an organization with the goal of bringing more underrepresented minorities into the business school professoriate.”