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An Alumna's Jackpot: Written by Tracy L. Strauss, BCAA Communications Assistant

Shackleton's Way Book CoverTime spent as an undergraduate at Newton College of the Sacred Heart for Margot Morrell '74NC, co-author of Shackleton's Way with Stephanie Capparell, was "the firm basis for going forward" with life³s adventures. That she did.

On Friday, May 4, Morrell hosted a reading and booksigning of Shackleton's Way in tandem with giant-screen viewings of the NOVA/WGBH-produced 40-minute film, Shackleton³s Antarctic Adventure, at the Mugar Omni Theater at the Museum of Science in Boston.

The book, which chronicles the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 ill-fated expedition to Antarctica, also offers applications of the explorer's people-centered leadership style Õ capitalizing on elements of optimism, egalitarianism, humor, intelligence, and compassion Õ to attain successful outcomes in modern-day work environments.

An art history major, Morrell enjoyed her time at the women's college that is now under the umbrella of Boston College: "My dearest friends are from there. It³s a great touchstone to have that connection with my friends from Newton."

Upon graduation, Morrell pursued a multi-faceted path, including a master³s in library science at Simmons College, twelve years as a financial representative for Fidelity, and twenty-four years in the corporate sector. Currently, the Garden City, Long Island, native resides in Manhattan.

"If  one of our goals in life is to find something we're passionate about, then I hit the jackpot." - Margot Morrell

"I started off on a career track that wasn³t leading to anything. I was hitting a dead end," she said. "So then the challenge was, okay, let me rethink this, what do I want to do? What are my priorities? I wanted an opportunity to be able to grow."

Morrell decided "to take an interest in the man of the moment."

The year was 1984, and Morrell was dating a sailor. Because of this, she said, she went to the Boston Public Library to check out some books on sailing. What caught her eye was a small book, a few shelves over from the others, called Shackleton³s Boat Journey, by Frank Worsley. "I picked it up," Morrell said, "and I was just hooked by the story."

For Morrell, however, the foundation of her pursuit was rooted years earlier, when she was a seventeen-year-old at camp, intrigued by the replacement of her group³s counselor: a "charismatic man" filled in for his "low-key wife."

Morrell explained: "She got the absolute best out of us, pulled our group together. We were functioning on such a high level, and then he came in and he couldn³t do anything with us. It wasn³t her, it wasn³t him, it wasn³t us Õ it was the combination."

And so, fifteen years later, when Morrell picked up Worsley³s book, Shackleton³s experience piqued her interest; it was the stuff of leadership and group dynamics, and a personal connection that drew her in: "What I wanted to know about Shackleton and his men," she explained, "was, what made the group connect with the leader? How did the leader connect with the group? How in this incredible ordeal, which was almost two years long, under life-threatening circumstances, could Shackleton keep this group relatively happy but most importantly get through the ordeal? It was an extraordinary accomplishment."

At its simplist, it³s a great adventure story: the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds. "You can³t hear the story without thinking to yourself," Morrell continued, "if they could do that given the circumstances that they were in, then shouldn³t I be able to overcome a challenge or reach my goal, whatever it may be?"

Shackleton³s plan, according to Morrell, was to make the last great polar journey: the crossing of the Antarctic continent. But one day short of landing at his base in the Wheddell Sea, he, his men, and their ship, Endurance, found themselves trapped in a sea of packed ice.

"That was a bad thing," said Morrell, "but it got worse and worse and worse."

"I've often marveled at the thin line that separates success from failure." - Sir Ernest Shackleton

"One lesson I would take from Shackleton, and also from my Newton College experience," Morrell continued, "is that you have to find an organization and an atmosphere that are comfortable and supportive for you to do your best work." Two of the most significant qualities learned from Shackleton, a man of the Irish cloth and a Robert Browning fan, according to Morrell, were patience and tolerance.

Over the course of more than sixteen years, Morrell³s interest in Shackleton has led to spending days in the archives of research institutes and to transcribing two of the original diaries from the Endurance expedition. According to Morrell, she originally thought of writing the Shackleton story as a screenplay, the diaries providing much fodder for characterization and progression through dialogue. Morrell ultimately decided on the book form.

However, White Mountain Films and Boston³s own NOVA/WGBH have brought the Shackleton story to life on the giant-screen with the film Shackleton³s Antarctic Adventure, written by Mose Richards and Crystal V. Spijer, directed by George Butler, and narrated by Kevin Spacey.

"Anyone who reads the book has to wonder what it was really like, and what the film does beautifully is just that," said Morrell. "The photography is magnificent. It really captures exactly what the Antarctic looks like and it gives you a very real sense of what they went through, and what they were up against."

From her current post in New York City, in the spirit of Shackleton³s leadership, Morrell has joined "BC Connections," an initiative of the Task Force on Women and Boston College, which matches alumnae mentors with second semester juniors in a career field of interest.

Said Morrell of her own career exploration process: "I³d always been interested in stocks and the market but it didn³t seem to fall under the umbrella of ladylike pursuits."

Through her own example, Morrell continues to pass along the ideals of Sir Ernest Shackleton. "Life is a journey," she said, "and the challenge of it is to keep moving forward and to keep learning and to keep being optimistic. Always stay optimistic about what³s ahead."


More information about Margot Morrell and Shackleton³s Way can be found at http://www.shackletonsway.com/.

Information about Shackleton³s Antarctic Adventure can be found at http://www.shackletonsantarcticadventure.com/.

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