Celebrating Kristie Macrakis
Posted November 21, 2022
To know Professor Kristie Macrakis was to know her work. A lover of all things spycraft, espionage, and counterintelligence, Macrakis turned her passion into her life’s study — sharing it with colleagues, students, and the wider world in an impressive oeuvre of books, presentations, courses, and more. Her forthcoming books, Espionage and Nothing is Beyond our Reach: America’s Techno-Spy Empire, are slated to be released this spring.
Sadly, Macrakis passed away this week following a brief illness, leaving behind an indelible legacy as a researcher, educator, and colleague.
Kate Pride Brown, an associate professor in the School of History and Sociology, said Macrakis was “strong-willed, tough-minded, ambitious, and passionately devoted to her scholarship.” She also was dedicated to her students and colleagues.
“When she found out that I was teaching in the Pacific Program, which she had done before, she was so ridiculously happy for me,” Brown said. “She was almost giddy in sharing advice and making suggestions for how to organize a course abroad, and wanted to hear all about it when I returned. I appreciated her enthusiasm for my own opportunities.”
Associate Professor Laura Bier echoed this sentiment, saying Macrakis was an outspoken voice for faculty governance and not afraid to ask the hard questions.
“She was also generous in her feedback on research-in-progress,” Bier said. “I presented a talk on my work in progress and, although I am in a very different field, she wrote a whole page of comments and invited me to talk to her further if I had any questions.”
Mario Bianchini, who completed his doctorate in 2022 under Macrakis’s tutelage, warmly remembers her support.
“If she felt like I was in jeopardy in any way she would be extremely protective of me,” he said. Bianchini was involved in a serious bike accident during the period while he was working on his Ph.D. with Macrakis, but "she made sure that I was still supported,” he said. “Any moment where that needed to be done, she would do it.”
Over the course of her career, Macrakis’s writing appeared in publications such as Newsweek, the Washington Times, Nature, Science, and American Scientist. She made dozens of media appearances including interviews on the History Channel, Science Friday, NPR, and the Smithsonian Channel. She also spoke about her work at prestigious venues such as the Harvard Club, the International Spy Museum, and the Carter Center. In addition, Macrakis was a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer, completed fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, Fulbright, and the Wilson Center, and received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Humboldt Foundation.
Outside of Georgia Tech, Macrakis loved the mountains and had a cabin in Blue Ridge where she wrote many of her books. She also was a music lover who played the drums and piano and even hosted a jazz radio show in college. In our call for submissions for the IAC Faculty playlist, Macrakis said her favorite song was "'Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk.
“I include it as my number one because my favorites change a lot, but this has been a constant since I was a teenager,” she said.
Macrakis’ life and work touched many, and she will be dearly missed by the Ivan Allen College and Georgia Tech community.
The passing of someone we know affects us all in different and occasionally surprising ways. Sometimes it is helpful to process those reactions with experienced listeners: the Institute and community have a number of effective resources that you can find at mentalhealth.gatech.edu and hwb.gatech.edu/eap.
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