A few years ago, Marilyn Laurie joined me in coaching an executive who was developing a critical marketing plan. Unfortunately, the plan was long on strategy and short on detail. After listening carefully to his vision, Marilyn said with a smile and unmistakable seriousness, “You’re at 50,000 feet, Tom (not real name). You gotta land the plane.”

With those 10 words, Marilyn summed up the problem, and “Tom,” a rather confident – shall we say – executive, stopped in his tracks and clearly understood. Then, together, we got down to business on the real issues of the marketing plan.

To me, that story is so Marilyn - super smart with a great wit, a fearless attitude and an unfailing ability to get right to the heart of an issue.

Those characteristics enabled her to become a valued C-suite counselor, a respected member of some of America’s most prestigious nonprofit boards, a trailblazing role model for so many communications professionals and a cherished mentor and friend. She also became a sterling example of meaningful retirement.

I learned so much from Marilyn and relished our conversations at and after AT&T. Whether hearing about one of her and Bob’s wonderful adventures, trying to solve a sensitive corporate issue or talking about a new idea for social impact, Marilyn brought intellect and insight into every discussion. Like few people, she could inspire, push and amuse all at the same time.

I feel very lucky to have known Marilyn, and I will miss her.