Marianne Shockley at a Little Herds event, “Insecta Fiesta,” at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin, Texas, in 2014. (Courtesy/Robert Nathan Allen)


For many who woke up on the morning of Sunday, May 12, there was suddenly an unfillable void. 

On the following Monday, the office door belonging to University of Georgia professor Marianne Shockley was shut, deprived of students flowing in and out.

Those who knew Shockley, 43, expressed feelings of shock, heartbreak and unfairness toward her death, which occurred in the early hours of that Sunday morning in Milledgeville. Shockley’s boyfriend Marcus Lillard was arrested and charged for murder, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another

Since then, a number of people who at some point connected with Shockley have decided to change the narrative, focusing on what truly made her special. 

“After I graduated I really didn’t know what to do with my life,” former UGA graduate student Nancy Miorelli said about Shockley. “She really encouraged me to be brave.” 

Originally from Apalachee, Shockley is remembered as an expert in her field, a dedicated professor and a master of science outreach. Her research, outreach and other professional work spans hundreds of topics within entomology, and her “quirky” and “passionate” personality left an everlasting mark on most that knew her. 

A teacher without bounds 

Miorelli remembers meeting Shockley at a Christmas party in 2011. That night, Shockley offered to hire Miorelli to teach during a UGA Ecuador study abroad trip in which Shockley was a professor, hosted by the entomology department in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. In 2013, Miorelli became Shockley’s first graduate student. 

Miorelli led the trip for the next two years, fell in love with Ecuador and has remained there since. 

“I almost quit grad school,” Miorelli said. “Marianne kept me in grad school, and I’m only here doing what I’m doing cause I made it through.” 

As a student who didn’t fit into the traditional world of research and academia, Miorelli said Shockley encouraged her to pursue outreach, something that has rippled throughout Miorelli’s work. 

“If I can convince someone to not squash a spider, Marianne has indirectly convinced them to not squash a spider,” Miorelli said. 

A global representative 

In September, Shockley was the lead organizer of Insectival, an event hosted at the State Botanical Gardens at UGA aimed at entomology outreach. She was a founding member and director of the North American Coalition of Insect Agriculture. 

Every summer, Shockley led an interactive, kid-oriented summer camp, UGA Bug Camp, which has been cancelled for the 2019 session following her death. 

“In a very real sense, she was the heart and soul of Bug Camp, its very embodiment,” the Bug Camp webpage reads. “In her absence, despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement to carry on with the plans.”

Robert Nathan Allen, director of the nonprofit Little Herds in Austin, Texas, first met Shockley in 2013. She was one of the first people he saw speak on the topic of using insects as a food source, called entomophagy. As time went on, she became a founding board member of Allen’s nonprofit, which aims to promote entomophagy, specifically among youth.

Allen remembers the first time he ate insect sushi, partly with Shockley’s encouragement. He admired her ability to “ignite curiosity” within people from all backgrounds, even those who may have had a squeamish aversion to insects. 

“She did that all with a smile, with a great sense of humor, with a selfless grace,” Allen said. “And a great southern farm girl accent” 

Plus, people wanted to learn from her. Former UGA student Olivia Barker took three of Shockley’s courses between 2016-2019. Shockley’s energy and engaging manner was contagious, she said. 

“She believed in her students, she really wanted to see them succeed,” Baker said. 

Shockley is survived by her two teenage children. A memorial service was held for her on May 17 at the Apalachee United Methodist Church, her family’s congregation.