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Massage Today
October, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10

In Memoriam: Dianne Polseno

By Tracy Walton, LMT, MS

On May 12, 2012, the massage therapy profession lost one of its biggest champions. Dianne Polseno died of cancer, eight months to the day after her diagnosis. She passed after an overwhelming illness, a rich life and an illustrious career in touch education.

Dianne had boundless energy and gave it freely. She always made time for people who needed her. A common experience people had upon meeting her was the sense that they had known her forever. She was warm, direct, strong and loving. As a teacher, practitioner, activist and administrator, she encouraged and mentored many of her students and colleagues along the way. She was known for her dedication and hard work, as well as her strong opinions. She was fiercely protective of massage therapy.

Dianne's signature is a regular column and an entire body of work on ethics in massage therapy. Her writing was always clean, clear and practical, and she churned out many glorious turns of phrase. She brought wonderful case studies to her column and made the reader feel that ethics were intertwined with the daily life of the practitioner. She welcomed questions from readers and answered them thoughtfully and thoroughly. Her contributions to this tender, growing area of massage therapy are deeply appreciated and will endure for a long time.

Dianne Polseno - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Massage therapy students who had the happy chance to study with her at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy raved about her courses. She taught science, drawing on her previous life in nursing and a passion for the workings of the human body. One of her greatest contributions was a continuing education course in cadaver anatomy where she brought massage therapists into the lab to view, touch and hold the human anatomy. She taught with reverence and a deep well of expertise. As a teacher, she received outstanding reviews.

Dianne received many awards and recognitions over her career, notably the 2006 AMTA Jerome Perlinski Teacher of the Year Award. That same year, she began work at Cortiva Institute-Boston as the Education Director where she rose to become its Campus President. While there, she navigated all of her administrative responsibilities while maintaining the long view of what massage therapy could become in the world of health care.

Although Dianne was prominent in the profession, many contributions were quiet and behind the scenes. Her 20-year practice in massage therapy served a wide range of clients. She worked with children with disabilities, athletes and people with serious illness. She massaged many members of her adoring family, including several when they were infants and young children. She had a strong connection to the younger world; as a faithful aunt to many lucky children, she was an attentive caregiver and gift giver.

Dianne's sense of humor was legendary. She was irreverent, self-deprecating and wacky, with brilliant comic timing. She kept her students' attention with mnemonics, stories and her characteristic arm-waving. Story after story brought massage therapy and science to life. She maintained her sense of humor throughout her illness, writing beautifully about her cancer experience on her CaringBridge journal ( The site has been kept alive by her sisters and people continue to contribute. It is an impressive account of spirit and strength in the face of cancer.

Dianne's personality and gifts to the world were larger than life. The loss of her is deeply felt in the New England massage therapy community, the national American Massage Therapy Association, massage education and among her many colleagues and fans around the country. Yet, after she left us, I had the distinct feeling that the empty space she left behind was already filing with all that she brought to us while she was here.

The last time I saw Dianne, I thanked her for all that she gave to our profession. I asked her if she wouldn't mind, wherever she was going next, to continue looking after it and looking after us. As I expected, she agreed without hesitation. Her service to the large goodness of skilled touch will endure for decades. Generations of therapists, clients and teachers will be buoyed by her unseen support. And Dianne Polseno's spirit keeps on in these words she has been credited with: "We are changing the world, one massage at a time."

Click here for more information about Tracy Walton, LMT, MS.


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