Thursday, September 9, 2010


Yesterdays post about the start of my undergraduate year was followed by a couple of really interesting talks with a couple of my current students. Both of these occurrences got me thinking about my mentors. What is a mentor you ask? A mentor is a person who you see a positive influence, an individual you trust and expect sage advice from. A mentor is not related to you or sleeps with you in anyway (so no girlfriends or wives etc). A mentor can be a considered a friend (and often is) but still holds an unequal relationship with you - probably based on your utmost respect for them.

In my time, I have had five mentors. My first mentor did not even know she was my mentor. She hired me for my first parks and recreation job when I was 15. She discussed with me way on how to do my job better, skills I would need to develop to be successful later in life and really came down hard on my when I did not do as well in school as she thought I could. She once cut my hours because she thought it was affecting my grades. It was because of her that I went to university in the first place.

My second mentor was a professor I met during my undergraduate years. I was cocky and really thought I was smart. She corrected my mis-assessment of what I perceived to be my skills and abilities. She helped me through probably the roughest time in my life as I struggled to transform from boy to man. When I screwed up, I was told about it but in a way that was meant for me to learn, grow and develop. In total, she is one of the toughest - yet most loving people I have ever met. I appreciate her greatly to this day. It was her that made me want to become a professor. Seeing the influence she had on my life, I wanted to follow her lead be the positive influence on others.

My third mentor was totally different from the first two. He is one of the smartest men on the planet and a person to which I hold in deep respect. He was the first of my mentors who over the years I have now come to call a friend. When I first met him as a sniveling MA student and still very rough around the edges. Even with my rough edges, he was patient and kind, listening to my whack-job ideas. Unlike my previous two mentors however, he was to to let me make my own mistakes and then help guide me to the solutions for the holes in which I dug myself. He to this day, a person whose advice and candor I seek. While my parents are to be credited with raising me to the man I am, I will fully credit my mentor for raising me to be the professional that I am. I do not think I have ever expressed the admiration I have for him but my son's middle name is Stephen for a reason.

My fourth mentor is a woman I care for deeply. She is a totally different kind of mentor than any of the others. From her I learned to care deeply for my family, profession and to respect the gifts that I have been bestowed. While she was my supervisor as well, I always viewed her in a different light. She was the first of my mentors who I really did view as being a team mate. We worked together on several projects and we would listen and respect each others thoughts and ideas. It was with her that I learned to be a collaborator. It was due to her support that I have been able to establish myself in my career yet still keep a work-life balance I probably would never even had considered having without my time working with her. It was her that transitioned me from student to professor.

My fifth and current mentor, I am pretty sure does not think of himself in that light. He is probably my closest friend and someone to who I have a deep respect even though we are so different in many ways. He is probably the most caring and loving person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Everyday when we talk I feel like I am under the learning tree though I am sure that is not the intention. He is not a mentor in the way some of the others have been. We are equals yet there is a respect I have for him that it is sometimes hard to take that position from my perspective. He has taught me to accept and to appreciate the tremendous life that I lead. I would say more but he would not like it.

I always have heard the saying, 'that if you surround yourself with winners, you yourself will become one.' It is by surrounding myself with these talents mentors that I believe I continue to become a better professional, a better family man and a better overall person.

Thank you all,


Post Script The list of people who have positive influenced my life is so long, I couldn't start to list everyone. Over the life of this blog however, I do intend to acknowledge as many of you are possible. So if it didn't happen today, I have not forgotten and I will do so as I appreciate you all.

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