The Impact of a Mentor
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The Impact of a Mentor
Never underestimate your reach.
The impact of a mentor can last a lifetime. A mentor can shape not only your view of yourself, but your view of the world. If that isn't impact, I don't know what it is.
My adviser, college professor, and friend, Dr. Michael Graves is a mentor of a lifetime. Even though it has been decades since my college experience, I remember clearly some of those moments that helped me define and refine the person that I have become. Note, it was always Michael; not Dr. Graves, not Mr. Graves, but Michael.
I went to the west coast for my junior and senior years of college to a small private Quaker school, George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon. I had taken a break between my sophomore and junior year to record an album with a group and travel, and now I was ready to go back to school. (George Fox was a suggestion of my friend Lois from our singing group. That's where she was going and her brother was Dean of students.) The travel component of going to Oregon from Pennsylvania was very appealing, so off I went. I'm not a Quaker so that was new, too. The school had a diverse student body from around the country and internationally. I welcomed this experience!
Our classes were small usually between 8 to 15 students, so we really got to know each other. Michael created this safe environment in our classes to question and to learn. He had a way of gently guiding. He would engage us with his humor woven in between the lessons, directing us but not pushing conclusions, allowing us to stretch and grow.
A mentor is defined as an "experienced and trusted adviser." Even though Michael was probably only in his 30's, he was experienced to us because we had just gotten out of our teens! We all enjoyed our classes and each other. We thrived in the environment Michael created for us.
Michael and his wife Darlene, who was my beloved drama coach, were both professors at the school. There was a lot of life and learning from both of them during my two years at George Fox. I used to babysit for them as well, so there was trust and a bond between us.
It came time to do my final senior project, which was to be the culmination of "everything". My statement to the world, if you will! I told Michael, I was going to be in a one woman show. He smiled and said, "just don't get you and me thrown out of school!" Ha! He trusted me to present whatever and however I wanted; that was a beautiful thing.
Needless to say neither one of us got thrown out of school. My one woman show, my statement to the world, incorporated acting, singing, and dancing. It was titled, "Me, An Experiment in Self Expression." It was a journey that celebrated the individual and proclaimed at the end of the performance "You are the light of the world," from Godspell, one of the big hit musicals at the time.
Always thinking about what I was conveying and how I was moving from one scene to the next, I never stopped to really think what the audience response might be. So to be embraced by a standing ovation was unbelievably magical and self-affirming. The smile on Michael's face, his approval, and of course an excellent grade would've been all I needed; but the ovation was really pretty cool!
I share that ovation with Michael, my trusted mentor, whose lifetime impact and friendship I cherish.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to the kindled.- Plutarch