Quiet guidance, tough love

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 29, 2007

Part two of a two-part series

I have been fortunate to have several mentors. Early in my career, Ray Gibbs, now the downtown development director in Greensboro was very helpful to me. In Salisbury, Larry Chilton, retired land management director and Foster Owen, retired assistant city manager, have helped me immensely.

— Randy Hemann

director, Downtown Salisbury, Inc.

I haven’t had one specifically, but certainly do understand the need for mentors. We use a lot of community service workers here, and I believe that the CS staff often places some young ones here so that Tricia and I can guide them a little while they’re working for us. They surely listen to us more than they will their parents, and we know that we have a good effect on some of them.

— Kaye Brown Hirst

director, Rowan Museum

I never had a specific mentor, although I did ask for advice and instruction from many whose writing or performance I respected. Most were helpful. My older brother, Sandy, was certainly a role model as he was an accomplished performer on guitar and cello at an early age and became a prolific song writer in his teens. He was and continues to be an objective sound board for my composition and performance.

I believe my first instruction was on ukelele from my aunt when I was around 5. I’m still grateful to know those folk songs on the ukelele!

My grandmother taught me to play “Frankie and Johnny” on piano when I was 7 or so, and I was certainly influenced by my mother’s accomplished voice, piano, organ, and violin performances. When I went to college, I suppose my private instructors became mentors.

English pianist Andrew Ball, who I met while studying abroad, has been a tremendously helpful creative guide and critic for years. I guess you could say it was collective mentoring for me, rather than anyone specific. As a result of all of my influences, I make every effort to encourage young talent today.

— Marc Hoffman

composer and performer

My mother died when I was 5 and my father died when I was 11 so my stepmom raised my sisters and me. My sister and I sold newspapersfrom a very early age. When I was 13, I worked for Dan Nicholas for a nickel an hour. I went to college when I was 16 (during depression years) and then got my first full-time job at 18.

I never had a mentor or a person that I patterned myself after but maybe I’d have done better if I’d had one? I like the idea of mentoring.

— Ralph Ketner

retired Food Lion CEO

The answer to the question, “Have you ever been a mentor?” is no, not to my knowledge, and the more I think about it, the more it strikes me that this may not be a bad thing at all. Some examples do not need to be perpetuated.

On the other hand, I have profited greatly from the counsel and example of many older and wiser heads than mine. Johnny Young comes immediately to mind. Dr. Young became chair of the department of modern foreign languages the same year I came to Catawba College, 1966. He was the only other faculty member whose specialty was French, so we had a lot to talk about. Although he was not yet 40, he was a seasoned teacher who made the difficult task of engaging students in second-language study appear much easier than it really was. For that, I still envy him.

The thing that made Johnny effective as a scholar was his unlimited curiosity. He wanted to know more about everything that attracted his attention, and in a lifetime of more than 70 years, a lot caught his attention — other languages and their literatures, of course, but also politics, music, religion, gardening, and especially cooking. Johnny mastered the cuisines of several countries, but his favorite remained traditional Southern country cooking: squash, pinto beans, cornbread and all those good things.

His search for the perfect pinto once assumed grail-quest proportions, leading him and a couple of his friends to a jewel of a joint called Ma Duncan’s at the far end of one of the runways at the old and unimproved Douglas Municipal Airport in Charlotte, but that’s another story.

Once he had learned something, Johnny wanted to share it with everyone he knew, and that, I think, is the key to his success as a teacher and a mentor. It was rare that even a casual conversation with him did not yield something I could use in the classes I taught or took. The fact that I completed the obstacle course/ endurance marathon we know as graduate school is due largely to Johnny’s encouragement and the little nuggets of knowledge he so casually dispensed as we made small talk over coffee and fried-egg sandwiches at the College Barbecue. He was probably the most offhandedly bright person I’ve ever known.

Johnny and I worked together for 25 years until his retirement in 1991. After that we managed to get together once or twice a year for a leisurely lunch and to swap stories, a few of which could be repeated in polite society. Johnny died a few days after Christmas in 2000. Once or twice since then I’ve dreamed that he, several of his other friends and I are sitting around a big table in an old kitchen somewhere, eating pinto beans and cornbread and celebrating his recovery from the cancer that in the waking world took his life.

— Dr. Andy Vance

professor of modern foreign languages and business law, Catawba College

I have benefitted more from a variety of people at different stages of my life than from a single mentor. Some have had a great impact in a short period of time, some have sort of steeped as time went on. Those that steeped were probably waiting on me to mature to a point that I could appreciate how I was being helped.

As I was growing up, I saw different people that I wanted to emulate; most never knew I was looking. I have tried to live my life with that in mind. I am constantly impressed with and guided by my sons, my wife, friends, and even opponents as they show me sometimes simple views on life that I never considered.

Mentoring is sometimes quiet guidance, sometimes tough love, and sometimes not realized by the giver or the receiver. Being a mentor is not only helping someone in a work place or in an educational setting, it is helping be a guide in life.

— Dave Collins

owner, Distinctive Naturescapes

One of my mentors was Ed Clement. He asked me to join the board of the Historic Salisbury Foundation in the late 1970s, which I did. Under Ed, I learned to appreciate the importance of historic preservation, neighborhood preservation and downtown revitalization. I had always loved history and my family has very deep roots in this community, but Ed taught me to appreciate how to make that history come alive and breathe new life into a community.

Another mentor was Jim Hurley. When I raised money to restore the Meroney Theater and to build the new Salisbury YMCA, Jimmy was always there to advise me about fund raising. I met with almost monthly and never made a big decision without consulting him. He was a tough taskmaster, but I learned a lot from him.

Since then I have done a lot of fund raising, for the Rowan Museum, the Piedmont Players, the LandTrust for Central NC and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Fred Stanback has been a mentor to me. He and the many people he introduced me to helped me learn to appreciate the importance of the land trust movement in North Carolina. He has also helped me appreciate what is wild and beautiful about our North Carolina mountains.

In 1997 when I was still in the private practice of law but was not happy with it, I went to him for advice and he told me to talk to Jeff Michael with the Land Trust. I did and eventually I got a job with the Land Trust. I have worked for land trusts ever since that time and it has changed my life.

Another mentor was a writer named Larry Brown from Alabama, whom I met at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference at Middlebury College, Vermont. He encouraged me to write and expand my short stories into a novel, which I did; the novel was eventually published as “Southport, a Story of Second Chances.”

I have had many mentors during my life, each and every one of them have contributed much to the richness of my life and often helped me go into new directions when I was lost and without direction.

— Ed Norvell

legal counsel for the Conservation Trust for North Carolina

I have had several “trusted leaders or guides,” as Mr. Webster defines a mentor.

I guess my mother, Eloise Leonard, is the best mentor for my life. She lives a life of faith in God, serving others, hard work, prayer, and loving others. My mother taught me how to be a mom, though I have not done the job as well as she!

My other mentor is my brother, Carl Leonard. He is also a Realtor and I worked for him when my children were young. We live our lives — personally and professionally — as our mother taught us: we are Realtors who have faith in God, rejoice in serving others, we work hard, praying often and loving others.

I am blessed to have had a mom and brother to mentor me.

— Marie Leonard Hartsell