How Did a Mentor Make a Difference in Your Life?
It was a simple enough question. The answers, however, came in a flood. Personal, passionate stories from former students about the professor who took an interest in them, who inspired them to want and to work, or who just plain scared them to death, and how it all changed their lives. Here are their stories …
When I arrived on campus at Southeast as a freshman in the fall of 1995, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up (still don’t!). All I knew was I wanted to see the world, and I was aware college students often studied abroad. So now that I was a college student, I started asking around, “How do I go abroad?” The answer: See Dr. Benton.
Even though I had to wait until my senior year (1999) to student-teach in Wales, apparently I pestered Dr. Benton enough for her to notice what I didn’t even know about myself: I wasn’t only curious about traveling, but I was serious about education, making a difference in the world and living outside the box. I had no idea when I went to meet Dr. Benton for the first time in her closet in Scully that she would end up significantly changing the course of my life several times over the next 15 years.
Dr. Benton was my ticket to the world through interactions with visiting international scholars, cultural programs and her own contributions to the field of education and Southeast’s student exchange programs. During pre-travel meetings for our student-teaching experience, Dr. Benton opened not only her own home (which is cozy, modest, with delicious international foods, colorful dinnerware and cultural artifacts from across the world), she also opened our minds. Her words of advice still run through my head today, whether I’m advising myself or young people I meet who have similar interests: “Do it now, while you’re young. Sleep in a hammock by the sea before you get old like me and need things like air conditioning.” “When you’re on a crowded bus, stay alert and keep your hands on your valuables.” “Don’t be an Ugly American.” “The best way to be spotted as a foreigner is to wear big white athletic shoes everywhere you go.” “Somewhere you should go is Lausanne, Switzerland. Everyone talks about Lucerne, but see Lausanne.” “How to save time and money: sleep on the train and eat a loaf of bread.” As my adventures unfolded over the years, I realized I didn’t have to be in a foreign country to use the wisdom behind those words to make the most of any day!
Because of Dr. Benton – and the places seen/things that happen to those who follow her – I learned about my own cultural ignorance, I studied abroad and I traveled Europe both with a group and alone. After graduation, on the coat-tails of Dr. Benton’s inspirations to explore my wander-lust, I turned down a full-time job teaching art (a position most education graduates would dream of – then and today!) and lived richly on $300 a month teaching in Indonesia and traveling Southeast Asia. In 2001, again thanks to Dr. Benton, I went back to Southeast as a graduate assistant. Even after my academics and employment interests took diverging paths, Dr. Benton was still there for me, six years later, to encourage me again to pursue a master’s degree.
Over the years, whenever I thought I must be crazy, felt I didn’t fit in or was convinced there was somewhere else in the world I needed to be (which was about every six months), I would call or send a long email to Dr. Benton. There were a number of boyfriends, jobs, philosophies of life and ideas about the world; Dr. Benton put up with listening to a lot of crap. I’ll never forget where I was standing (trying not to drop the phone) when she told me I should look at Harvard, Columbia and Yale for my interests in graduate school. A few days later when I sat alone at an internet café and pulled up an Ivy League website for the first time, I hid my laptop screen so even strangers wouldn’t see that someone like me would even think about something like that. Looking back, I had some really stupid ideas. Thank you, Dr. Benton, for being the rest of my brain when I needed it.
Today, I live in Mobile, Ala., USA. I am working in the second of two dream-jobs so far in my museum-education career. I don’t travel as much as I used to, but I saw Dr. Benton about a year ago, on my way home to the Gulf Coast after visiting family in the Midwest. True to her mentor nature, she didn’t fuss when I woke her early on a Sunday morning, calling 15 minutes away on I-55, as a complete surprise. She hadn’t heard from me in about two years, but it seemed very natural to be waking up over coffee, saving the world and discussing my future at the Cracker Barrel off William Street. As the pattern goes, I’m still running through our conversation a year later.
So to answer your question, has a college mentor made a difference for me? Yes! I haven’t even scratched the surface with this letter. Southeast Missouri State University has something that can’t be found in Paris, Rome or the Big Apple. Behold: Dr. Jean Benton, eighth wonder of the world!
–C. Darby Ulery ’99
As a 32-year-old with a husband and two young school-age children, I embarked upon a journey in 1968 to obtain a degree in elementary education. Our country store of nine years ownership went down the tube when a chain grocery went into business in our little town of 5,000. At the time my sister was a junior at SEMO. Since I had been salutatorian of my graduating class of 60, I asked if she thought I could be successful after being out of school some 18 years. She encouraged me. After selling our business, my attitude was I am going to try and if I fail, I fail. Dr. Bethard was my advisor the entire tenure of my attendance. I shall never forget Dr. Bethard for his wonderful guidance, and Mr. Sewell who helped me tremendously complete the math requirements for the elementary degree. I graduated cum laude in the first midterm graduating class 1972. I went on to acquire a master’s degree in reading. I was qualified to teach K-12 since I met certification requirements to teach English in secondary. I filled a position in the Charleston R-1 School District for a junior high language arts opening and remained there for 28 years. The last day of school happened to be my 65th birthday, the last day of my teaching career. Since I am now a widow, I most certainly appreciate the pension my education is providing. These two mentors steered me on the right course for my success.
–June Collier ’71
I started writing early on. I’m told that when I was in the second grade I wrote a story and gave it to my father for his birthday. I remember writing a puppet show based on The Littlest Angel (and playing said angel) when I was in the fifth grade. In high school, I was the only member of the Creative Writing Club who had a new story for every single meeting. I can still remember Miss Nichols, my sophomore English teacher, taking her own time to drive me into downtown St. Louis to meet with a representative from a vanity press. (That venture, alas, went nowhere.)
I was such a good writer by the time I got to college that Professor John Bierk, my freshman comp teacher, invited me to be on the yearbook staff. Forty years later, John and I are still friends.
John was my very first college teacher. After several weeks of class, he asked me to come to his office. When I obediently showed up, he praised my writin. A dozen years later, while I was working on my M.A., I helped edit and proofread John’s Ph.D. dissertation. When I flew back to Cape Girardeau for Homecoming in 2006, I stayed with another friend, and John came to dinner. I gave him a signed copy of Pagan Every Day, in which I wrote, Is this where English 101 ends up?
In an email, John wrote, “I appreciate your compliment concerning my influence on you, but the hard fact is that you wrote very well when you got to me; thus, all I can claim is that I gave you a further chance to express yourself in writing.”
I still give John credit for validating the writing talent of a shy college freshman. Perhaps he’s a sort of grandfather of the work I’m doing now.
–Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. ’63, ’68
Dr. John Bierk is my mentor. When I was awarded a tennis scholarship to attend SEMO in the 70s, Dr. Bierk was there for me. I traveled from my home in Florida and moved to Cape Girardeau. Dr. Bierk was not only an instructor at the University, but he also became a dear friend. He helped me grow into a mature young man. He knew the “buttons” to push me to not only be the best I could be but also to excel in the sidelines of life. He taught me that life is too short and to be the best that you can be.
After graduation, I became a tennis professional. Seven years later, I seriously injured my knee, but I had an education and degree from SEMO that now turned into a golden investment. I had listened to Dr. John Bierk and gotten my degree, and I had that “cushion” to fall back on…”just in case.” Thank you, Dr. John Bierk!
–Dave Felter ’77
It is hard to limit this mentor note to only one person, as there were several professors who mentored me in one way or another. Having grown up in Bourbon, Mo., I was about as green as it gets when I went to SEMO. I didn’t even know why I went to college, except for my high school principal’s encouragement that it was the thing to do to have a rewarding future. She (Mrs. Caroline Strayhorn) was also a SEMO alumnus, so I guess she would qualify as my first “SEMO mentor.”
From the several mentors who influenced me while attending SEMO, I would have to pick Dr. Homer Bolen as the one who most influenced the course of my educational and professional lives. He was chair of the Department of Biology and taught several biology courses, one of which, comparative anatomy, I took. He stopped me after class one day and asked me if I had considered going to medical school. Since I had done nothing knowingly to attract this question, I was somewhat at a loss for how to reply, but I related that I had heard that one had to be “rich” to go to medical school and so doing so had not entered my mind. His reply was that there were ways to pay for medical school that did not require wealthy parents and that he thought I would be a good candidate for medical school. He advised that if it was even a remote possibility I should be sure to take the prerequisite courses to qualify for medical school application and went on to guide me to check the catalogs of the schools to which I might apply in order to learn what those prerequisites were. I did so and then made sure I took the necessary courses. Doing so allowed me to get into the University of Missouri School of Medicine where I graduated with an MD degree in 1968. From there I went to the University of Michigan for pediatric training, followed by pediatric infectious diseases training at Washington University’s St. Louis Children’s Hospital. These educational opportunities were all a direct extension of Dr. Bolen’s spontaneous mentoring (we didn’t have a formal pre-med program back in 1961).
My career has been most gratifying professionally and personally, as its related activities were worldwide in scope and led to the development of significant new treatments for herpes virus infections, influenza and HIV/AIDS before I retired in 2008.
–Dr. Ronald Keeney ’64
Charles Bonwell, Grant Lund, George Founds and Jim Dufek
My first semester at SEMO was in 1982. I ran cross country, so I arrived on campus early in August. I quickly found I needed to try and get a lot faster. Coach Bingly really worked with us. I unfortunately could not keep up with Mike Vanetta, Mike Burn and some of the other runners, so while I never made the traveling team, I did get to run the local races.
I was able to get a scholarship from Mrs. Eileen Wedeking. I heard she lived on the edge of town. So when I ran in the morning training for the cross country team, I ran by her house to thank her. She was in her yard, and I got to know her. I was so grateful for getting some help with my college expenses.
I ran my sophmore year, but I did not go out my junior and senior year. I realized I needed to get a lot faster to be able to be competitive in cross country. I did not realize at the time that I was just in some really fast company! They won the National Title my junior year. I had wonderful time running, and I still try to run today.
I had a History Professor my first semester Dr. Bonwell. He really helped me with taking essay tests. I appreciate the time he took to help me. Grant Lund and George Founds in the Art Department both helped me to prepare for graphic design. I have been able to work in graphic design ever since I graduated. I presently work at the University of Evansville in Indiana. Jim Dufek, in the communications department, worked with me in video art graphics. I made the most out of my college experience. I hope that students take advantage of all the things SEMO has to offer!
Dr. Leon Book
On my first day of college at Southeast Missouri State University, I attended a French II course with Dr. Leon Book. From the moment we entered the classroom he spoke only in French. Sweat began to glisten on my forehead, my ears began to tremble and my throat became dry envisioning myself conversing with this incredible French speaker. Then, he jumped upon a desktop and began introducing himself in what can only be described as a “hick drawl” chatting about his hometown of Festus-Crystal City, Mo.!
The entire class erupted into laughter as he explained it was his job to keep us entertained and motivated to learn and do our best. In order to do this, he had to change our perspective as well as his own. From this moment on I was hooked; I adored Dr. Leon Book.
Unfortunately, French was too advanced for me to remain in level II, so I moved forward acquainting myself with other professors from the foreign language department; however, none inspired me as much as Dr. Book did on that first day. Luckily, I was very blessed receiving opportunities to work with him on little projects or in the lab until I declared education and French as my major. Then, Dr. Book was assigned as my faculty advisor, and I was elated.
The most significant impact Dr. Leon Book had on me was instilling the philosophy that it was my job to educate and entertain students. There are only a few precious moments in a class in which you have students’ undivided attention and what you do with that time can make a lifetime of differences in their lives. Hence I became the “wild & crazy” French teacher I am today—singing, dancing, telling jokes and sharing stories to help students connect prior knowledge to new French content. I am about to start my 22nd year in the classroom, and I still reflect upon my memories of Leon Book each new year. Dr. Book was an adult with whom I connected because he made learning fun; for these reasons and many more, I respect him as an educator and honor him as a colleague for inspiring me to be like him every day of my life. Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Book!
-Teresa M. Frisby-Kresse ’91
Dr. Shelba Branscum
In 1991, I was a single mother with two children, Shawnique who was 1, and Kedar who was nine months. I was going from job to job, trying to find the one I would be able to survive and raise my two daughters. While going through the changes of jobs, I sat down and talked to my neighbor at the time, Dr. Joann McCauley. She saw my struggle and asked if I had thought about going to college and getting a degree in a field I would enjoy doing for the rest of my life? I thought about growing up on welfare. My mother couldn’t reach the middle of ends. We moved from place to place, sometimes no electricity, no gas, and at one point I remember we ate old meat from Del-Farms. I didn’t want to raise my daughters on welfare, which was $292 at the time amd not enough to even pay rent. I took the advice of Dr. McCauley and applied at Southeast Missouri State University.
I took my ACT and made an 11 on it. At the time Southeast required a 13 to enter. I was able to attend but without financial aid because of my ACT score. Knowing I most definitely could not afford to pay my own tuition, I told Dr. McCauley about my situation. She asked me again, what do you want out of life? I pondered on the question and again came to the same conclusion: I refuse to live and depend on the welfare system. Not having enough money to buy toiletries, diapers, cloths and pay bills was not an option, so I pursued college.
I called the Dean of Admissions, and I told him my story. I was a single mother of two beautiful daughters, and I needed to pursue a career in a field I enjoy because I didn’t want to raise my daughters on welfare! After much consideration, I got a letter in the mail from Admissions telling me I was accepted under academic probation for one year. I took the challenge and pursued my life.
Attending SEMO was a defining moment in my life. I didn’t have a car, and I lived at the other end of town. I walked to my classes, in the rain, snow, heat, and sometimes I even took my daughters with me because I didn’t have a baby sitter.
I thought nursing was my destiny, but I couldn’t get pass the trauma of seeing open wounds and A & P was hell getting through. So, I pursued criminal justice, which was not even close to what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I evaluated myself and my past jobs. I loved working with people and helping them.
I had befriended a young lady by the name of Amanda Brewer, and she told me about the human environmental studies program. I inquired about the program, and BAM–I had found my calling in life and the most inspiring advisor any student could ask for, Dr. Shelba Branscum.
Dr. Branscum was life to my four years attending SEMO. She guided me through each semester and her classes were the BOMB! Dr. Branscum made classes exciting, and she gave life to those she taught. She was real, she taught from her life experience and she told us the truth. She was always there when I need her as an advisor, and when I got in trouble with grades, she guided me in the right direction. She made us laugh and cry, and she showed us how to enjoy classes we didn’t like.
She helped me get my first job working with young teen mothers, a field I was so familiar with. I worked 30 hours a week and took on 17 hours of classes. I was elated because of the opportunity I had to inspire someone who was traveling down the same road I once traveled.
I remember when I was working on campus with the girl’s basketball team, and I had to get some homework done after I got off work. Focused on homework, I forgot my daughters at daycare. I was in a panic. I called everybody I could think of, and no one had my daughters. I called the police station because the daycare policy was if no one picked them up at a certain time, they would take them to the police. I had forgotten I put Dr. McCauley down as an emergency contact. They let me stew for a minute but let me knew that the girls were safe. I was determined to reach my destiny because I knew there were others coming along who would need the same help I received from Dr. Joann McCauley and Dr. Shelba Branscum.
I graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in human environmental studies, family life with a minor in social work. Today, I am the program director of Lekhabed Sisterhood, a community outreach program for girls 11-14. Our mission is to prevent teen pregnancy and reduce the high school drop out rate among young ladies in our community. We are changing lives “together.” My goal is to pour into these young ladies, the wisdom I gained that will help guide them through the obstacles of life.
–Xavier L. Bland ’95
David Cameron, Dalton B. Curtis, Craig Roberts, Lisa Speer and Mitchel Gerber
Looking back at my undergraduate career at Southeast, I was blessed to have multiple mentors. I could not limit it to just one, though some were stronger than others. In total, I had five mentors, each deserving notice. To do otherwise would be unfair.
As a history major, it should be no surprise that two mentors were from the Department of History. Dr. David Cameron may not have thought what he did would be considered mentoring, but it was. He always challenged our classes to do the best we could. With me, he never hesitated to let me try new and interesting topics within my research. Specifically, with my senior paper he allowed me to research a topic that fell within his specialty, but he knew little about. Normally, professors try to steer students to topics they are more familiar with, but through what I demonstrated in other classes he did not hesitate to let me try. He knew I could handle it and teach him something in the process. Also, in our senior capstone class, Dr. Cameron taught us more about resumes, vitas and preparing for grad school and the workforce than we ever learned in the Career Linkages classes.
Dr. Dalton B. Curtis was my other Department of History mentor. In addition to challenging his classes to do the best they could, he took note of those who had initiative and let us expand our knowledge. One semester when I needed another history class and none offered fit my schedule, it was Dr. Curtis I turned to for an independent study. Dr. Curtis has also still been there for me a year past graduation to answer my questions about history graduate programs, as I may add a second master’s degree in history after my current master’s degree is complete. Specifically, he encourages me to remember that despite my poor foreign language skills, that should not completely discourage me from wanting to peruse an M.A. in European History.
Dr. Craig Roberts, the Honors Program director, has also been a mentor. While I did not have him for a class, I spent three years on the Student Honors Council. He allowed me to suggest and plan new activities for our events. With planning, he helped me to understand all the facets needed to plan major events, a skill which I will use throughout life. He also encouraged me to try different Honors courses I may not otherwise have tried, broadening my knowledge. Most importantly, he allowed me to rescue and restore the collection of books once belonging to Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr., which I found when we moved locations in 2009. This allowed me to practice my chosen profession while still an undergraduate and led to a change in my graduate focus and life.
Dr. Lisa Speer from Special Collections and Archives became a mentor in my last year at SEMO through her help with the Honors Program’s Limbaugh books. During the course of the project, I learned I loved to do the preservation work with the books and documents. Previous, I thought I was going to do school libraries as my focus in the library science graduate program. It was through learning the preservation techniques that I found a new career path that fit me better than anything I previously found. If she had not showed me those techniques, I never would have known. And now while I am in graduate school, Dr. Speer has continued to provide guidance. She has allowed me to email her questions ranging from what course she would recommend taking to questions on preservation techniques. She has even allowed me to interview her for class presentations. On top of everything Dr. Speer has done for my current and future career, we also became friends and have a great deal in common. She is the mentor I have turned to most since my 2010 graduation.
Dr. Mitchel Gerber was my most influential mentor as an undergraduate. I first encountered Dr. Gerber in my PS-103 class my second semester at SEMO. In high school, I disliked my government class. I thought it was boring. I almost CLEP-tested out of PS-103 but did not since it was offered as an Honors class. Dr. Gerber’s thought-provoking class piqued my interest. He turned a boring subject into a stimulating one. And, I was up for the challenge. Through that class, I learned to enjoy political science. Dr. Gerber may have realized this before I did and did everything he could to encourage me and provoke my thoughts. He introduced me to the Political Philosophy Club he advised because he thought I would enjoy it. I would go on to take three more classes with Dr. Geber and spend three years in the Political Philosophy Club. He not only encouraged this but also twice sponsored me in the Student Research Conference. Throughout my undergraduate career, Dr. Gerber also kept trying to convince me to get a Ph.D in either history or political science. I still may further down the line, but the second master’s degree must come first for my career. In all, I think Dr. Gerber knew me better than I knew myself at that point in my life. Without his encouragement, I would have missed finding the proper minor, a perfect organization and a love for a new subject. Still today, he is a person I can always count of for advice.
The moral to this story is that sometimes it is not just one mentor who has an effect. It can be many. Some also chose to still be there for me after graduating from SEMO. While I cannot deny Dr. Gerber and Dr. Speer had the greatest overall effect, the contributions of Dr. Cameron, Dr. Curtis and Dr. Roberts cannot be ignored. To not acknowledge all their contributions would be wrong. I am honored to have worked with each mentor, and I cannot thank them enough. They all made a difference in my life in their own way.
–Amy Nickless ’10
Although I have been out of school a long time, I would like to recognize and thank one of my accounting professors, Stephen Del Vecchio. I was a freshman at Southeast Missouri State University in 1980, eager to start my pursuit of a professional career, although I was not sure what it might be. I only enrolled in an accounting class because two courses in accounting were required prerequisites for some other courses that I really wanted to take. I remember many accounting professors who influenced me to understand how important accounting was in business, since accounting is the language of business. Some of these influential professors included Steve Del Vecchio, Ken Clark, Tony Varnon and others.
I was shy and reserved at 20 years old and never developed a relationship with any of my professors. Still, nearly 30 years later, I clearly remember many of the moments in class when professors said things that made a lasting and significant impression. Professor Del Vecchio taught me in courses including intermediate accounting and auditing. I recall one class period when he was passionately lecturing about the 43 Statements on Auditing Standards and how it was so important for us, as future auditors, to exercise strong professional skepticism about the financial statements we would audit. Now there are 120 such standards for auditors.
Unfortunately, management and accounting fraud peaked to unprecedented levels in the 1990s and 2000s. In late 2001 Enron filed for bankruptcy, brought on by discovery of management fraud. Then in 2002 the Arthur Anderson audit firm collapsed due to its Enron audit failure and apparent subsequent cover up of evidence. Congress enacted the broad Sarbanes-Oxley legislation on July 30, 2002, which heightened management’s responsibility for corporate fraud and created work for armies of accountants who were hired to help public companies comply with the new law. Professor Del Vecchio could not have predicted these specific events, but his concern and classroom focus on the role of the auditor in detecting fraud accurately foreshadowed these events, which changed both auditing and corporate life.
I became an auditor, and eventually, a forensic accountant. I have investigated at least a hundred or more accounting frauds, concealed thefts by accounting employees and business disputes. I have worked as an accounting expert witness in lawsuits between businesses. I have also just formed a consulting company to provide part-time accounting expert witness services, Accounting Expertise LLC. The basic accounting and business skills I learned from Professor Del Vecchio and many other professors at SEMO enabled me to successfully pursue this exciting and rewarding career path.
I lost contact with Professor Del Vecchio (it still feels a little strange to me today when I call him Steve) for many years. Several years ago, I was working on an accounting investigation case with an attorney and tax specialist who was leaving my client company and joining the University of Central Missouri (UCM) as a professor. Talking with him I learned that the UCM accounting department included a Professor Del Vecchio on staff. I made a point to make contact and confirmed that indeed this was my professor from SEMO, who had made his way to the University of Central Missouri to teach in 2000.
Professor Del Vecchio received his B.S. in business administration and his Master of Business Administration from Southeast Missouri State University in 1974 and 1981, respectively. He completed his PhD in business administration from the University of Southern Illinois-Carbondale in 1990. He is now professor and chair of the School of Accountancy at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo.
I got to know Steve again over the last several years. We have lunch together occasionally and talk about the current state of business generally, and accounting education, specifically. We were both members of a local chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Steve eventually invited me to guest lecture in his master’s level course on fraud and forensic accounting, which I was able to do a couple of summer semesters.
I eventually confided to Steve that I although I loved my current job, I was considering a transition to a new career in accounting education. Reflecting on my years at SEMO, I thought becoming a professor to teach and publish research could be a very intellectually rewarding career track. Steve encouraged the idea. He told me how valuable he believed my accounting experience would be to students in the classroom. He explained how academia works and how to pursue a PhD to become a professor. He introduced me to some of his colleagues at UCM who discussed teaching and academia with me. He even discussed the possibility of me teaching part-time at UCM’s MBA program.
I had already completed an MBA at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in 1993, so I started networking, applying to accounting PhD programs and attending conferences to find a school that would be willing to accept an older, non-traditional student like me. Steve was encouraging and supportive to me throughout the process. During the last two years, he completed numerous references letters and forms on my behalf to PhD programs and scholarship sponsors.
At last, I have been accepted to the University of South Florida’s accounting PhD program, where I will begin taking courses beginning this fall semester. Most accounting PhD programs are very selective and only accept a couple of new students per year. Without Steve’s encouragement and support, I doubt I would have ever had a chance to pursue my new dream of becoming a college professor.
After my acceptance at the University of South Florida, I decided I wanted to give my PhD application references thank you gifts to express my sincere appreciation for their time in completing these numerous reference letters and application forms. I sent flowers to one supervisor and a bottle of well-aged single-malt scotch to another colleague. However, no gift for a mentor like Steve Del Vecchio seemed adequate to express the true extent of my appreciation for his wisdom and support. So, as a gift of appreciation, and to commemorate our reunion, I am expressing my thoughts in this article and presenting our photos flanking the SEMO seal, along with a photo of Academic Hall, where we met and spent time together from 1982 to 1984. I have framed one of these signed photo collages for each of us.
Professor Del Vecchio: Thank you for your instruction, advice and support, spanning three decades.
–Don Wengler ’84
I entered college at Southeast as a recent high school graduate with a plan. I knew I wanted to be a teacher. One year into the program, however, I knew it just wasn’t for me. I tried another major that wasn’t a good fit, either. Since Spanish had been my minor, I had already accumulated some credits in the program. If I wanted to graduate on time, I would need to become a Spanish major.
Despite the manner in which I found the Spanish program at Southeast, it changed the trajectory of my life. This is due in great part to Dr. Debbie DiStefano. Knowledgeable, fair and approachable, she expected us to dig deeper rather than just earn our credits and progress through the hierarchy of classes.
I had the opportunity to study abroad twice, both instances in Mexico, during my time at Southeast. My first trip was solo, to ITESM in Queretaro, and Dr. DiStefano accompanied us on the second trip to Cuernavaca, where she was an integral part of our collective experience. However, my most memorable course at Southeast was a minority literature class Dr. DiStefano created. I was embarrassed at how little I knew and amazed at how much I learned. Japanese-Peruvian authors? Afro-Cuban poets? Dr. DiStefano was a major catalyst in my desire to learn more about other people, other cultures and other ways of life different from my own.
Upon graduation, I actually did teach for a year in the St. Louis Public Schools as a ninth grade Spanish teacher. Looking back to that which I had been exposed in the Spanish program, I made an effort to share those experiences with my students earlier in their lives, in hope of inspiring them to learn more about others. I believe once we are aware of a different way of life, it is much more difficult to hate, persecute or simply dismiss people and cultures that are not our own. I have taken these lessons with me to other careers, friendships and environments, including last year, where I decided to move to western Mexico for several months to immerse myself in another country; not as a structured collegiate program but as a real, survive-in-a-new-culture adventure. The confidence I gained from Dr. DiStefano and the program was the final push I needed to take the jump to relocate.
Dr. DiStefano is an asset to Southeast. I am quite fortunate that I “fell into” the Spanish program as it has been the foundation for all the experiences I have had the opportunity to live since graduation.
–Justin Root ’06
Dr. James Drickey
Our mentor is Dr. James Drickey. Dr. Drickey taught in the psychology department. Each of us had classes under this great teacher. He was a role model for all of us who continued for some period of time in the field of education. There was always something new to look forward to in his classes be it interactive work , field trips or tapes of original psychologists. We looked forward to his classes.
As we moved on in our careers one of us became an inter-departmental colleague of dr. Drickey’s for 23 years; he was always available to consult with regarding students and research. Dr. Drickey served as another type of role model for us. After retraining, we became licensed professional counselors and Dr.Drickey had a private practice in town. He graciously became our mentor for our practice. We were able to discuss/staff cases, ask for advice and request assistance in locating referral sources for our clients. He was always there for us. Our practice is now approximately 20 years old and dr. Drickey is still available to us for consultation. He has become our close friend. We are grateful to have had a personal, collegial and mentor relationship with this truly giving man. Thank you, Dr. Drickey!
–Patricia A. Murray
Dr. Ann Gifford
I graduated from Southeast Missouri State with two degrees: a master’s degree in 1981 and a specialist’s degree in 1991. During that time I had several professors who made a difference in my life: Mrs. Dymple Medlin, Dr. Frank Linn, Dr. Richard Farmer, Dr. Art Turner and Dr. William Hoover to name a few. After retiring as an assistant superintendent from public school administration, I embarked on a new career as an assistant professor in the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education. My mentor, Dr. Ann Gifford, was absolutely the best and worked tirelessly to make me successful. She shared everything with me and made certain my decision to come to SEMO was a smooth and rewarding one. I have been blessed to receive recognitions for teaching effectiveness. I credit that effectiveness on the role model Dr. Gifford was for me. I did not have to ask for explanations; she was always sharing and anticipating what I might need. Dr. Gifford was one of the most dedicated professors of which I have had the pleasure to know and emulate. I am certain her students would second everything I have written.
–R. Larry Bohannon, Ph.D. ’81, ’91
I came to SEMO from a very small community in Southeast Missouri, very new to the academic world. As a music education major, I spent most of my time and energy in the music department and in awe of both the professors and upperclassmen with whom I interacted. For the first two years, I was happy and felt a part of the department, but only a small part. I did not feel that I was taken seriously by many, if any of the professors at the time. There were so many students with more “potential” than I; that I think I was thought of as a “utility” or “workhorse” type member of the department and ensembles.
At the beginning of my junior year, I found myself ready to meet the third new director of bands in as many years. I did not have a great deal of self confidence at the time and saw no reason that I would stand out among the other students in the eyes of the new director.
From the beginning of our relationship, Dr. Robert Gifford made me feel as if I mattered to him. He knew I was not the best saxophone player in the department nor the most academically gifted. As the year got underway, he would give me small tasks to fulfill over and above the responsibilities of the particular ensemble or group at hand. As I would accomplish these small tasks, others would follow, some bigger and more important.
I remember one time another student made the statement to me, “Gifford’s really got you stepping and fetching for him!” I looked at the student as if he were from another planet. It never occurred to me that Dr. Gifford was doing anything but helping me to rise out of the mediocrity which had been my life to that point. And, that is exactly what he did.
My senior year, Dr. Gifford selected me to be the student assistant director for the Golden Eagles Marching Band. At the time, there were no graduate assistants and the only assistant director was the percussion instructor. Dr. Gifford treated me as if I were the assistant director. Even after marching season ended, I continued to be given extra responsibilities within the department. When Dr. Gifford was out for several weeks due to back surgery, he asked me to rehearse and conduct the Concert Band for him.
I graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Music Education. I worked for 17 years as a band director, most recently at Lafayette High School in the Rockwood School District. I was an assistant principal in the Francis Howell School District for eight years, and I am about to begin my fourth year as the Principal of Bernard Middle School in the Mehlville School District. Throughout the last 28 years since graduating, Dr. Gifford has remained an example and mentor to me. I was apprehensive about seeing him for the first time after I went into administration from the world of music education. He was most gracious and congratulated me. He said he was glad to see that we are beginning to have good music educators going into administration.
In summary, my life would have been drastically different and less rich had my path not crossed with Dr. Gifford. My story is just one of hundreds like it that could be repeated over and over. He has touched many lives, including all of those I have been fortunate enough to touch over the past 28 years.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my heart about a man who bent a twig the right way many years ago.
–Phil Milligan ’83
I arrived on campus in September 1956. I remember approaching a long table of teachers with an empty chair across from each person. I carefully spanned the group of instructors and decided upon a man with a gentle face and a big smile. He immediately introduced himself as Fred Goodwin, instructor of speech. I explained I was from Charleston, Mo., and had just finished a speech class with Mr. Warren Moss, a very stern but wonderful teacher. He smiled and told me he knew Mr. Moss well and because I had been in his class, he immediately said he would love for me to take his first year speech class. He added that he would love to become my adviser for the following four years.
What a kind and enduring man he was! My speech class ended with a shiny “A.” We had to do several speeches throughout the course, and he loved everything about each of mine. Imagine how uplifting that was to a beginning college student. He was also proud I had been a student of the famous Mattie Henry for three years in grammar school. Miss Henry drilled grammar, Palmer Penmanship and oral composition into each of her students with a dreadful and fearful backhand. She had taught for many, many years in Mississippi County and thousands of students dreaded and hated passing through her hallways.
As each quarter passed, Mr. Goodwin was always available to guide me wisely,whether it was to choose a course or pick the exact instructor for me. Two of the wonderful instructors he coaxed me into were John Bierk, essentials of grammar, and Dean Forrest Rose for his famous class delivering great prose and poetry.
I am so proud to have met this wonderful man who guided me so carefully into and throughout my college life. I was offered a teaching job after eight quarters of college with ninety hours under my belt. When I came back in summers and finished an endless list of night classes, Mr. Goodwin was always there, remembering me and pushing me forward and onward. Thank you Dr. Fred Goodwin! You were the best and I shall remember you always!
–Carla Jo Harvey Wills ’61
In 1973 I played the role of Malvolio in the Department of Theatre’s production of Twelth Night. After a rehearsal, a little gray-haired man, whom I’d never met, asked me if I would like to listen to his recording of this play for inspiration in playing this part. He gave me his address and after the next day’s classes, I went by to pick up his offer. The little gray-haired man was Dr. Grauel, as in the Grauel Building that houses Rose Theatre. That encounter allowed me to not only meet a mentor but a friend.
–David B. Ross ’75
Prof. H. O. Graul came to mind when I received the message asking about a mentor. However, Prof. Graul was more of an inspiration to me than a mentor. During the 60 years since I graduated I have thought about him more than any other professor whose classes I attended. During my three years in the Pacific during World War II, his counsel about life in general was of great emotional help. When I returned to college in 1945, Prof. Graul was the first faculty member to remember and welcome me.
Because I took many English classes, several from Mr. Graul, I still remember vividly the small framed plaque which hung in his college grammar classroom bearing the instructions “Always say ‘It seems as if.’” Prof. Graul was strict but fair and always the perfect gentleman.
–Warren Whitworth ’51
I have just traveled from Colorado with my four children to Cape Girardeau. An important stop was to see Dr. Gloria Green in the Department of Nursing. I wish I had kept a journal, so I could recall my first encounters with such an amazing woman. My memory will have to serve.
Dr. Green was one of my first professors as a student in the Department of Nursing. I recall sitting in the old lab during lecture and looking at her and thinking “I want to do what she does.” She was kind, she was caring, she was knowledgeable, she was a nurse and an educator! My mother, also a nurse, passed away my sophomore year of college and the loss was huge. A year and a half later, my sister Mary, also a nurse, died. Those were difficult years, and the support I received as a nursing student kept me on track. I can’t tell you anything Dr. Green or the other faculty said, but I can tell you how I felt. I felt supported and cared for. My presence and success within the nursing program mattered. It made all the difference in the world.
I stayed local after graduation and worked at Southeast Missouri Hospital. I had nursing students on my unit. I loved teaching and mentoring them. I often thought of Dr. Green. After two years, I went back to school for my master’s degree. I wanted to teach and mold future nurses as Dr. Green had done. Upon completion of my master’s degree, Southeast Missouri State University needed an instructor for pediatrics. I was hired. Guess who had the office across from mine? You guessed it! Dr. Gloria Green. She insisted I was her peer and I call her “Gloria.”
Again, she was my mentor. For six years she taught me as I began to mold future nurses’ minds. I stood at the same podium where she stood, and students sat in the chairs I once sat. Now, she was my mentor, my peer and my friend. I learned more about her and the qualities that made her an outstanding woman and nurse! I will always treasure Dr. Gloria Green. She encouraged me through my nursing student years, my first educator position, my doctoral program and the list goes on and on.
She is again serving as chair for the Department of Nursing because they need her expertise. She is always serving, and I have no doubt her contributions to nursing and future nurses will continue for many years. She will always be my mentor because her life is an example, and I will always want to learn from her. Today, I spent an hour in her office, and she again mentored me in the ways of life.
–Michelle (Mann) Redfearn, RN, PhD
In my four years at Southeast Missouri State University, I had no shortage in my support system of family, professors, friends, teammates, coaches, advisors and the Southeast community in general. In fact, it was all the advice, words of encouragement and even just friendly conversation that led me through the best four years of my life so far and drove me to take advantage of all the great opportunities that opened up and ultimately allowed to thrive on a campus so eager to see student success.
One person, however, stands out among the many people who inspired me in my college years. That is Ann Hayes, my supervisor at the Southeast Missouri State University News Bureau, where I worked my junior and senior years. I must credit Dr. Debbie Below, director of admissions at Southeast, for leading me to an interview with Ann in the first place.
In my time working at the News Bureau, Ann led by example in her professionalism, her respect for others and her friendly, understanding character. Ann has been so influential that while working at the News Bureau, I changed my focus from a career in news broadcasting to one in public relations because she had made my work experience as a student so great.
Ann hired me, knowing I was a decent writer but also that I had zero experience working in a news bureau, much less in a professional office. No matter, she treated me like a professional and trusted me with assignments equivalent to employees who had much more practice under their belts. When I made mistakes, which I often did, especially when I first began, she would gently explain to me how to correct them and why it was wrong, allowing me to avoid repeating the errors again.
Besides valuing me as an employee, Ann would—and still does—show interest in my life as well, asking me how my classes were, how I did at my track meets and now helping out, when she can, in my job search.
While Ann enhanced my college experience by taking a chance and hiring me, enabling me to build professional experience as a student, it is the little things she said and did that have taught me how to be a good person. It is that for which I am most grateful.
I look up to Ann with the utmost respect and gratitude and am glad to say we still keep in touch and hope to far into the future.
–Lauren McNamara ‘11
As a young college student I was searching for who I was and who I wanted to become. I found out with the help of Dr. Hamner Hill in the Department of Philosophy that my college education was much more than vocational training.
The 80s were a time of Wall Street and getting rich. A time of buying big houses and driving luxury cars. I fell into that mindset and was trudging along, hoping to earn a degree so I could go out into the world and succeed. I say trudging because that’s what I was doing, pulling myself through a degree path that wasn’t me until I took my first philosophy class. Dr. Hill opened my eyes to what education should be, an enlightening of the mind. I knew there had to be more to education than statistics and marketing and business. There it was right in front of me, a world of ethics, a world of questions without answers. It was up to me to find the answers.
There were no wrong answers in Dr. Hill’s class only lazy answers or answers that lacked substance or original thought. I went on to earn a B.S. in mass communications with a minor in philosophy. Most people giggle when I say “minor in philosophy” ”What are you going to do with that?” was the typical response, and to be honest I didn’t know.
It’s been 23 years since I graduated. I earned a living for most of that time as a paramedic/firefighter. I wish I could have answered those naysayers of the past. I would have said my philosophy minor will come in handy when confronted with life or death situations. I have learned to think quickly and decisively. The fire service is wrought with interviews and table top scenarios. Here’s the problem; figure out a solution as quickly as possible while a panel of Chiefs look on, watching you sweat. Sure, I was nervous, but because of Dr. Hill’s mentoring, I learned to take a breath, construct a plan of action and stick by it. I argued my decisions and usually won. Probably the best thing I learned, though, is nothing angers my wife more than a well constructed argument from my side of the table.
–Ray Antonacci ‘88
My hero/mentor is Grace Hoover. I finished college later in my life. I had children in college, some were returning home after a failed marriage. One day I told Ms. Hoover that I would just quit college and stay home with my granddaughter and let my daughter find a job. That was the wrong thing to say. Ms. Hoover helped me see that if I quit college I probably would not start back. All the time and money I had invested would be lost. I also told her that I would probably be 50 years old before I could graduate. She told me ” Doris, you will be 50 years old if you graduate or not. I will never forget that day in her office; she convinced me that my education was high priority and that I could work through all the barriers. I graduated in December 1990. I have a great career and have finally paid back all my school loans. Thanks to Grace Hoover.
–Doris J. Mills ’90
Wm. C. Hoover
There is someone from SEMO who is a true mentor of mine. Without him I would not have finished school and gone on the teach elementary school for 35 years. I cannot count the times I cried on his shoulder that I couldn’t do it. But, with his constant encouragement, I kept going. I had the worst student teaching experience you could ever imagine. I never wanted to step foot in another classroom, ever. He is the one who told me that some day I would have a classroom of my own and love teaching. He was right. I could have retired a few years ago, but I am still at it. I do love it. It is all because of a professor named Dr. Wm. C. Hoover. I stayed in touch with Dr. Hoover until a couple of years ago. Then suddenly, nothing. I am very concerned about his well-being. If anyone knows anything, please let me know. He was also a very dear friend to me.
–Patricia Welter Ray ’75
I graduated from Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) in December of 2010 with my bachelor’s degree in social work and a minor in applied psychology. I was only twenty-one years old and worked full time at a local restaurant as a server my entire college career. I have now moved on to work as a case manager for adult mental health clients in Poplar Bluff, Mo. I could not have made it through those three and a half years without my mentor nor would I have done as well for myself post-graduation.
My mentor is an amazing lady who helped feed the fire of my desire to help others. She comforted me in my stress and pain; she supported me in my greatest achievements and troubles. She helped to mold me into the professional I am today, and I thank her for that. Who I am and have become has a lot to do with the role model she set for me. She was there for me both educationally, professionally, socially, and personally. She is an amazing lady.
I was first introduced to my mentor my first year of college when she taught a course in my major: Understanding Cultural and Social Diversity. I did not think anything about it, except the course was interesting. I then became further acquainted with her when I joined the Social Work Club at SEMO. She was the faculty advisor for the club. I was only a member, but as I progressed through school I also did in the club. My second semester in the club, I was vice president.
It was not until my last two semesters in the Social Work Club that I really began to know this amazing lady. I was president, and she helped me to become a leader for others who shared my desire to help others. She even nominated the club for an award through SEMO while I was president, and we won because of her passionate letter and attention to detail. My final semester of college I could not participate in the club because I was mostly at my practicum site in Farmington, Mo.: Southeast Mental Health Center. She was there for me through tears and joy those last two semesters. I recall much frustration involved as well. I even spoke in one of her classes as a guest speaker my last semester about my practicum experience and site.
There were times I felt no one believed in me or cared that I would make it through everything. She proved me wrong time after time. She even began helping me post college by writing very appreciated and touching letters of recommendation to possible future employers. She celebrated with me electronically when I finally received my first career in the beginning of February 2011.
Ms. Pricilla Hornby will forever hold an important place in my life and will always be someone I look to for guidance and support. She is an amazing professor, advisor, mentor and person. I really could not have asked to have a better role model and mentor through college as I finished growing into the person I needed to become.
I still talk to her occasionally via email. She helps me with my plans for attending a graduate program which she recommended. I hope to keep in contact with her as long as possible because I know she will be nothing but a blessing in my life. She has many years of experience in the field and as a teacher; I know her knowledge can be an amazing resource in my journey in helping others. She definitely went above and beyond my expectations of her for a professor at any college.
–Sarah Martin, BSW, CSS ’11
Dr. Russell Michel
My mentor was Dr. Russell Michel, a brilliant mathematics professor. I only had a math minor while at SEMO but taught high school mathematics in Missouri for 37 years (1959-1996). I also taught part time mathematics at St. Louis Community College for approximately 20 years. Since retiring from teaching in Missouri, I have been an adjunct mathematics instructor at Missouri Baptist University (one year) and the University of Southern Indiana for 12 years.
Dr. Michel was the instructor for 15 of the 17.5 hours of mathematics that I took while at SEMO. He also helped me with some of my work at the University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy while I was getting my Master of Science for Teachers. I will never forget how helpful and encouraging he was to me.
–John K. Reid ’59
It’s been a long time since I’ve walked the sidewalks of the campus, but the memories are firmly planted in my mind like it was yesterday. As a child I was fascinated by the life of a disc jockey–the mysterious voice who read the news and introduced the next record. So when I arrived to a decision on a major, I chose communications with a radio/TV option. Bruce Mims took me under his wing from day one, and he guided me through the ever-changing world of broadcast technology. I was honored to be able to work along side Mr. (now Dr.) Mims as we developed the campus radio station KMXQ. Together, we built the library and developed the format of the station. We had live remote broadcasts across campus and spent countless hours cataloging music that had been donated or purchased. But most importantly, we combined the new technology of CDs with the ancient technology of records. Yes, we literally played records. We didn’t have a very big audience at the beginning. In fact, I don’t think we had any audience, but our morning radio team was committed to getting up at 5:30 a.m. three days a week to try and grow our audience. Bruce supported and taught us every step of the way. As we grew and began to gather interest from other students coming up in the program, we realized someday this could be more than just a teaching experience. After graduation I took that valuable experience and immediately landed a job in the St. Louis radio market. Radio technology and my career path have both changed drastically since 1993, but my experience with my mentor Dr. Bruce Mims was invaluable.
–Jeff Boyet, ’93
My mentor was Wayne Norton, the advisor to The Capaha Arrow and director of communications for the University for many years. I first encountered Colonel Wayne (the title is a whole other story) in a freshman news writing class, where his blend of bluntness about the foibles of the human race combined with his tales of his days as a reporter for the Memphis Commercial Appeal took the edge off the fact that his grading scale allowed just three punctuation or spelling errors before you received an F on an assignment, and one factual error meant an F. It was his way of drilling into us would-be newspaper people that accuracy and good writing were all we had going for us as journalists. A year later, I joined the Arrow staff as a reporter and eventually became sports editor and then managing editor my senior year (1978-79). Our weekly staff meetings and then separate meetings with him as editors were treasure troves of wisdom, advice, constructive criticism and humor. He instilled in us both pride in our chosen profession and a firm foundation of skills. He also reminded us that we were supposed to have fun. All of this served me well in 27 years as a journalist (I now teach), and a day on the job rarely went by that I did not hear that Cape Girardeau drawl in my head steering me in the right direction.
–Robert F. Brown ’79
Many of involved in the field of journalism owe a big thanks to Wayne Norton, the adviser to the staff members of The Capaha Arrow newspaper at Southeast Missouri State University. Wayne’s experience from working at the Memphis Commercial Appeal was a big plus in helping us handle real-world issues. I recall some instructors who had never written for newspapers but were telling us what to expect.
Wayne took the job as adviser seriously. He never told us we “had to do it his way.” He gave us options from his experiences and let the editors make their own decisions. That’s why many of us still consider him a friend and colleague.
–Jim Wilder ’76
My most influential mentor while I was at Southeast was Dr. Tammy Randolph in the math education department. Dr. Randolph showed me how it was to be around professors, even as a 19 – 22 year old. Looking back those 7 to 10 years ago, I can’t imagine what I would have now been like without the experiences I had at Southeast.
While I was at Southeast, the other Missouri state schools had organizations for mathematics educators. Dr. Randolph helped us start our own group at Southeast, and I am very thankful to be able to say today that I was a founding member and president of (SEMO)2, now called the Student Association of Mathematics Educators.
Dr. Randlolph’s confidence in students and ability to make them feel comfortable in both her classroom and office has been a tremendous help to me as I have changed careers. Now that I am entering my third year of pharmacy school, I feel very comfortable walking into any of my professors’ offices with a question, no matter what their credentials. I have been able to work on research projects and as a teaching assistant to graduate pharmacy students. Some of the faculty members at my institution have even come to me for advice because they are aware of my educational background, which Dr. Randolph had instilled in me.
Without the initial guidance of Dr. Randolph in my undergraduate career at Southeast, I think my years of pharmacy school would be much less fulfilling and my Curriculum Vitae would be a lot more empty for my first job.
–Sandra Howell Tooley ’04
As an athletic training student at SEMO, I had the opportunity to work with numerous professionals at the University and off campus. Each semester we were in the athletic training education program, we were assigned to a specific clinical instructor. All of them provided excellent learning experiences, but Ashley Rockey, MS, ATC in the Department of Athletics went above and beyond to make the learning experience that much greater! Ashley inspired us to work hard with our studies and always desire to learn more. She made the learning experience fun through silly games, but I remembered the materials, and she made us think. I spent a full semester with Ashley my junior year of college while working with the women’s gymnastics team. Gymnastics is a very intensive sport with a lot of rehabilitation and injury prevention skills required. One of the biggest things Ashley taught me about rehab is that you have to continually change things up so that the body doesn’t adapt to the exercises and so the patient doesn’t get bored! With her, it’s hard to get bored. She always seemed to lighten up the mood no matter what was going on including potential emergencies.
Ashley has a genuine love for athletic training, her athletes and her students. She would give us daily and weekly quizzes over material, and sometimes it would be connected to the material we were learning in class and other times it was way out there. She mimicked athletic training in that there is no such thing as routine. She was always willing to put in the extra time for a student to learn a new skill. At the same time, she expected the students to teach her new things as well. She didn’t act like she knew everything but instead used things as learning experiences for everyone involved.
She and I continue to communicate on a regular basis via email and text message. Sometimes it’s just a smiley-faced icon or a short text; other times it’s a two-page long email that we’ll send back and forth. Ashley loves athletic training, and I really think she passed that on to me. I love what I do, and she played a significant part in that. She has been there for me time and time again. She has taught me there is nothing I can’t accomplish and no injury too tough for me to handle! I don’t know where I’d be without her there at Southeast!
–Michael Hopper ‘10
Marvin Rosengarten and John Schneider
Even though I am retired, two individuals have made a significant difference to the success of my life. From the athletic area, Marvin Rosengarten gave me the coaching skills to help the young men I had the opportunity to share this knowledge with. John Schneider taught me about the business and what the director’s job should be both in athletics and later in the business world. To them along with the many other teachers and coaches at SEMO, I will always be grateful.
–Cliff Winters ’64, ’68
I graduated from high school the spring of 1969. I started college that fall at SEMO, not knowing what I wanted to really major in or what the future would hold for me. During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I thought I would probably be drafted to fight in the Vietnam war like so many of my friends. I was working at our local A&P grocery store and mowing lawns to pay my way through school.
In my sophomore year, I was taking a basic American history class taught by Chris Schnell. Initially, he knew my name, and that was about it. One day, after being in his class for several weeks, I was walking across campus, and I saw him with the hood up on his car. He had a 1963 Ford Fairlane, and it wouldn’t start. I asked if I could be of assistance and he said yes, if I could perform a miracle and get his car started. I remember asking him what the problem was, and he said, “just because I have the hood up does not mean I know what I am looking at.” I broke out in laughter, and he stood there in silence for a moment, and then said, “I don’t remember ever laughing at you, and believe you me, after reading some of your American history essays, there was plenty of material to make me laugh!” It was my turn to stand in silence, then I said, “I think it is about time I perform that miracle.” We both laughed, and it took me three minutes to fix the problem with his car’s manual choke. He said, “Wow! What do I owe you?” I said, “Nothing. Just call me the miracle man.” We both laughed, and we went our separate ways.
The next day when I went to his class, it was business as usual until the end of the period when he asked if I had a moment to stay. He wanted to make sure I knew how much he appreciated me helping him the day before and to formally thank me for my assistance. Then our conversation turned to what degree I was working towards and my plans after college. He asked about my study habits, whether I working and going to college, and several other college-related questions. It was the first time since starting college that I had anyone show any real interest in me as a person. During the next several months and years, he nurtured me along. Dr. Schnell became my advisor and helped me to balance my work and school schedule. I started going to college during the summer, which allowed me to reduce some of my hours during the regular school semester and still work upwards of forty hours per week at the grocery store. He would shop at A&P occasionally on weekends and always made it a point to talk with me. It did not matter if I were stocking shelves, checking out or working produce, he would wait until I could talk with him before he left the store. I felt he was always there for me to discuss school or future plans. I wanted to be able to graduate in four years. Because of Dr. Schnell, I was able to do so.
I graduated with a B.S. in general studies in December 1973. Early January 1974, I got my first interview and was hired by Sonoco Products Company as a supervisor trainee. I packed up everything I owned and headed for Robesonia, Penn. On Jan. 4, 1975, I married Donna, who I met in my senior year at SEMO. Dr. Chris Schnell even attended our wedding reception. In June 2010, 36 ½ years later, I retired from Sonoco. I held positions of supervisor, office manager, production manager, and plant manager. I worked in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Indiana, and Kentucky. Now, after retiring, I continue to get opportunities to go back and assist Sonoco where needed.
I strongly feel without Dr. Chris Schnell taking a personal interest in me and mentoring me along, I may not have finished college. I know I would not have gotten the wonderful opportunity to work with one of the finest packaging companies in the world. Last, but not least, I would not have met my wife of 36 years and greatest supporter, who I met on campus at Memorial Hall.
–Lonnie Waldrup ’73
When I move to Cape Girardeau, it was the first time I had lived so far from home. I was a bit nervous to say the least. I was a graduate assistant in the athletic department and I found all the coaches and the staff to be supportive. I worked for former Sports Information Director Ron Hines, and he gave me the flexibility to grow as a professional. Barb Kinsey was such a delight to work with. She really showed the ropes and told me all I needed to know about Southeast. In the classroom, Dr. Chris Schnell was my favorite professor. I had him for two classes, and he was my advisor. I learned a lot in his classes, and I was saddened to hear of his passing. I teach history as an adjunct professor at a local community college, and I have incorporated many of the things that I learned in his class in my own lectures and teaching style. All of the professors in the Department of History were instrumental in my development as a student and person. I would encourage any student who is looking for a quality education to attend Southeast Missouri State University. So many things in my professional and personal life can be attributed to what I learned at Southeast. It laid the foundation for all I have accomplished professionally. I value my time at Southeast as some of the best years of my life. I would not trade that time for anything.
–Marlin Curnutt ’01
Dr. Hayden Schuetts was the greatest mentor/molder of business minds I have come across. Some nearly 30 years later, I am still using strategies and knowledge he shared in our classes. He challenged me individually to become more outspoken and to take advantage of every opportunity. He made plain how the landscape of American business was changing and where I needed to be to stay ahead of the curve. In hindsight, there are some decisions I made that went against his teachings that have caused me some extreme struggles that I did not need to go through.
Dr. Schuetts was the kind of person who took your biggest challenges and helped you learn how to make them your strengths. He took away your excuses before you could form the pretext in your mouth. Using his own real world experiences and the experiences of those whom he knew, we left his presence more educated and more prepared than when we entered. We left not only prepared for business opportunities, but for life’s challenges.
There have been many times in my life when I have wanted to reconnect with Dr. Schuetts for his current input and his legacy of knowledge. Life did not allow me that opportunity, but I did and do have the wealth of wisdom he provided as he set on the corner of his desk. Just like the recordings he would make of our presentations to him in class, I replay my mental recordings of his humor, intelligence, expertise and heart. The Ivy League may have Harvard and Yale, but SEMO had jewel of its own in Dr. Hayden Schuetts. A class mentor, a challenger of individuals and true believer of the success that opportunity offers us all.
–Marquis Scott, MEd ’84
My favorite professor and somewhat of a mentor during my days at SEMO was Hayden Schuetts with whom I took a couple of marketing classes. First he was simply a cool guy, from a college student’s perspective. He seemed to bring real world experience and current events/examples to the classroom. Upon graduation, I was able to secure job offers from IBM and P&G based being able to articulate some of the things I learned in Hayden’s classes. Forty years removed from SEMO, I still have fond memories of Mr. Schuetts and my University experience in Cape Girardeau.
–Ted Steinmeyer ’71
Other than my terrific parents, there is one incredible person who I credit with keeping me on the right path in college. His examples of guidance, friendship and honesty have helped me throughout my life.
My first semester at Southeast was easy… Why? Because when I tried to “skate” through it like I did high school, no one was around to tell me any differently. I was an adult now, and I truly earned every poor grade I received. I cut class, stayed out too late and ignored my primary job – school. Nearing Christmas break, I knew what I had to do. I went back home and explained to my parents I was going to withdraw from SEMO and enroll for a semester at the local community college to get my grades back up. Before withdrawing, however, I was required to meet with a faculty advisor to explain why I was leaving and discuss my future plans. This is how I met my mentor.
I reluctantly went to his office and sat down, expecting to hear that I had made all bad choices and receive some very deserved scolding. That wasn’t the case at all. This man sitting with me encouraged me to follow my plan: leave, get my studies on the right track and definitely come back. He gave me his office and home phone numbers and told me to call him before I scheduled my classes for the fall. He actually took an interest in my future (maybe more than I did at that point).
I completed my semester at the community college and gave him a call. I was surprised when he not only remembered me, but he also remembered details of our conversation, including my family and other topics we discussed. He helped me select classes and insisted I take his University Studies class – a MWF 8 a.m. inconvenience that was sure to wreck my sleep schedule.
His class should have been an example for every educator. He included everyone in daily discussions, talked about our studies and how they fit into the real world. He didn’t mind if a student missed his class as long as it was for a good reason. He taught responsibility–if we were going to miss his class, he wanted the courtesy of a phone call before class, so he would be prepared. Once, I missed his class. He ended up calling me that day to find out why I wasn’t there. I didn’t miss it again.
He always kept the class light-hearted and fun. I’m not sure he knew he was having such a great influence in me, but he was. He made each student feel like they mattered and took genuine interest in each of us.
Outside of his teaching, he was spearheading a new academic resource for students. Student Support Services was created to help provide tutoring, counseling and other programs to first generation college students as well as other students needing help. He invited me to come by his office and participate in some of the services. Over the next few years, I would get to know him further and also his wonderful secretary, Sandy Hermann. They were both so much fun to be around, I’d find myself just dropping by between classes just to hang out and chat and help others if they needed it. He was always interested in my academics as well as my personal life. Even though he was a private man, he enjoyed helping others reach – and surpass – their goals.
He became ill and passed away in June 2003, much too soon. He accomplished many things during his 47 years (besides helping me). Helping young men and women achieve their goals was very dear to him. I thank God for him and will remember him always.
It was probably just luck that he was the advisor I was sent to, but I call it divine intervention. Somehow, we were meant to meet, so he could save me from myself.
To this man, Harry Schuler, I owe so much of my success and happiness. God bless you, Harry!
–Chad Haferkamp ’94
I had several mentors at SEMO. I count among them Dr. Paul Lloyd, my academic advisor, who made an impact on me by meeting me on my Show Me Day and taking an active interest in my education until the day I graduated. Dr. Dean Shackleford taught several of my minor classes in English literature and was happy to write a letter of recommendation even though I was a psychology major. Dr. Jennie Cooper’s Shakespeare classes and Victorian studies class kept school fun and helped convince me that understanding literature was a great supplement to psychology. The author and the psychologist are on parallel roads to the same place—understanding the human experience—and Dr. Cooper challenged and encouraged me (and all of her students) to think in different ways. Dr. Mango Ahuja helped me adjust to college when he took my concerns about college algebra seriously my first semester of college and reacted with advice on how to be a better college student instead of just re-teaching how to work through an equation. They are all examples of how I want to be as a college professor.
However, there is one relationship that stands out as the strongest mentoring experience of my time at Southeast. I first encountered Dr. Sebby in research methods, and he agreed to advise me in an independent study section for my senior level research project during my sophomore year. After that, I took classes with Dr. Sebby just because they were his courses. Dr. Sebby helped me to navigate the graduate school application process. Later, when I was near panicked upon learning I would be responsible for teaching lab sections of general psychology in my first year at SIU, Dr. Sebby offered to order a copy of the text and help me prepare. I stayed in sporadic touch with Dr. Sebby throughout graduate school, and no matter how long it had been since my last email or call, he always seemed sincerely glad to hear from me and to assure me that I had not been forgotten.
When, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, I moved from planning to go into private practice to a plan to go into academia at a small, student-focused university like the one I was fortunate to attend, Dr. Sebby was the who I turned to for advice and mentoring again. He didn’t let me down. And, in a case of “It’s a Small World After All,” when I went for a job at another university with ties to the psychology department at SEMO, I was offered a position in part on the strength of the endorsement that Dr. Sebby was willing to pass on. I chose to take another job
instead, and I believe that was the right decision for me and my family, but Dr. Sebby’s mentorship is still one of the things I value from my time in Cape and beyond.
–Jared F. Edwards, Ph.D. ’00
I moved from Archbald, Penn., to attend Southeast Missouri State University in fall 2006. I have family in St. Louis, but I didn’t know anyone when I came to SEMO. I made friends with my neighbors in Dearmont Hall (when there was no AC) and we saw a flyer on campus for the Student Activities Council meeting. We all decided to go and see what it was about. There were a lot of people at the meeting, and we just sat there and listened to all of the coordinators in the group speak about what they were planning. I knew I wanted to be a part of this organization. They introduced their new advisor, Joanna Shaver, and in that moment, I did not realize what a vital piece of my college life this woman would be.
As a freshman, I participated and attended most if not all of the SAC events. I started to help out with distributing flyers and attending all the meetings and being on numerous committees. Joanna would give out the Kudos Award each week to a member who was doing a great job volunteering and helping out.
My sophomore year, I applied to be a coordinator for SAC, and I held the films and lectures coordinator position for twp years. I got to know Joanna better, and she not only became a mentor but also a friend. She knew about me and my life, and she helped me through some personal struggles.
My final year of school, I became president of SAC, and I only got closer with Joanna. We had weekly one-on-one meetings for SAC, and we talked about life, our goals and dreams. Joanna is such a nice loving person, and she only wants the best for each student she comes in contact with.
At the SAC All Judicial and Student Government dinner, I had to give my farewell and summary speech as SAC president. I was very emotional, and at that point, I had grown close to Joanna. Throughout my speech, I spoke about the year’s highlights and Joanna. I told Joanna how proud I was of her and her accomplishments. I told her how much she meant to the whole organization. She didn’t just teach us about activities and having fun, but she taught us life lessons and got to know us. As I finished my speech and held back tears, at that moment I knew that Joanna was my mentor for the past four years and how much she meant to me. She always helped me with things I needed or goals I was trying to reach.
Joanna has helped lead me into my love for planning and activities. With her guidance, I was able to attend regional and national conferences for Student Activities Council as a participant and a stage crew member. I got more involved on campus through the organization Up ’til Dawn, which Joanna was the advisor of for a few years, and she even helped me to get a part-time job in the Campus Life and Event Services Office.
Joanna has been a mentor and a friend. She has this way of getting you excited about events, and she is always open for ideas. She is enthusiastic, and she gets to know the students she works with. Joanna has been such an amazing person to be around through my four years at Southeast. I am so thankful to her, for her advice, ideas and support. I know I will continue to be friends with her in the future, and I know she will continue to touch other students’ lives like she did to mine. Thank you, Joanna.
–Amanda Marchegiani ’10
Dr. Bruce Skinner is by definition what a mentor at Southeast should be. He truly cares about helping students at Southeast and the university itself. He dedicates his life to having an open door policy for students and those who work in his office. That is what sets him apart from other employers I have had in the past. Working for the Office of Residence Life is being part of a big family, and Bruce is the leader of that family. He truly would go beyond the duties of his job as director to help others. Bruce also inspires all others in the department to follow his example and make all accommodations to help students and guide them through their college experience.
I began working for Bruce about years ago a student worker. If I ever had any form of question, Bruce was there to help me out. If I ever had any form of question regarding school, he was more than happy to drop everything to lend me a hand. This mainly applied for graduate school. I enrolled as a graduate student at Southeast in 2009. I made it my goal to receive my master’s degree in public administration. I chose this major not really knowing too much about it because of Bruce’s advice. I really was not sure if I wanted to make it my goal to get my graduate degree in business or public administration. But after Bruce spoke very highly of the program, I decided it was the right choice for me. When things were blurry and I had no idea where my life was going or should go, Bruce saw the big picture and pointed me in right direction. I graduated with this degree in May of 2011. Looking back, I cannot imagine receiving a different degree. It was a great fit for me, and I have finally found the field I would like to be a part of. Bruce guided me in the right direction like he has for many.
Graduate school was a time in my life when I was extremely stressed out. I really was not sure what I wanted to do with my life and was stressed because the real world was right around the corner. Throughout my two years of grad school, Bruce was always there for me. I cannot even imagine how many times he dropped everything to have a discussion with me. I am sure by this point he has memorized my resume and cover letters because he has read them so much. If it were not for Bruce’s guidance, I am not sure where I would be. He pointed me in the right direction with my education and so much more. Bruce inspired me to keep on applying for jobs even though the economy was not great. He taught me how to deal with rejection. He spent countless hours preparing me for my first interview. Besides all of the help with resumes, cover letters, my job and school, he was a friend and my supervisor. If I ever needed anything Bruce was there.
I had the opportunity while a receiving my master’s degree to be a graduate assistant in the Office of Residence Life. Bruce is currently the director of this department. He is the type of supervisor who always knows what is going on at every level and willing to help out at every level. A few years ago during the power outage, Bruce and Kim Fees were two of the first ones back on campus at 2 a.m. They did not panic and encouraged students that the problem was being solved. Bruce guided the department through this event and inspired everyone to come up with innovative solutions to the problems that come along with power outages. Cell phone charging stations were put up, so students could call parents and battery powered candles were lined in the halls. Bruce left his home in the middle of the night and responded to the issue right away. If there is ever an issue with a student or the campus, Bruce has his phone on and will respond at the blink of an eye.
Overall Bruce Skinner has been a father figure to myself and many. He was just not a supervisor to me, he was a friend and someone I truly look up to. College can be a very tough time for many, but staff members like Bruce are what get students through it. He goes beyond the duties of director of residence life to help any student who needs help. If it were not for Bruce Skinner’s guidance, I would have struggled much more than I did. He saw the big picture and pointed me in the right direction. His door was always open, and he was always a phone call away in any situation. I look forward to visiting Southeast because I get to see those who work in Residence Life. The office is like a big family, and I encourage anyone I meet who goes to Southeast to become involved. Without his leadership, it would not be the same.
–David Dee ’09, ’11
My principal mentor was Dr. Robert Smith of the Southeast Department of Chemistry. I had started out in 1952 as a pre-engineer, planning to transfer to the School of Mines. Dr. Smith encouraged me, instead, to stay at SEMO and major in chemistry. Subsequently, he encouraged me to take “just a little more” physics, so I could have a double major. The next thing I knew, he had encouraged me to take “just a little more” math, so I could have a triple major.
It wasn’t long before he suggested I go on to graduate school and arranged for applications and information. With his help and letters of recommendation, I received fellowship offers from Harvard in math, MIT in physics and UC Berkeley in chemistry. I chose Berkeley and finished my Ph.D. in the spring of 1958. I cited Dr. Smith as one of the most influential people in my life in the dedication section of my first textbook. He was not alone — almost every faculty member at SEMO was a mentor to me in one way or another, and those were great years.
I graduated from SEMO in 1955 with three majors and the first all-A record in the history of the college. I could not have done that, or accomplish things I did in life, without those fine faculty folks.
–Dr. Rod O’Connor ’55
When I arrived in Cape Girardeau, the only person I knew was my brother, Tony. He introduced me to Clarence Findley, at the time a teacher at Cape High School but also a SEMO alum. He helped me enroll. Shortly after my first semester started, I met Dr. Charles Barnwell. Since I’d planned to major in political science and he was in the social sciences department, I was very impressed with him. I sought his council throughout my stay at SEMO, and he was very helpful and encouraging. I had him for a number of classes. Dr.Barnwell was a very dynamic and powerful instructor and very entertaining. Dr. Choffy in the political science department whose counsel and advice was indespensible as well as very entertaining. I’d also like to mention Dr. Fred Goodwin in the humanities department. He helped me hone my communications skills. Last but not least, I’d like to mention Dr. Bill Stacy, who served as President of SEMO my senior year. When a group of us tried to introduce Xi Gamma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity on SEMO’s campus, one of the requirements was a faculty sponsor. While I served as president of the initial pledge class and first chapter, Dr.Stacy served as the initial faculty sponsor for Xi Gamma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpa at SEMO. With his help, many doors were opened and walls knocked down.
–James Brightman ’80
Southeast is a unique university that had a great impact on my life. Throughout my time at SEMO, I felt as though the faculty and staff were truly present for the students. Southeast is a very student-centered university. Ms. Lori Lynn (now Dr. Lori Stettler) was my student government advisor.
Lori was there for me throughout my tenure at Southeast as a role model, advisor and mentor. Dr. Stettler always had a smile on her face and really enjoyed her job. She was very personable, and I felt as though I could talk to her about anything; this was the epitome of “open door policy.” She made my time at Southeast even more enjoyable by taking the time to get to know me, my goals and ambitions.
Dr. Stettler never complained about the long student government meetings, sometimes going until 10 p.m. Instead, she was there to offer support and a helping hand. She even took the time to drive me to the mall if I needed a ride because I did not have a car for my first three years at SEMO. When a group of us from student government became homesick, Dr. Stettler was there to save the day with a home-cooked meal. She opened her house to us and got to know several students on a personal level. It was an easy transition from student government advisor to becoming my mentor and a woman who I will always admire.
Watching Dr. Stettler pursue her goals in education inspired me further my education. I just completed my Master in Educational Administration this summer. Who knows, I may have to follow in Dr. Stettler’s footsteps and obtain a doctorate one of these days! I still keep in contact with Dr. Lori Stettler because she has made a huge impact upon my life and has helped me through many tough times while in college. She is a strong woman, and I have been blessed to have Lori as a part of my life and college experience at Southeast.
–Becky (Langan) Haberberger ‘06
Maryann Trombetta Vogelsang and John Long
Have you ever really sat down and thought about the individuals in your life who have had the greatest impact on who you have become? I have kept a running list myself. Some individuals have been positive influencers, while there are some on my list who have been negative influencers. I remember those people, as well, who have given me opportunities, both personal and professional.
Whether positive or negative, our influencers have impacted how we relate to others, how we have succeeded and/or failed, and how we perceive ourselves…I am grateful to all of them.
When I saw an opportunity to write something about my mentor at Southeast Missouri State University, I was eager to get my keyboard going (boy, do I wish I would have had a laptop when I was in college). I think particularly of two very positive influencers who have always been on my “TOP 10 People Who Have Impacted My Life” list: Dr. Maryann Trombetta Vogelsang and Dr. John Long.
I was a speech pathology major in the 70s and was fortunate enough to have completed my M.A. degree in that same area in 1980. Dr. Vogelsang and Dr. Long were with me through my complete educational journey!
I think I speak for a lot of speech pathology students there with me during those times when I write that… these two individuals scared us to death! But as I have found with raising my own children…fear can be a good thing at times, but in a loving, caring way.
Dr. Vogelsang and Dr. Long were consummate professionals. They were firm, yet fair with all of us within the department, no matter if you were a first year undergraduate or a final year graduate student. Even though I feared them, I deeply admired and respected them for the way they presented themselves, the way they conveyed their knowledge and the way they were committed to me as a student and as an individual. I knew from the beginning of my tenure there in the department they cared deeply about me and wanted me to succeed…and I did.
Neither Dr. Vogelsang nor Dr. Long ever played favorites. They had high expectations for all of us and we knew it. They were nurturing and supportive but instilled within us to be responsible and independent people. They both had great senses of humor that they let show occasionally, but for the most part they were committed to teaching us what they knew and encouraged us to find information on our own.
I felt I got every dime’s worth of education I paid for when I was in their classes and in their presence.
Dr. Vogelsang and Dr. Long helped to mold me not only into the speech pathologist I became but also into the adult I became. Through their determined approaches with me and others, they instilled in us to be the best that we could be. They were teaching us to be confident leaders within our community and our profession.
My years at SEMO were extremely formidable to me. My home life was not so good with divorcing parents—my life at school and my studies kept me focused and grounded. The environment of the Department of Communications which Dr. Vogelsang and Dr. Long set, along with the other great professors, provided me with structure and guidance.
I was fortunate enough to share many of these thoughts with Dr. Vogelsang in 2008 when the University dedicated and named the Clinic after her. I am sorry that I never conveyed to Dr. Long how deeply I appreciate all that he did for me during those years. I hope this letter is a way to do so.
An honorable mention should go to Mrs. Hensley as well. She joined the department in my later undergraduate years. I appreciate her guidance, firmness, and knowledge as well. Everyone seemed pretty scared of her too—but I knew she liked me.
Thank you for this opportunity for me to tell others of these great mentors. Because of them and others, I still proudly hang my two diplomas from SEMO in my small home office next to my print of Academic Hall. I still work as a speech pathologist part-time also. My years at SEMO and all the special people I met there continue to be in my heart and soul. My life and studies at SEMO were some of the best years of my life.
Thank you Dr. Vogelsang and Dr. Long for being who you were…it has impacted me to be who I am, and I think you would be happy with me.
P.S. Dr. Vogelsang, I still have a letter of recommendation that you wrote for me. Dr. Long, I still have my graduate paper on “Childhood Stuttering” that you corrected in RED ink and then told me to retype it! My treasures from both of you.
–Sue Trantham Rector ’78, ’80
Carroll D. Walker
Back in the early 70s, I had the privilege of serving the University as a P.A., R.A. and finally director of Myer’s Hall. All of the staff reported to the director of housing and, ultimately, to the dean of students (how’s that for an anachronism)? I pursued my master’s degree with an eye toward staying in “student personnel administration,” as it was called back then. That being the case, I forged a close bond with the dean of students.
I have never forgotten a poignant lesson taught to me by the then dean, Carroll D. Walker. While tackling an important assignment during my degree pursuit, he advised me, in a very nonchalant manner, “Do the best you can do, then the ‘heck’ with it.”
Knowing full well the importance of this project, I was taken aback by the attitude displayed by Dean Walker until he explained that if you truly do your best, the outcome will reflect that effort.
I’ll admit that advice didn’t sink in that very instant, but has served me well in the subsequent years. If you really try your best, if it’s the best you can do, don’t sweat the final result, you couldn’t have done any better.
This is but one of the many life lessons taught to my by Dean Walker and the many staff colleagues I worked with during those great years! Many thanks to my mentor and my friend, Carroll D. Walker.
–J. Dan Lyons ’74, ’76
Jane Kelley and Janet Weber
Sadly, many educators neglect to understand the power of mentoring, how precious it is to have someone believe in you. Worse yet, those who have mentored and made a difference in a student’s life do not always receive adequate feedback on how much their guidance meant to a student. Thank you, SEMO for rectifying this and allowing me the opportunity to honor two educators who expanded my worldview, challenged me to rise above my fears and supported my dreams–Dr. Jane Kelley and Dr. Janet Weber.
I moved to Cape Girardeau in 1991 from New York, via Honolulu, Ha., and experienced a major culture shock in the transition. Fitting into the local culture and social scene was a challenge for me. Besides being an RN, I was a Yankee and doctor’s wife, both made me an outsider in this small Midwest town. As a doctor’s wife, the social milieu discouraged my returning to clinical work, yet I wanted to continue practicing in my chosen field. Working at either hospital was not an option but returning to school was. On a whim, I drove to Southeast Missouri University to inquire about their nursing program. In an empty corridor, I ran into Dr. Jane Kelley who spoke to me at length regarding the program, the best ways to adapt to my new life in Cape Girardeau, and she spoke of her interest in holistic and trans-cultural nursing. Intrigued and appreciative of this woman who took time for a stranger, I knew I could learn much about my profession-and life-from this woman. She was the breath of fresh air I needed to adjust to my new circumstances. I applied to SEMO’s RN to BSN program immediately.
As luck would have it, Dr. Kelley shared an office with Dr. Janet Weber, coordinator of the RN to BSN program. I vividly recollect both had an open door policy and never once dismissed or shooed me from entering their office if only to say hello or to ask questions about coursework. This was unheard of in my prior, and current, academic life and a welcome change for a woman who was hungry for knowledge and a friendly face in my new home. I took full advantage and stopped by to visit them frequently. But, this was just the beginning of our developing mentor/mentee relationship and speaks nothing of their skill and dedication to education and their nursing craft.
Their individual resumes speak volumes of Jane and Janet’s accomplishments and do not need reiteration here. However, what is not documented is the care and concern for nurses and nursing education that comes so naturally to both these women. They are both my “(s)heroes,” and role models for how I choose to move in the world as a nurse, student and woman.
What has the experience meant to me? Twenty years have since passed, and I still hear Dr. Weber’s wise words “But what is really the problem?” whenever confronted with an obstacle or issue! Because of Janet, I’ve become a critical thinker, unafraid to delve deeper and accomplished in expressing my findings. More importantly, Dr. Weber continues to support and mentor me to this day. Four years ago when I decided to enter graduate school, I had no hesitation calling her to ask for a letter of recommendation. Furthermore, when I divorced the good doctor and needed advice, and an ear, Janet was available to listen to my concerns. Now, as I complete my research project for degree requirements, she continues to listen and offer opinions and critiques as I move through the process. Janet is more available to me than my own graduate academic advisor! Dr. Weber’s “door” and mind are still open.
Dr. Kelley’s legacy has been more subtle; she was the shining light planting seeds of new concepts, theories and avenues in nursing to me. Jane possessed an ethereal quality in my mind. Waif-like in physique, she offered up possibilities and ideas, always smiling, always the perfect example of the holism she believes in. She continues to inspire me, though we have not spoken in decades; I hear of her travels and explorations via Dr. Weber. I continue to feel the warmth, kindness and understanding she expressed for a lonely Yankee trying to fit into a new life in Cape Girardeau. Her interest in my life and academic studies were above what was required of her position and meant the world to me.
I could never repay either one of these educators for what they have given me. I can only hope they feel my gratitude and realize I carry a part of them with me to this day. I know I am a better nurse and person because of their mentoring efforts.
–Marianne Schroeder, RN, BSN