No one ever makes it to the top without the support of friends, relatives, and/or mentors. Those who played supportive roles must not be forgotten in the ride to the top.
As the years passed and my career expanded, I often paused to reflect on roles that others played in whatever success I had. One day shortly after I became state commissioner of education, I decided to write a personal letter to each of the seven individuals who had impacted most significantly my professional life.
The list included my favorite teacher, Ida Long Rogers, a retired faculty member at Peabody College. Like other individuals mentioned in this book, Dr. Rogers played a critical role in my career. As the major professor in my doctoral program, she went the extra mile to support a student who was employed full-time as a university chancellor and the father of two small children.
Recognizing the difficulties of balancing the demands of job, school, and family, she always accommodated scheduling conflicts, gave me access to her advice and counsel outside normal working hours, and became a behind-the-scenes adviser to the chancellor. I distinctly remember and deeply appreciate the many Sunday afternoons that she spent assisting me with my doctoral dissertation.
I maintained regular contact with Dr. Rogers until the day she died. That day I stood at her deathbed and expressed gratitude as I said an emotional goodbye. Her friendship made an important difference in my life.
The other recipients of my letter of appreciation were all former bosses – Coleman Harwell, publisher of the Sparta and Cookeville newspapers; John Seigenthaler, editor of the Nashville Tennessean; Julian Harriss, director of public relations at the University of Tennessee; Archie Dykes, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; Ed Boling, president of the University of Tennessee system; and Nashville attorney John Jay Hooker. It was a heartwarming experience to write the letters and to receive their responses.
-adapted from Journal of a Fast Track Life © 2018 Charles E. Smith. All rights reserved. Top photo courtesy of Pexels.com