I’ve been thinking about mentors. I’ve had two teachers in my life that became mentors for me. One was my high school chemistry teacher, Mrs. Mellion; and the other was a professor of mining engineering here at Virginia Tech – Dr. William E. Foreman.
Mrs. Mellion did more then just stand and teach chemistry to me. She took me under her wing. I took her chemistry class during my junior year in high school. I was fascinated with chemistry, and had studied it on my own for years before I took her class. I loved chemistry. It showed. She obviously appreciated a student that was actually interested in what she was teaching, instead of the normal “just trying to survive.” Also, she was interested enough in what she was teaching to appreciate a kindred soul. During my senior year, she let me grade papers and help with her lab experiments, probably with the thought of grooming me to be a teacher. She heard of a competitive test in chemistry for a scholarship at William and Mary, and signed me up for it. I was headed to GuilfordCollege, but Mrs. Mellion changed my life in ways I’ll never know. I went to William and Mary.
I first meet Dr. Foreman in 1973 when I came to Tech to pursue an MS degree in mining engineering. Everyone called him “Prof.” Prof was a great guy from the start. He was willing to listen – even to a junior person – and find out what that person wanted to do, and help him do it. He was very patient and understanding.
When I graduated, and the mining industry was down, Prof hired me on a research project he had. Then as that wound down, he heard that MSHA was hiring engineers and brought it to my attention. 30 years later, I’m retiring from what has been a great career!
I owe a lot to both these people. After thinking about all of this, I agree with Kennedy – that mentoring is the highest calling.