When I was twelve years old, my family moved from a farm we rented in Manheim, Penna., to the “home place,” the farm my parents bought from my grandparents.
That move, I now recognize, changed my life.
I went from being a moderately engaged student trying to fit in with a social crowd to being a very motivated student who was not afraid to be different. What happened? I had new teachers who expected that I could do and be more than I had previously imagined.
One of those teachers was Miss Joan Riehl.
- With Miss Riehl
Miss Riehl named me “Rosy Cheeks.” She had a nickname for everyone, but she seemed to really congratulate herself on picking this one. Her eyes always twinkled when she said it.
A few months ago, I got a letter from Miss Riehl, asking how I was doing. She had lost touch after I left the presidency of Goshen College, so I proposed that we get together the next time I was back in my home town of Lititz, visiting my mother. We agreed on the Tomato Pie Cafe. The picture above shows us after a long conversation over tea and carrot cake. We had not seen each other for 46 years.
She still calls me Rosy Cheeks.
I still call her Miss Riehl.
With Karin Larson Krisetya
A few weeks later, I got a visit in my Virginia home from a former student, Karin Larson Krisetya, and her two delightful children, Elia and Svea.
Within the span of three months I had reconnected deeply with both a mentor and a protege. Doing so felt like making a complete rotation on the Wheel of Life.
In the middle of those three months I took a trip to Greece and Turkey. The story of The Odyssey came alive for me in a new way as I traveled in a three-masted gulet ship on the Mediterranean.
I thought of the goddess Athena who disguised herself as an Old Man named Mentor in order to guide the inexperienced young Telemachus. That story holds such power it is still seen as a model for all mentorship.
I have had wonderful mentors in my life. Writing a memoir brings many of them back to me. Not all of them are living, but all of them were essential. I would never have had the courage to leave home, nor the desire to stay connected to home, without them.
The best way to thank a mentor is to be a mentor. I’ve tried to do that also. Those students, young teachers, and budding executives who asked for my mentorship have taught me more than I may have taught them.
While Karin visited with us, she felt a clear call to become a teacher herself. This fall she will be teaching English in Manila, the Philippines, where I am sure she will become a mentor to many.
So, on my 64th birthday, I get to give a toast. This one is for all the mentors and mentors yet to be.
Please use the response section below to honor one of your mentors. And then be sure to send this message to them as your thank-you note. I’ll be sure to share with Miss Riehl!