Great Teachers

Somewhere along the way in school or college most of us have encountered great teachers who made an indelible impression on us. I feel fortunate to have been touched deeply by:

  • A high school physics teacher with the gift of making it a joy to wrestle with complex problems and to learn from failed efforts to solve them,
  • A freshman advisor in college who provided a timely life lesson with his counsel that the best cure for a broken heart is another one, and
  • An irreverent professor of ethics who made his passion for studying how we make moral decisions infectious.

But as I reflect on some of the lessons I have learned that mean the most to me, I have come to realize that there are great teachers all around us. For instance, there is:

  • The kind volunteer who early in my career turned my dread of asking for money into the pleasure of introducing people to the joy of giving. I had viewed fundraising as holding out a tin cup and begging. He took me on a call and showed me the nobility of philanthropy and those who encourage it and then told me “all we’re doing is asking good people to do a good thing for a good cause. What could be better that?
  • The Board member, a well-respected attorney, who took me aside to say “I have some good advice for you – Get good advice.”  He had seen me wrestling with a number of complex investment and real estate issues as our university foundation matured and wanted me to understand that I did not have to try to do it all alone, but could, and should, turn to experts in their respective fields to help.
  • The Foundation Board Chairman who taught me about effective leadership and philanthropy with his example of empowering fellow trustees and asking others to join him in support of a project that was well on its way to success because of the lead gift he had made quietly behind the scenes.

Ask yourself what lessons you have learned outside the classroom from great friends, colleagues, and volunteers and ponder the impact on your life and work.

Then pass them on.

You may end up on someone’s list of great teachers some day.