For over 20 years I have had the privilege of working for one of the largest colleges in the nation. My department serves thousands of students every year. I alone have served thousands of students during my tenure. The college has hundreds of faculty and staff, so to say that I have met many people in my lifetime is an understatement. Of these thousands that have crossed my path, a few have tremendously impacted my life and the person I am today.
I always say that everyday for me is a Friday, for I am so fortunate to work in a place that I call home. The college is my home and its people are my family. From the moment I walked through the doors of the college, I was welcomed with open arms by a woman who would later become a dear friend. Ms. Carr passed away several years ago, but my memory of her has never faded. She was the first person who believed in me and my potential. Slowly but surely, she engraved in me the belief that I could do anything. When I needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to just listen, she was there, and her genuine desire to reassure me gave me great strength. Another person who served as my role model and friend was Cary. Thanks to her, I became a teacher because she too believed I could do anything. Her calming ways and confidence in me allowed me to dream and to wish for things I never knew I could achieve. By now, I am sure you gather that I was quite insecure and afraid, clueless and insignificant, at least that is what I thought. My life at home had not always been easy, and I had not always made the wisest choices; however, in that round building where I still am today, I found a new world: a world of possibilities. Elaine, Susan and so many others held my hand and showed me the way. Looking back on it now I realize it was a fantastic adventure and journey that would leave its mark on me forever. All those teachers cared about their students...I mean really cared and they cared about each other. This world was all new to me and so I proceeded cautiously and with reservations. Trust does not come easy for me; I have always been a loner, very independent and self-reliant, but I lacked true confidence and courage. More than that I lacked a voice.
As the years went by my circle grew. One of the dearest, most intelligent and most caring individuals I have ever met and surely will ever meet was a man, a teacher, named Jeremiah known by all as Jerry. He was my mentor, my surrogate father and my friend. He knew me better than anyone else. Maybe he was psychic or maybe he was truly gifted in some way. Whatever the reason, he was special, very special. I don't remember ever hearing one negative thing from that man, not one, not against anyone or anything. He was a simple man, a brilliant man who traveled the world and had friends everywhere. His talks were always so uplifting, so meaningful and so real. He was who he was, how he was regardless of what anyone else thought. He displayed incredible individuality in his life and on his death bed tremendous courage. His spirit is always with me.
So what do I say to the people who molded me into a productive, confident, courageous and successful individual? Only two words...thank you.