Looking Back, Paying It Forward: A Shout-Out To My Mentors

by Eric J. Weiner

The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. — Steven Spielberg

Max Leiva, sculpture

All mentors teach, but not all teachers become mentors. Mentors nurture, guide, teach, support, protect, challenge, help, listen, defend, critique, and unselfishly share their knowledge, time, and skills with their protégés. The mentor is father, mother, friend, platonic lover, healer, advisor, advocate, confidant, translator, and intellectual broker. The mentor/protégé relationship is not equal nor does it trouble itself with questions of equity. But it is consensual in that the mentor and protégé must both want and agree to the normative demands of the relationship. This does not mean the protégé might not resist, question or challenge his/her mentor. On the contrary, conflict between a mentor and protégé is normal and necessary. But instead of walking away from the relationship because of the tensions and conflicts that might arise, the mentor and protégé work them out, lean into them and, as a consequence, become stronger and more deeply connected. The one hold that is barred from the mentor/protégé relationship is disrespect.[i] Without mutual respect the relationship cannot function as it should and will dissolve, often bitterly.

I have been fortunate to have several mentors throughout my life that have taken me under their care, generously shared their knowledge and time, courageously challenged me when I was wrongheaded, and opened themselves up to my endless inquiries. They showed considerable patience in the face of my tenacious ignorance, insecurity/arrogance, quickness to rage, and tendency toward theoretical abstraction, paralyzing hypocrisy, and self-righteous indignation. My mentors, in different ways, deeply affected who I am today, although I take full responsibility for the tragic flaws and continuing struggles with the aforementioned dispositions of character that still burden me and those closest to me. In the spirit of auld lang syne and from the tradition of Hip-Hop–to look back to pay it forward–I want to give a shout-out to each of my mentors, some of whom I still depend on to set me straight if/when I inevitably go off the rails: (in alphabetical order) Elizabeth “Libby” Fay, Henry Giroux, Jaime Grinberg, Donaldo Macedo, Cindy Onore, and Pat Shannon.

Elizabeth “Libby” Fay

Elizabeth “Libby” Fay showed me how to think canonically about non-canonical texts and vice versa. She showed me the importance of research that went against the grain of tradition. She turned me on to Shelley, Byron, Austin, and Wollstonecraft. Her work about Romanticism was grounded in a feminist praxis notable for its tenacity and brilliance. She was a wisp of a woman who would sit patiently as I ranted in her cramped office about injustice and inequity, quietly steering my passions into coherent analyses of written and social texts which she would then redirect into critical reflections of my own sense of entitlement. We would laugh at how some of the more traditional professors in the English department would openly dispute her analyses and conclusions about Romanticism but, in the end, could not win the debate as her mind and research were inevitably too much for them.

I imagine she saw in me an unschooled, alienated radical whose heart and mind, not unlike Byron, raged with skepticism and a high-pitched demand for something better. I was writing a lot of poetry at the time and she helped me work through my romantic and overly dramatic ideas about love, intimacy, identity, gender, sexuality, and power. She was unflappable and looked upon me in a way that made me feel smarter and more sophisticated than I really was.

When I first worked with her I was an undergraduate English major with a notable record of academic failure. I was a high school drop-out (kicked out, actually) with a relatively worthless General Education Degree (GED); I failed to complete more than a semester at a four-year university in Philadelphia; after some time riding my motorcycle around North America, earned a few community college credits; and failed again to complete more than a semester at a different university in Boston. I eventually landed in UMass Boston, older than most graduate students, but still a freshman in terms of course credits. During my undergraduate years, she was my professor. But she became my mentor when I went back to UMass Boston three years later for my graduate degree in Literary Studies. Throughout the mentorship, Libby never let me rest on my privileges or laurels. She refused any attempt I would make to move too far from the text in a lame effort to hide my ignorance behind theoretical abstractions and jargon. She taught me to have confidence in my intelligence but also that I needed academic skills and knowledge if I wanted to take my ideas and make them intelligible to a wider audience. She was one of the first people who ever thought I might have something worthwhile to say if only I could learn to write intelligibly, “learn to learn,” and focus my rage. She didn’t just praise my insight and creativity like so many “teachers” who came before, ignoring the hard truth that I had few academic skills, but instead unveiled the reality of my weaknesses.

She was unfazed by my academic incompetency and illiteracy—not to mention my ten earrings, long hair braided down my back, growing collection of tattoos, and punk-biker attitude—and worked with me until I knew how to be successful within the academy without completely giving up what and who I was. She did this with compassion, love, and respect. She was the first teacher that I ever trusted. I was far from thinking about a career in academia, yet she knew that having a range of academic competencies would serve me down the road if I hoped to ever have a choice about a position in academia. Again, and worth repeating, she recognized something I did not see in myself, as I think is true for many who mentor, and gave of herself generously and honestly. She shared with me her struggles, insecurities and triumphs and this made all the difference. I raise a pint of Guinness to you Libby! I still think about your counsel after all these years. Cheers! Wishing you a healthy and peaceful 2021!!

Henry Giroux

Henry Giroux’s mentorship began in 1998 and still, to a much lesser degree, continues today. But the major years of this relationship were between 1998-2002. The intensity of this mentorship is difficult to describe as it almost consumed me. It took many years after working with Henry to find my own voice and even now it can get lost in the echo and shadow of his counsel. Beyond guiding me through the history of critical pedagogy, critical theory, and cultural studies, Henry showed me how cultural power worked institutionally, how to manage hierarchies in the academy, and what it meant to be a scholar, dissident intellectual, and teacher.

When we first met, I was getting my master’s degree in English, fancied myself an activist poet, and knew nothing about him, critical pedagogy, or what a job in academia required. I had been a dishwasher and a line cook for ten years prior to our meeting as well as a high school dropout, as I already mentioned, with a GED and a spotty record of academic achievement. The first time I met him I was struck by his working-class ethos, which I had not expected from what I was told was an important man in higher education. When we first met, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know enough to talk to him about research, theorists, or even his own contributions to the fields of education, cultural studies, and the work of ideology in schools. In preparation for our meeting, I struggled through his book Teachers as Intellectuals, but understood only about half of what I read. I was far from being able to speak about it. But we connected for inexplicable reasons as mentors and protégés do and he agreed, on the recommendation of another mentor Donaldo Macedo, to make me his research assistant (RA). I called my mom and said, “I think I just hit the lottery.” This was a world we knew nothing about, but I knew enough to know that it was an opportunity that didn’t come around too often, if ever, and most likely wouldn’t come around again.

My ignorance was hard fought and even after two years of being Henry’s RA I remember asking him sincerely what I was supposed to do with all this knowledge that I was learning from him and others at Penn State. I could talk and debate “theory” with the best of them, but I had no idea how any of this was going to translate into a job. He just laughed and told me I would get a position as a professor in a college of education, eventually earn tenure, make at least a living wage, have decent healthcare, and live a good life doing good works. I was doubtful but trusted that he knew what he was talking about even though I thought, given my background before working with him, that what he said wouldn’t come to pass. As in most things, he was correct about this too. But I still wake up sometimes and can’t believe the direction my life took in large part because of my mentorship with Henry.

When I showed up at Penn State, his old research assistant and a bunch of his other students asked me what I did and what my research focus was. I had no idea what they were talking about. I was intellectually raw and still relatively unschooled. I was intimidated. I had a master’s degree in English with a focus on African American women’s literature and literary theory of all things. I had superficial knowledge of sociolinguistics, could fix my old BMW motorcycle, navigate it back and forth across the country, and hold my own through a mad dinner rush, but these people didn’t care about those things. Thankfully, Henry wasn’t like this group of students. He quickly showed me, by example, what it meant to do rigorous intellectual work as well as what it could mean for me to work in academia. He worked tirelessly and seriously, valued my past experiences and knowledge, and saw my past struggles with education as an asset not a liability. Twelve hour days were spent writing, editing, researching, talking, teaching, debating, and struggling over ideas and texts. He showed me how important it was to be courageous intellectually, to not be afraid of looking foolish, or being ridiculed by people who have more cultural and social capital. His mentoring was transformative not because I started to understand his importance in academia and beyond, but because he was one of the hardest and smartest workers I had ever met.

Henry’s commitment to fighting against the hidden forces of injustice was unwavering. For me this was important as he took the ethos of working class culture and applied it to intellectual work. He showed me that the distinction was not overdetermined and that I could work hard and relentlessly, could feel that burn of exhaustion that signaled something of value had been created, without breaking my back, burning my flesh, or slicing my fingers. It was an important lesson for me as it helped me trust him and give myself over to this new world, one that had previously labeled me a problem. He got me hooked on the ideas of critical theory and the work of intellectual production. I also became hooked on what Henry represented: A fearless, dissident intellectual who is relentlessly driven and tenaciously relentless in pursuit of the less obvious truths hidden behind veils of ideology and language. I was all in, although admittedly have never been able to keep pace with the standard he set.

Although we worked together for three years, a year longer than most of his other RAs, our relationship was contentious. I desperately needed and wanted his approval and so part of his mentoring was meant to toughen me up for the battles to come. My need for approval, he finally told me in a heated exchange, would compromise my ability to challenge institutional power, to do the work of a dissident public intellectual, and to enact critical pedagogies in the classroom. I would be easily seduced by the right and compromised by the commodifying forces of neoliberalism and the disciplinary strategies of reward and punishment exercised by the academy if I didn’t stop being so in need of approval. Keep my relationship to the institution problematic, he would say. As is true with so many of the things he taught me, these were things that would take time for me to understand. But I finally, eventually, sometimes painfully, got it. His voice is still in my head, providing counsel and insight when I am struggling to understand something that is occurring in the College or in a classroom.

Another exchange that exemplified his approach to mentoring that I clearly remember was the time I went into his office, furious that he had not “protected” me from what was an incredibly embarrassing performance in the defense of my comprehensive written exams. I was not prepared and I blamed him for not preparing me. He believed I was prepared, but even this late into my education, my academic skills were lacking as was my comprehension of the theoretical work I chose to use in my exams. His perception that I was prepared was based on my verbal skills and constant questioning, but he had not carefully read my work. My written work was riddled with problems both literary and theoretical. I wasn’t yet able to write coherently about what I knew and I didn’t always know as much as I thought. I hadn’t yet come to know what I didn’t know and still floundered in the false perception of thinking I knew more than I really did. I still tried to hide my ignorance behind jargon and theoretical abstractions. During my defense, he stayed quiet while the other members of the committee took turns kindly and respectfully ripping apart all that I had submitted. And although I “passed,” I was humiliated. For a week, I barely spoke to him. I didn’t speak in our seminars and did the research work in silence. Finally, he asked to see me.

I unleashed my embarrassment and insecurity in a petulant string of profane rage and fury. I loved him very much (and still do) and thought of him as a surrogate father (although I am sure he did not think of me as a son) as much as anything else. As I screamed, he sat calmly behind his huge desk, littered with papers, in a room with bookshelves lined with volumes of his books. Anyone else would have kicked my ungrateful ass out of their office. But he knew that my performance wasn’t a sign of disrespect as much as a serious cry for help. Because we spoke the same language, he was unfazed by the profanity and knew how to deal with it in a way that allowed me to learn from my mistakes. He told me that the work I submitted was not ready for the defense and he acknowledged he should have been paying more attention. But in the end, my failures and mistakes were mine to own. We talked about where I had gone wrong, what I needed to do to get back on track, and how he could help support those efforts. His patience was extraordinary and his manner of nurturing me with his own form of tough-love was something of which I will always be grateful. At an existential level, he showed me how I could stay true to my history, culture, and language while still being successful, if not fully accepted, in the academy. Cheers Henry! I hope you know how much you did for me and how appreciative I am for your mentoring.

Jaime Grinberg

I met Jaime Grinberg at the beginning of my career as an assistant professor at Montclair State University. He had transferred to Montclair from a tenured position he had at another university. From the perspective of a first-year professor yearning for the comfort and security of tenure, his move to me was almost unfathomable. When we found each other in an orientation for new faculty, I expressed my shock over his giving up tenure to come to MSU. I was acutely aware of the precariousness of my own circumstances, Henry having told me about his own ideologically motivated tenure rejection from Boston University so many years earlier. I knew I had to be strategic in my work, but was afraid I would not be able to keep my mouth shut and show proper restraint in the face of what seemed to me to be arbitrary uses of authority and power. The grapevine was ripe with stories of MSU College of Education faculty, particularly men, who struggled toward tenure only to be rejected for one reason or another. Although there were checks and balances in place to prevent such arbitrary uses of disciplinary power, only the most naïve would believe that such checks actually worked. And there always seemed to be no lack of examples, real and imagined, to support such cynicism.

Jaime looked at the horror and disbelief in my face and let out a full-bellied laugh. He assured me that he was confident in his ability to not only receive tenure at MSU, but to get it quickly. Indeed, if my memory serves, he negotiated upon being hired a short-track tenure decision. The possibility that he wouldn’t get tenure was not even in his mind and that was not because he was naïve. He was fluent in the same critical discourses as I was but it didn’t lead him to think cynically about institutional power as much as it gave him the tools that empowered him to be confident in his own ability to think and act strategically without compromising his core principles.

Over the course of the next twenty years (and counting) he always was available to answer my questions about how to negotiate the challenges of a system increasingly aligned with market-based forces, to challenge ideological arguments that run counter to stated institutional objectives, and to use authority in non-authoritarian ways. He did this always with a laugh and grin; he is a gadfly of impeccable credentials and unwavering courage. It is his capacity to see humor in the hypocrisy and contradictions of the academy that showed me that critical work is not and cannot be work that arises only from the dark corners of injustice and oppression.

Jaime is also a mensch of the first order, mentoring many new faculty in a way that respected our intelligence and independence but made us feel part of a community. I believe he sees being an advocate for his protégés as a central part of his mentoring responsibilities. This dimension of mentorship, especially in highly charged political environments, is extremely important and valuable. Indeed, the word protégé comes from the French word protéger (“to protect”). Working in this capacity, he helped pull me from the purgatory of a floundering department and helped rejuvenate my career. Stuck for years in a department that was no longer a good fit for my work and interests, he proactively reached out to see if I wanted to make a move. I, coincidentally, had just reached out to him to see if he could help me make a move. I had tried in years past but was met with resistance from a number of different places in the College. Because of changing institutional structures, new opportunities presented themselves, but they wouldn’t just magically materialize without Jaime’s astute sense of things and, more important to me perhaps, his attention to my career and life. He never stopped caring about what was happening to me and was always available for counsel. To another twenty years! Cheers, Jaime!

Donaldo Macedo

When Libby introduced me to Donaldo Macedo I remember her saying I would leave my studies in literature and never look back. My focus on literature was increasingly moving away from text and more on the political dimensions of language and everyday life. I was a social justice warrior before there was a name for such a thing, working with others to make the world more equitable and humane. Libby thought I would benefit from working with Donaldo, who held a dual appointment in Applied Linguistics and Literature. However political I was, in terms of academics I was still immersed in the aesthetic dimension. But she assured me that Donaldo respected that dimension as well, consistently and effectively appealing to the arts in his work to bring attention to the affective impact of power and language in people’s lives.

I first met Donaldo while taking his graduate course in sociolinguistics and soon started meeting with him one-on-one in his office to study advanced sociolingusitics, critical pedagogy, neo-Marxist approaches to language, and critical literacy. In short, he introduced me to a world in the academy that I didn’t know existed. I knew intuitively that maybe I wasn’t the problem school had made me, but he gave me a language by which I could reframe my relationship to schooling so that I had problems but was not one myself. Structures of schooling and language became visible under Donaldo’s mentoring as did how power circulated through these structures. Ideology became an operational concept for me, articulating with actual practices and behaviors. He showed me how I could use this work to understand experiences of oppression. Indeed, his close relationship with Paulo Freire as well as his work with Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, informed our weekly sessions. I thought my head would pop-off. I watched him debate senior faculty from across the university who took issue with his interrogations of power, race, class, and privilege. He was a passionate mentor who walked the walk. However theoretically rigorous his work is, he lives his praxis, is committed in his heart and actions to fighting for equity and justice. He showed me that it is okay to be openly passionate and emotional; anger, frustration, kindness, love, excitement, passion, laughter, etc., were part of the essential design of intellectual life. We shouldn’t be detached, sterile, and isolated. We can laugh, scream, dance, and cry and still be considered intellectuals. We have skin in the game.

Donaldo was a model of the engaged, enraged, transformative intellectual, naming names and holding people accountable to their ideas and actions. He’s a dissident intellectual in the mold of Edward Said and Paulo Freire. I remember at one point Donaldo coming to listen in as another faculty member aggressively took issue with an argument I was making using post-colonial theory to explain the words and actions of the Shakespearian character Caliban from the play The Tempest. He was a protector and defender of the first order. He always had my back.

And finally, he introduced me to Henry Giroux. It was in Donaldo’s office where I first met with Henry. It was Donaldo who stopped me in the hallway and asked me what my plans were for after the master’s degree. I had no idea. Back to the kitchen, I said. No, he responded, you will go and work with Henry Giroux and get your Ph.D. Like Libby, he saw things in me I had yet to see in myself. It is impossible to thank Donaldo enough for how he transformed (saved, actually) my life. All I can do is try and make him proud of the work I have done since leaving his counsel over twenty-years ago. I always think to myself as I do or don’t do my work, what would Donaldo think of this. Too often, I think the work comes up short.  Like Henry, the standard that he sets not only for his protégés, but for himself is incredibly high. Never asking anymore than he is willing to do or give himself, he is a model of authenticity, integrity, commitment, passion, and rigor. I am wishing you much love and laughter in the New Year, Donaldo. Thank you!

Cindy Onore, looking dangerously fabulous

Cindy Onore was on the committee at Montclair that recommended hiring me. She was not effusive or at all openly supportive during my interview. I could not have known then that she would become one of my closest confidantes and mentors. Like Jaime, she would give up tenure positions to move into non-tenure jobs with the understanding that if the work made sense then the “rewards” for that work would follow. I was consumed with anxiety about not getting tenure and her counsel, reasonable and empathetic, was always grounding and helpful. In the summer before I actually started at MSU, she invited me to be part of a workshop on leadership and social justice that she was running with a colleague. It was an interesting experience but more importantly it solidified our relationship as mentor/protégé. She was a straight talker, no bullshit woman who valued creativity as much as “criticality.” Although she knew the work on critical theory, critical literacy and pedagogy, and post-structuralism, she was not enamored by it. For Cindy, scholarship in the public interest was a more broadly conceived set of skills and responsibilities than simply writing and publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals. It was a category of academic work that should also include teaching, learning, creative production, and leadership. She always helped me to expand and deepen my thinking. Like all of my other mentors, Cindy was tough-minded, did not suffer fools, but also knew how to strategically navigate the political waters of academia. Her ideas about how the College of Education and the Center of Pedagogy should be organized were radical in that she wanted to upend traditional approaches to research, teaching and learning. I would watch her in meetings ask simple, straight forward questions that would derail—in the best way—entire proposals. Her colleagues would stammer and shift in their seats as Cindy would wait patiently for their responses. Simple, elegant, and ruthless in the face of arrogance and ignorance (a refusal to know and accept), she modeled for me what it meant in practice to be a critical intellectual at the administrative levels of academia.

But her impact on my life goes far beyond the academic as she provides me counsel on everything from finances and relationships to travel and art. She is a renaissance woman. On a flight to an academic conference on the west coast, we spent the time on the plane alternating between looking at car and motorcycle magazines, paying particular attention to our shared passion for Porsches, and discussing Maxine Greene’s thoughts on creativity and the arts. She taught me how to create a balance in work and life, enjoying the aesthetic dimensions of the city and mountains as much as the intellectual/creative aspects of academia and the educational sphere. The balance that she helped me understand wasn’t just between work and play, however important that might be, but between mind and body, left brain and right, and the aesthetic and pragmatic dimensions. For Cindy (and now for me too), this balance is achieved (or at least struggled toward) through a rejection of dichotomous thinking. This doesn’t mean there is no “right” and “wrong” in this way of thinking and acting in the world. It simply means there is beauty in pragmatics and a critical dialectic between the mind and body.

Her criticisms of my work are always valued as well. She still reads and comments on all of my work. From the good and bad to the ugly, she provides me with insights that tend to get right at the heart of what is both wrong and right about what I have said, written, or painted. She shares my frustrations with academia as well as helps me find solutions to my problems. She gives generously of her time and experience, while listening patiently when I can turn dark and melancholic. As my mentor, she “gets” me. This level of care and knowing has been a life-saver for me more times than I can count. When my daughter was diagnosed three years ago with Type 1 Diabetes, when my father was killed in a motorcycle accident, and when my mother went into hospice after a brutal battle with cancer, Cindy was always there for me, listening patiently as I fell apart and then just as patiently helping put me back together.

As someone constantly on the edge of self-destruction, Cindy is always there to pull me back into a space that is less destructive and productive. She has the ability to take darkness and reframe it so that it becomes a creative force as opposed to a diminishing one. And even after she moved more than half-way across the country, she continues in her role as mentor. I wish we could raise a glass together for what I hope is a better 2021. Her mentoring continues to be a model of strength, honesty, integrity, and love that I hope to be able to pay forward to at least a few people during the course of my own life. Much love to you, Cindy! Wishing you a Happy and Healthy 2021!

Patrick Shannon

I first met Pat when I started at Penn State to work with Henry. He was also in the department but focused on literacy, the area that Henry (and Pat) had decided I should focus on because of my previous work in literature and sociolinguistics. The first thing I noticed when I went into Pat’s office was an old photograph of him, probably from college, wearing a red, one-piece, long-john with an old leather aviator hat on his head, scraggly beard, worn combat-style boots, and I think, maybe, a drink in his hand. Although the exact specifics of the content of that photograph now escape me, I remember thinking, “I like this guy!” Like all of my other mentors, Pat was not a traditional academic. He worked the job like it was a traditional job, meaning he came in everyday from about 8-5 and worked. Because it was not a regular job, but an academic one, this was a radical move. His work ethos reminded me of Libby’s ideas about non-canonical interrogations of canonical texts. As most of the faculty offices remained empty aside from office hours, Pat could always be found in his office, except when he was playing a game of faculty basketball during his “lunch hour.”

Pat and I laughed often, finding humor in the satiric absurdities so rampant in academia. We would howl knowingly at David Lodge’s satiric novels about the inanities of university faculty and administrators. But this is not to say that the work Pat did, and we did together, wasn’t serious-minded. But academia, as many of you may know, either makes people goofy or attracts goofy people. In either case, there is always lots to laugh at if you know where to look, the mirror included. The level of self-importance and the hugeness of egos is an endless source of comic relief. I recently learned, after mentioning to him that I am a Frank Zappa fan and recommending the most recent Zappa documentary, that in 1969 he had a ten-minute Mothers of Invention radio show on his campus radio station. My thought when he told me this was, “Of course you did!” We connected in that inexplicable way in which small, shared references become another brick, not in the wall, but in the creation of a mentoring structure that is supportive and challenging.

Pat, like Cindy, still reads and comments on my work even though he retired from academia years ago. Pat awarded me my doctorate during the graduation ceremony at Penn State. This meant quite a bit to me and my family. While I was doing my research, Pat recommended me for a job teaching remedial reading to freshman at PSU who were in the College Assistant Migrant Program (CAMP). From this experience, I wrote and published my first chapter in a book that Pat edited. More generally, I can’t overstate how important the CAMP experience was in forcing me to ground the theory I was learning in practice and rethink the practice against the backdrop of theory. Pat also played a fundamental role when it was time for me to try and get a job. When he realized that I had little to no knowledge about “reading” vs. my broad knowledge about “critical literacy,” he came to my office and gave me a handful of books to read and learn in preparation for my interviews. These were life-savers as most of the jobs I applied for were, on some level, reading positions and not jobs for a professor of “critical literacy” or “critical pedagogy.” If you’re not in the field, these distinctions are irrelevant, but for me to get a serious look from employers the distinction was essential. Pat realized that my Ph.D., which focused almost exclusively on theoretical questions, framed sociologically, of literacy, language, culture, power, epistemology, and pedagogy might have made me highly fluent in important Discourses, but did not necessarily make me employable. He was right, of course. And his help and support in giving me the practical tools that are valued in Colleges of Education was central in me getting two job offers. I remember sitting in these interviews and stating confidently my ability to speak to the practical concerns of whole language, phonics, balanced reading, Reading First, etc. My ability to answer questions related to these fields and my work with remedial readers in higher education was due to Pat’s counsel and influence.

But again, when I think of his continuing mentorship, I think first of his ability to laugh at himself, academia and the absurdities of academic life. I’m not crazy after all. Or he is as crazy as I am. In either sense, I found a mentor whose easy turn toward the absurd and comic was met with an equally powerful commitment to equity and economic justice. He was self-deprecating as opposed to ego-maniacal and shared his failures and struggles with me as easily as he shared his significant accomplishments. He is a brilliant man dispossessed of arrogance and secure in his knowledge. To a significant degree, I’ve tried to model my professional identity from his example and in his image. Cheers, Pat!

There are other people that have made significant contributions to my life, but they were not at the level of a mentor. The folks I have talked about are a select group that will forever be with me in mind, body and spirit. After reading my tribute to my mentors, if you find yourself thinking about your own mentor(s), please use the comments section below to give a shout-out to them. Or maybe take the time to write to them to thank them, once again, for their dedication and commitment. I know our gestures of appreciation can’t ever fully reflect the profound importance and impact that they have/had on our lives. But I think it’s a nice way to start a New Year. Cheers to my readers, friends, and colleagues! Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful, and healthy 2021!

[i] Some people would also argue that sex, even if consensual, should never be a part of the mentor/protégé relationship. I know personally more than a few mentor/protégé relationships that did cross the line and become sexual. The examples I know turned into long-term, in some instances, life-time intimate partnerships. I believe that the introduction of sex into a mentoring relationship would change the relationship into something fundamentally different. The inequities that inform all mentor/protégé relations becomes a concern, even when there is consent between the mentor and protégé. In the final analysis, although the mentor can continue to mentor her/his protégé while engaged in a physical sexual relationship, the quality and dynamic of the relationship, in most instances (and there are always exceptions), will not be the same as when the relationship was platonic. If you ask me, it should be avoided but I also understand how easily mentor/protégé relationships can become sexual if/when both people are either homosexual or heterosexual respectively. I think it’s easy to see why protégés fall in love with their mentors and mentors fall in love with their protégés. If this love turns from platonic to sexual things can get messy.