My first mentor was my mom. She was a wife, mother of 6, and manager of our universe. Mom worked part-time, and managed us full-time. In the early years that my Dad started his business, his office was in the basement, and my mom was his secretary. I remember her “shushing” us if the phone rang — then she’d answer: “R.G. Loewenguth Co., may I help you…” As I look back on it — this was pretty amazing because she was doing this while changing diapers, making sandwiches, preparing dinner and more.
My grandmother, Marian McGlynn Ryan, was the Administrative Office Manager for the Monroe County Republican Party. Nana had also raised 6 children, but worked full-time. I recall going to the office with her to stuff envelopes, and would sit in awe of my grandmother. She was a woman ahead of her time.
Graduating from Nazareth Academy, class of ’77, this all-girls, Catholic school, gave me many gifts. The two primary ones were confidence and opportunity. My guidance counselor, Sr. Elizabeth Conheady, became a great confidant and mentor to me through my high school years. When I considered running for class president junior year, she encouraged and cheered me on, along with another teacher, Kristin Malone. They both had faith in me, and I won that race, and went on to win again senior year. With Sr. Elizabeth’s early encouragement, I charged forward, and life got started.
My first job was with Howard Taylor & Company (mortgage broker) where I had the good fortune to work directly for Marty Larimer Tessoni (Yes, sister to our very own Judge David Larimer). Like her older brother, Marty was dedicated and professional to the extreme, but always with a great sense of humor. Our boss, Howard Taylor, was a very spirited, hard-driving man, and so Marty was an incredible balance for me. She taught me to laugh when things were difficult.
From there I went on to St. Mary’s Hospital where I was surrounded by incredible women, some on campus, and some off. The late Sister Ann Williams was president upon my arrival, and though running this major institution, stopped in to the Office of Public Relations every morning to see how her new hire was doing, and she stopped in on her way out at night. Never a day went by without some pearl of wisdom, whether personal or professional. As I arrived at St. Mary’s, one of Rochester’s PR legacies was leaving to forge new adventures, Ruth Morris, now Ruth Myers as a young and very green PR professional; I would stand in awe of Ruth, and the cool calmness with which she did her job. From Ruth I learned about how to open my mind to more creative thinking.
While at St. Mary’s, I also met Vivian Cunningham, a nurse practitioner, and Kash Caravetta, a social worker. Viv began to show me how life as a working mom would work, and the consummate professional. Kash, hired to open a detox program, spent her day counseling young and beautiful women that had come off the streets as prostitutes, and were surrendering their life to Kash in hopes of a new start. I learned lessons in compassion from Kash. Kash also remains a constant in my life, though now from Santa Fe.
I then moved to Virginia and assumed the title of Director of Marketing at Allegheny Regional Hospital. It was there that I had my three children, and was a very busy working mom. In Virginia, there was an old woman named, Anna. Anna lived several houses down, and we would sit and talk for hours. Anna was a simple woman, with an 8th grade education, and yet the wisdom of a professor of philosophy. She would quiz me on some of my experiences, and challenge me as to my thinking and decisions. Always ended our visits with a sweet hug, and a “you’re doing good honey!”
Upon returning to Rochester, I reconnected with many old friends. One of them was an old college classmate, Dawn Borgeest. Dawn and I finished at St. John Fisher, and I believe is one of the most talented and creative minds in Rochester. When I have a particularly challenging situation, or need a new perspective, Dawn is one of the people I call. Dawn has given me many gifts, but one of them is learning how to be direct, the right way. Problem is, we simply do not see enough of each other.
In the Executive Director world there are many women that I call on because I respect them, their opinions, their work ethic, both in and out of the bar world. One of my first bar world mentors was Kathie Bifaro, the Executive Director of the Erie County Bar. Kathie is an example of cool, calm professional. Kathie is just a phone call away, and sometimes our calls are less than 5 minutes. I call and say, “I need your counsel…”. Kathie has 30+ years experience in this world, and has seen it all. Julie Armstrong, the Indianapolis Bar Executive Director, is another person that I sometimes just sit back to watch and learn.
When I first started at the Monroe County Bar Association, Hanna Cohn was the VLSP Executive Director, and Secretary of the MCBA Board. I had the privilege of knowing, working and observing Hanna for 3 months before she died. But during those few months, I called her frequently about everything from management to governance questions, and she ALWAYS had the answer.
One of my primary bar mentors is Elizabeth Derrico, bar genius extraordinaire. Elizabeth has guided me for the last 12+ years, and is the person I call when stuck in my head with a situation. She asks the right questions, and helps me discover the answers, that in the end, were already there. I have been most fortunate to have great presidents that I learn from every year. Including my current president, Diane Cecero. Diane is great at asking questions, and I am finding I need to slow down and think about the answers in a different way than I perhaps have in the past.
As Hillary Clinton once said, “it takes a village”, and for me, there has been a small village of women and men that have molded, guided, re-directed, knocked me upside the head, told me yes, told me no, laughed with me, and cried with me over the years.I would not be who I am, or where I am today without having been touched throughout my life by this group of extraordinary people. What I have learned from them over the years would fill volumes. The gifts they gave me are permanently affixed in my soul.
One of the things they all gave me was the gift of time. They gave me moments! It may have been my call they took, or the offer of coffee, breakfast, lunch or wine, or just a walk. But they all said YES to me, and that has made all the difference in my life.
So my question for you, who has made a difference in your life? Have mentors been in your life? If so, are you paying it forward? If not, why not? And if not, here are some ways in which you can mentor through the MCBA.
Mentor for the Moment — this new program is intended to establish a convenient way for young and lawyers in transition, to reach out to more seasoned lawyers for questions, counsel, and wisdom. We have dozens of lawyers that have signed up to mentor. We will be hosting a Mentoring Launch Party to get this initiative launched so stay tuned for more details. I invite any seasoned attorneys to join the program as a mentor, and I invite any young lawyers or lawyers in transition to join us a mentee, and to take advantage of this wonderful program.
Lawyers for Learning — this award-winning program is now 20 years old, and the challenges faced by the district and the school are so much greater than 20 years ago. There was a time when we had over 100 mentors at School #29 every week, and now this number is less than 40 mentors. That means more than 60 children are not being given the advantage of children 20 years ago. Please consider mentoring for this program this upcoming school year.
Writing this blog has forced me to re-evaluate how I am paying it forward. Am I doing enough? Where can I do more? I know, we are all VERY BUSY.
Please give some thought to bringing your gifts to someone who may benefit from them.
Thanks for checking in…