Barry Crossno, Friends General Conference
My mother was huge mentor to me. She ran restaurants. When I was growing up, she had a staff of about 40 people, and the way she interacted with people taught me a lot about how to be a leader, how to be fair minded, how to try and create win-win situations for people. In terms of mentors, there’s the real life people, and then there’s people that I’ve only read about. One of the people I’ve only read about is Theodore Roosevelt. I grew up fairly sick as a child. I was in danger of passing away a few times in my childhood. Theodore Roosevelt was someone I fastened upon because he had also been a really sickly child. When I was young, it was important to have a role model who had overcome their physical frailties in order to do something larger. Some mentors in the Quaker world have been Marcelle Martin, Michael Wadja, Jim Perkins, Stan Brown, Sue Regen, as well as Jean-Marie and Frank Barch. I want to stop naming names because the more I name, the more I know there will be people left out.
Scott Affleck was my best friend for many years. He had been raised Methodist, became Quaker, then became Buddhist. Absolutely brilliant, one of the finest minds I’ve ever known, extremely funny, deeply spiritual, and taught me what grace looks like while suffering. He died young, suffered the last fifteen years of his life with a really crippling illness, and completely changed my life and the lives of many other people. There’s a whole pack of us who are in leadership positions now that he mentored.
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Diane Randall, Friends Committee on National Legislation:
First and foremost, my mother has had an impact on me. We’ve always been fairly close, and she has been a leader in her own work, which was education, and talked about her role as a woman in a leadership position. Both from what it was like to work with men when she was the only woman, and also what it was like to negotiate for salary. She would have never identified herself as a feminist, but I felt like I had this role model of how to operate in a world that’s not always open to women, and how to be a leader. That was really important to me.
When I was working at the Partnership for Strong Communities, before I came here, we were funded by the Melville Charitable Trust. The executive director, this guy named Bob Hohler, was a real mentor to me to think about the power of big ideas and the ability to change systems and what that takes, how to hold onto those big ideas and think about the arc of change from both a policy focus and from a political focus. Then there are people I work with who are lobbyists, just really good strategic people about how to to do a power analysis, just figuring out what’s going to motivate people, and trying to come up with a plan and execute it.
This is kind of an aside, because we don’t do political endorsements at all — but I was captivated by this idea that, Hillary Clinton just turned 68, and she’s running for this super-big job. It’s an amazing inspiration to me.
For more of Diane’s story, click here
Jen Karsten, Pendle Hill:
I think of people who’ve provided excellent counsel or helped me a lot. Clerks of the Pendle Hill Board. My friends and my mom. My husband is somebody whose counsel I rely on on a regular basis, and who I really look up to. Sarah Willie-LeBreton, one of our board members, is somebody who I knew prior to being on the board. I lift her up because I’m thinking about how many Quakers I know have personal/professional overlap, thus in the Quaker world where many of us are known to each other, we must learn to wear various hats (f/Friendship). So many people have been generous and helpful, role models and nurturers, too many to count!
For more of Jen’s story, click here
Shan Cretin, American Friends Service Committee:
One of my undergraduate professors in probability theory, and his wife, who was an MIT graduate: they really were my mentors. They taught me a lot of things, gave me a lot of advice along the way. Since I got to AFSC, I have had some wonderful mentors, a couple of women of color who have become friends, mentors, and helpers for me in understanding my role and my privilege and how I come across sometimes. One is a woman, Eisha Mason, who’s my associate regional director in LA. She’s a member of the Agape Church. She studied with Reverend Jim Lawson, and she just totally has nonviolence at her core. She’s a wonderful person who’s been a mentor.
For more of Shan’s story, click here
Gretchen Castle, Friends World Committee for Consultation:
My dearest mentor died last year – Warren Witte. I worked with him, for him. He was sort of my Quaker organizational guru. He was just a really wonderful teacher. He and I met years ago when I work for Friends General Conference and he worked at American Friends Service Committee in communications. We were part of a group bringing together Quakers Uniting in Publication – we kind of got that started. I’ve always said to him his middle name is collaboration because he’s really great mentor. He’s my major one.
Larry Miller is a great spiritual mentor. He was my former father-in-law, and he also worked for AFSC. He had a degree in divinity, and yet he was always questioning his spirituality. He’d always say to me, “Gretchen, I don’t know how you’re always so sure of God’s presence.” And I’d say, “I don’t know either, but maybe I came into the world with that.”
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Gabe Ehri, Friends Journal:
First of all, I would name Susan Corson-Finnerty. She did a wonderful job leading an organization that has been a big part of my life. I’ve been there for 11 years now, and seven of those years working for her. She’s been a great mentor. Many members of my meeting come to mind. JoAnn Seaver is an elder of the meeting, you can practically see the Light shining out of her. She’s great example of a radiant, wise Quaker, and she has been a rock for me. Gabbreell James was one of the people who really grabbed me right away saying – we are going to have a great, spiritual, and fun friendship, and we’re going to be able to talk about deep stuff and learn from each other. She’s a wonderful person to have as a friend and teacher.
I have gotten a great deal of value and insight from the teaching of Seth Godin, who is a well-known marketing business writer, a clear communicator. I had the good fortune of taking a workshop with him and 60 other people for a weekend. He also blogs daily, so I feel mentored every day.
When I started as executive director, we also brought in Chris Mohr as a new board member and clerk of the board. He had just moved cross-country from San Francisco, and happened to also be a member of the meeting I was starting to go to. He and I have had a great working relationship, trying to help lead the organization. He has experience as executive director of a non-profit, so he was really helpful. Having access to Chris’s mind and spirit has been really important for me.
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Christina Repoley, Quaker Voluntary Service:
I think I’ve mentioned some people from longer ago-from the Catholic Worker days, there were people who I really admired who were pastors or other people involved in faith communities doing really powerful work. A couple of professors in college and graduate school have been really valuable to me. One person in particular at Atlanta meeting has been very consistently there. Whether she’s on my support committee or just meeting one on one. She cares for me, asks me questions both from a professional and a personal perspective, and helps to keep me grounded and connected. A couple of board members, in a professional capacity, have done things like coaching: how to run an organization, how to manage people well, how to network, all those kinds of professional things.
One of the things I’ve done a lot of is asking people to meet with me, asking people to be my mentors and teachers, and not being too shy or hesitant to say, “Hey, I just met you but you seem really great and interesting and like you have experiences that I can learn from. Can we have lunch?” That has really helped me and helped QVS in a lot of ways.
For more of Christina’s story, click here
Doug Bennett, Earlham College (Emeritus):
Somebody I never met but began to be aware of when I was at Haverford, was Rufus Jones. As I grew more interested in Quakerism I began reading a lot of Rufus Jones, and realized that if I had intellectual and spiritual forbearance for Rufus Jones, that he had thought through a lot of the difficulties in faith that I found myself confronting, and he had thought them through a lot better than I had. Douglas Steere is someone else who I’ve read a lot. I learned a lot as a fellow with the American Council on Education during the week-long seminars we attended. They’d bring in a smart person, and they’d say things to us, and we’d ask questions. As a professor, I thought my job was to be the smartest person in the room. At the end of that year, I realized I needed a complete transformation of the way that I approached what I did. I need to go into the room thinking: I am the person who knows the least. I am the perfection of ignorance, and my job is to ask questions and to draw as much out of everybody else in the room as I can, and try to see if we can distill that into something that makes sense.
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Colin Saxton, Friends United Meeting:
Some of them are dead Quakers whose writings have affected me deeply. Another mentor was the pastor of the first church that I ever attended. His name’s Gayle Beebe. He’s currently the president of Westmont College out in California. He was really influential for me. He just sort of took me in. He was a thoughtful leader type, and that was useful for me. There’ve been other people along the way, people who’ve been tremendously supportive, helped me think through stuff. Paul Anderson from George Fox University, Howard Macy from George Fox, are two good friends who’ve been helpful. Here at FUM, the former presiding clerk Kelly Kellum from North Carolina Yearly Meeting has been, not only a really good friend, he’s just been a spiritual encouragement, he’s helped me learn about FUM and about the community. I think he models some good ways of relating to the diversity of Friends that I’ve found really useful. There’ve been some wonderful elders that I’ve worked with along the way. A woman named Jean Shoehart from Oregon was a really good elder, not only for me but for the church that I served. I’ve learned a lot from lots of different people.
For more of Colin’s story, click here