A few years ago, I ran across a graduation card with a handwritten note from David Fortney, one of my journalism professors — a man I knew as a mentor, a very talented writer, and a friend.
David was a Vietnam veteran. Prior to his years teaching journalism at Truman State University, he’d worked as a journalist for The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Stars and Stripes, and Radio Free Europe.
He was a robust man. An unkempt white beard framed his face. He had big, sometimes flaring, nostrils. He wore buttoned down shirts with his sleeves rolled up. David wasn’t the best classroom teacher. In fact, he was a very “last minute” kind of guy — often asking us students to run copies of that day’s assignments just before class began. I rarely received any of my graded assignments, so I never really knew what my grade was until I received my report card.
All this aside…the man could write! His fingers danced across a keyboard and the resulting words were poetry.
In addition to being a professor, David was the director of student publications — overseeing the student staffs of the yearbook, the weekly newspaper and a regional travel magazine called Detours. I served on all of those staffs — including time as sports editor of the newspaper and editor-in-chief of the magazine — so David was a constant presence in my life during my four years of undergraduate work.
In 1998-99, David helped me during a trying academic year. He mentored and encouraged me through a time of indecision, a time when I had little confidence in myself or my abilities to be the editor-in-chief of Detours.
After several months at the helm of the magazine, I wasn’t having much fun. Any fun, really. I didn’t feel like much of a leader. I didn’t feel that the staff respected me. (In fact, I know they didn’t.) I thought, “This is no way to enjoy my final year of college!”
I wanted to quit. Continue reading “Thank faculty mentors while you can”