A Mentor
By: David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

Have you ever had a person come into your professional life who helped transform you into someone you never thought you could become? I wish that everyone could answer with a resounding “yes” to that question. I have been blessed to have several people through the years come into my life that helped lift me to higher and higher levels. I would like to share an example of one such person with you. In fact, as I sit in my office writing this, his picture is on a plaque in MACNY’s Legacy Room bearing the date April 26, 2006; the day he was rightfully inducted into MACNY’s Wall of Fame. His name: Donald F. Dew.

It was said of Don that he brightened whatever room he entered. His smile was infectious, and his positive outlook invigorated everyone around him. I met Don years ago while serving as the Manufacturing Manager for Selflock Screw Products and Don was chairman of our Board of Directors. I will never forget the night he called me at home and asked me if I would be willing to serve as the company’s President. I was quite shocked and told him that I was a factory guy, didn’t have an MBA and didn’t understand why he was offering me the position. I don’t remember what he said, but he was very reassuring, and after a few days I responded with the answer that would change my life.

Don saw something in me that I really didn’t see. He then moved beyond seeing into acting on what he saw. All great mentors start in this way. They see potential and then engage in a person’s life to help them realize that hidden potential. He created a safe environment for me to learn, ask questions, and grow. Don took the time to get to know me, my family, my hobbies, and what I did on the weekends. He learned my strengths and weaknesses. It wasn’t that he was trying to pry, he was genuinely interested in me and making the connection needed for effective mentoring.

He never gave me answers, only questions. I remember when he told me we needed a business plan. When I asked him how I should write one, he simply replied with a smile “you’ll figure it out.” He asked about quick ratios and current ratios, and I didn’t have a clue. I knew there must be a reason so I would do some research, learn what it was, and report back to him. With that same smile, he would look up and  ask “what have you learned from the numbers?”

Don was an amazing story teller. He shared stories from his life, things he learned and where he learned them. Some stories were of great successes and others failures and disappointment. He showed me that he was just like me. A man who had good days and bad days. The good days he enjoyed, and the bad days were learning opportunities. I saw no ego in him. Just a kind, giving man who lived his life for others.

Don left us on October 17th, 2012 at 88 years young. His legacy, however, lives on in the lives of those he touched. It’s so fitting that his plaque hangs in MACNY’s Legacy Room.

What kind of legacy will you leave behind?