I am going a little off-topic this time around due to uncovering an old journal while looking for some old research material this morning. I got to reading it and came across an entry from March 2007 on the occassion of the death of my old boss and mentor Patrick Murphy. I have been lucky to have in my education and career a few very good mentors.
The first one was Dr. Richard Goff, my undergraduate advisor in the history program at Eastern Michigan University from 1989-1992. Dr. Goff not only shaped me as a researcher and help me develop my writing skills but was also valuable in helping me find my niche in the history field and turn my passion into a career. He selected me for the Undergraduate Symposium at EMU, encouraged me to be a tutor, and was always a great sounding board. When I returned to EMU for my graduate studies, he was still a great man to speak to, and he shared advice even though I was now in a different academic department. Several of my friends and fellow history majors also think highly of Dr. Goff. He was a mentor to hundreds, if not thousands, of students during his long career. Dr. Goff retired in 2000 and passed away in 2011.
Patrick Murphy first hired me as a seasonal interpreter at the Michigan Historical Center’s Walker Tavern Historic Complex in 1997. Pat was the longtime Lower Peninsula Fieldsites Coordinator and would be my boss at both Walker Tavern and at Hartwick Pines where he hired me for the full-time historian position the following year. Here is what I wrote in my journal entry on March 21, 2007.
Pat Murphy died last week. My old boss, mentor and friend had stomach cancer and lost his battle on March 10, 2007. Although I had drifted from his friendship over the last year or so, I have truly felt the loss.
Pat gave me the start in my career. He hired me as a seasonal in 1997 at Walker Tavern and then for my full-time position at Hartwick in 1998. I almost screwed that one up by sending my application in late, but Pat bent some rules to still get my interview. He took a chance on me and I think I’ve proved him right.
From 1998 to 2003 when he retired, he became my mentor. He always treated me and all of the staff-and everyone for that matter-as equals & professionals. Through Pat, you got the idea that it was a privilage to have the types of jobs that we do. Having never been a supervisor before-I struggled at first, but watching Pat I learned how to work with everyone. My best quailities as a leader I feel I’ve learned mostly from my dad and from Pat. Both were well respected by those who worked for them.
It was fitting that Pat’s Memorial Service was on Saturday, March 17: St. Patrick’s Day. It also would have been Pat’s 67th Birthday. I have never laughed so much at a funeral or memorial service. Everyone had great stories of Pat.
Even after his retirement, I was lucky to keep in touch a bit. I was able to see him last summer when he stopped in on the way to go fishing. My biggest regret was not to get in touch with him after his diagnosis after Thanksgiving. I still feel terrible about that. Pat, please forgive me.
I will remember your favorite saying always: “There are no answers, seek them lovingly.” Thank you for everything Pat.
After Pat retired Phil Kwiatkowski, the director of the Michigan Historical Museum, became my supervisor and continued in much of the same way as Pat had. Phil allowed me to do new things at the historic sites and museums that I was entrusted with. His direct contact with me was not at the same level as it was with Pat, but like Pat, he always treated me as an equal and did whatever he could to help me become a better professional and leader.
A mentor is invaulable for anyone starting out in a new career, regardless of what you do. I know that I would not have become the professional that I am without the guidance of such people as Dick Goff, Pat Murphy, and Phil Kwiatkowski. As I am now in a transition in my career I look back even more to the advice they all gave me and remember their confidence that they had in me. It makes me realize that although I am doing some different and now more challenging things, that I will still succeed and be at the top of my profession.
Happy Holidays to everyone and I will talk to you in the New Year!