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Losing mentors

By Jennifer Carrico

We all have people we look at as mentors or who pushed us in the right direction. I've been fortunate to have several.

My mentors taught me to do what I love and made me understand the importance of appreciating not only the opportunities given, but also the people who got me there.

As we age, we lose some of these mentors. Over the past couple weeks, I've lost two who helped get me through college and realize just what direction I wanted to go.

I will start with Barbara Mack, my professor for several journalism classes at Iowa State. I remember the first few minutes of the first class I took from her, "My name is Barbara Mack," said the bold woman who stood over six feet tall and could be heard as clear in the back of the room as she was in the front. "I am your professor and I am also a lawyer. I expect you to be to class on time and be ready to listen and learn. I expect you to do your own work and when we have a test, keep your eyes on your own paper. If I catch any of you doing so much as peeking at someone else's, you are out of here. And I'm not talking just out of this class. I'm talking out of this university. If you don't believe me, I can give you references."

She was tough to say the least, but she knew her stuff. She taught with more passion for the journalism profession than any other professor's path I crossed. You were sure to learn in her class, and she always made it fun.

She wanted us to learn proper grammar and proper journalism style. She looked at every student as not only her pupil, but also as her child since she had none of her own.

She and I had a connection that became stronger the longer I knew her. While she came from a very different background than I did, she and I had a common bond in our love for animals.

I distinctly remember a time when I needed to be gone from college for a couple days for a cattle event I was to attend. I had a big assignment due in the class and headed up to her office to discuss how to handle the whole situation. We proceeded to sit in her office and talk about my cattle and her horses for about an hour. As I left her office I made arrangements to get her the assignment.

She was tough, but she was also understanding. I knew I had to work my butt off in that class, but I truly loved going to each class I took from her.

I learned more from Barbara Mack than many of my other professors combined. I was fortunate enough to stay in contact with her on into my professional career and had her speak at several communications events the past few years.

The last time I saw her was in May. She talked to our group about grammar usage and she even took a cell phone from one of the professionals during the session. Classic Barbara. It was something she did often during class. She later shared a story with me about taking a cell phone from a Cyclone basketball star, Royce White. If she would take his, she would take anyone's is what many of her students thought.

She taught me to "be passionate about what you do--to do what you love and love what you do." Iowa State lost one of the best when we lost her. She steered me into a journalism career that I love.

Then this past week, I heard of the passing of another great professor, mentor, coach and friend. F.C. Parrish was first my professor of meat science and later became my coach while I was on the meats judging team at Iowa State.

Before deciding to go to Iowa State University to study animal science, I had considered a few other smaller colleges to play basketball. My decision came down to what I wanted to do the rest of my life and I knew that answer was easy--agriculture.

F.C. helped me pursue not only my career path in agriculture, but also fulfill my goal of being on a collegiate team. I spent many hours in the coolers with nine others to whom I became quite close.

F.C. taught us about what to look for when grading a beef carcass and the importance of looking at bone ossification when doing that grading. He taught us how to look for quality in meat of any species. Many of the things I learned in his class and during practice I still remember when I open up a package of steak or buy a package of pork chops.

F.C., like Barbara, was passionate about his job as a professor and coach. He wanted everyone to leave his room knowing more about the meat industry with an appreciation for how important it is to raise the animals properly for the end consumer.

We had some great times in the judging van. F.C. could sniff out a Bob Evans restaurant within 100 miles, or maybe he just knew where they all were since he had traveled so much.

On our very long trip to Pennsylvania, I think he learned something too--never doubt the power of women. We failed to make the first team because we did horribly at the numerous practice stops on the way out.

Luckily at this contest there was an alternate contest. All four of us girls were in the top 10 in the alternate contest. If he would have judged the four of us on the first team, we would have won the regular contest. He laughed about that often.

Thank you for reading about my trip down memory lane with two amazing professors, mentors, coaches and friends. My true message here is to appreciate those who are important to you and let them know you appreciate them. I'm so glad I had the chance to show these very special people my appreciation through the years, but often times we think we'll do something tomorrow.

Take advantage of now and be passionate about what you do. Farmers and ranchers have to learn to take advantage of now in managing their operations, but that also means taking advantage of moments you have with the people who molded you and taught you about what you are passionate.

Jennifer Carrico can be reached by phone at 515-833-2120, or by email at jcarrico@hpj.com.

Date: 9/10/2012

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