Mentors who made a difference
Mentors leave a legacy in the successful people they’ve guided on the path to self-discovery
By Joyce Pellino Crane, Globe Correspondent, 11/30/03
He thought he might be a salesman. Or maybe a furniture store owner, advertising his wares on television. Instead, said Jay Leno, an Andover High School English teacher set him on the path to fame.
The popular ”Tonight Show” host had no idea that being the class clown could lead to a successful career until teacher Sandra Hawkes asked him to take her creative writing course.
”She said, ‘I see you always telling jokes in the hallway. Why don’t you take my course and become a comedy writer?’ ” Leno said in a phone interview. ”That was the first time I experienced anything in school that I thought would be of any value.”
Leno said he spent hours writing and re-writing his assignments. Today, with an 11-minute monologue to prepare five days a week for his television show, he still spends time writing jokes. It’s a process he first began with Hawkes – and Leno has never forgotten it. He memorialized Hawkes after her death with a scholarship fund at the school.
Successful people like Leno don’t make it to the top alone, say specialists. Behind each is someone who defined them in a positive light or supported their choices. Through their words and actions, these career catalysts spur an individual on a new path of self-discovery.
Executive coach Mark Campbell of Newton teaches corporate managers to be catalysts for others. But, he said, that ability to reach out and make a difference in another’s career doesn’t come easily.
”These coaches, mentors, Svengalis – they leave a legacy behind in the people that they’ve touched,” said Campbell. ”Those people in turn repeat that with people under them, so the cycle repeats itself.”
Hawkes was that person for Leno, helping him to take the first step from high school cut-up to a comedic superstar. ”Just the slightest attention from an adult when you’re a kid can have a tremendous effect,” said Leno. He, in turn, has cultivated new talent and given comedians the break of a lifetime when they appear on his show.
But fame is not a prerequisite for success. Working professionals also experience enormous job satisfaction and rewards. Many can point to a mentor or adviser whose time and interest made all the difference in their career.
”All it takes is a little bit of communication,” said Campbell. ”Sometimes we think it means hours and hours of talking to people and taking them to lunch. But my belief is that a highly motivated person who’s going to seek advice, they’re going to do something. With the motivated person, it doesn’t take much.”
At 23, Sarah Lamb, a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, has had to achieve success quickly since a ballet dancer is winding down a career by 30. Her high level of motivation was apparent to at least one former Boston Ballet official. Lamb was singled out in her Boston Ballet classes by Russian dance instructor Madame Tatiana Legat. Legat coached Mikhail Baryshnikov and came from a distinguished Russian ballet family based in St. Petersburg, said Lamb.
”She took me under her wing when I was 13 and made it very obvious to me that she was going to really believe in me and try her hardest into making me the very best dancer she could,” Lamb said.
While Lamb’s and Legat’s relationship unfolded in the dance world, the workplace can foster similar relationships. Social psychologist and organizational consultant Gerri King of Concord, N.H., said such unions can be cultivated through mentoring programs.
”My definition of a mentor is one who passes on information but also helps a person developmentally,” said King.”No one starts out at the top of their field. We all have a learning curve. I think the most successful people have someone who understood that and could acknowledge that it’s hard.”
When WCVB-TV chief meteorologist Harvey Leonard was getting his master’s degree in meteorology at New York University in the early 1970s, he found a mentor in a professor, Vincent Cardone, who led a weather briefing for faculty and staff. But one day he asked Leonard to fill in. Leonard enjoyed the role so much, he asked to lead the briefings more frequently and the professor acquiesced.
”He was so approachable, bright, talented, and a big influence,” said Leonard. ”He helped my confidence grow a lot.”
After more than 25 years on air, Leonard is among Boston’s best-known broadcasters. He has also helped others get their television starts including former interns WBZ-4 meteorologist Ed Carroll and NECN weekend meteorologist Matt Noyes.
A schoolyard accident, a false accusation, and a mother who fought to clear his name led Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to become a defense attorney. He was a high-spirited 12-year-old attending a private school in Brooklyn and was often in trouble with the principal, Dershowitz said.
One day a buddy was injured in a schoolyard game, and Dershowitz was blamed. But Dershowitz’s mother believed her son did not cause the boy’s injury and was determined to prove it.
”My mother came to the school and reconstructed the scene using diagrams to prove I didn’t do it,” he said. ”She was always my defense lawyer. It was a telling incident in my life to be falsely accused.”
He decided to become a defense lawyer and has represented O.J. Simpson and Claus von Bulow, among others.
Television producer and writer Roberto Mighty modeled himself after Boston filmmaker Henry Hampton. In 1987 Hampton’s Blackside Inc. produced the acclaimed Public Broadcasting Service series ”Eyes on the Prize,” a history of the civil rights movement. But in 1980, Hampton was making a corporate film about the US Census. Mighty was operating his own audio-recording studio. Because their workshops were both located in a former factory building in Boston’s South End, their paths crossed and Mighty ended up composing music for Hampton’s film.
”I was so psyched when I met him because he was a black man and I’m an African American and it was my first time meeting a black filmmaker in Boston,” said Mighty. He never became a personal friend but said he watched Hampton and learned from afar.
”My association with Henry and Blackside showed me it could be done,” said Mighty. ”It was great just seeing that it’s possible to own an independent production company which is consistently putting out great work. He had Asians, African Americans, whites, women, Hispanics. He got the best people. If you were good he would give you a shot.”
Mighty went on to produce corporate and nonprofit films and videos, and two WCVB-TV programs, including ”This Amazing House” which will begin its second weekly season in March.
The man who would eventually push Tom Stemberg, founder and chairman of Framingham-based Staples Inc., to success, was at first a rival. Stemberg said Leo Kahn, founder of Purity Supreme and Heartland Food Warehouse, not only steered him into specialty retailing 18 years ago but was the first investor in Staples.
They were competitors in the world of supermarket chains. But when Stemberg lost his job at First National Supermarkets, Kahn sent word for Stemberg to call him.
”Not only did I feel better about having just gotten fired, but [Leo] wanted to buy a grocery chain with me,” said Stemberg. Unfortunately, every chain they considered would have violated Stemberg’s non-compete agreement. Kahn then suggested that Stemberg consider specialty retailing, and the idea for an office supplies supermarket was born.
”The biggest thing he taught me was how to really involve people in the business,” said Stemberg. ”How to reach out and get a broad cross-section of ideas from your employees.”
Having the unconditional love of a parent also makes it easier to succeed. The parents of Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino built a foundation of love, trust, and community by which he continues to model his life.
”My father was a guy who worked hard and did well by his father,” he said. ”People respected him because he was quietly effective in things he did.”
His mother, he said, would help Italian immigrants get started. ”She’d translate for them. Help them find healthcare,” he said.
”They’re the ones that rooted me into how important the neighborhoods are,” Menino said.
Joyce Pellino Crane can be reached at email@example.com.
By Joyce Pellino Crane, Globe Correspondent, 3/14/04
Ereka Vetrini and Paul Fletcher have never met. But the two share a painful bond: both feel they were betrayed by a colleague and lost their jobs as a result.
Vetrini’s betrayal and firing by business tycoon Donald Trump happened in front of millions of viewers tuned into ”The Apprentice,” the NBC reality series in which contestants compete to win a job working for Trump. Fletcher’s took place behind the doors of a Boston area manufacturing firm. But public or private, a workplace betrayal is tough to take.
”I felt he literally backstabbed me,” said Vetrini of TV teammate Bill Rancic, who she thought was an ally. With his own head on the chopping block, Rancic told Trump to fire Vetrini instead of fellow apprentice Nick Warnock during a recent episode of the hit show. Trump fires someone each week after seeking opinions from other candidates facing his ax.
Workplace betrayals have been a hot topic around the watercooler ever since ”The Apprentice” began airing on Thursday nights and shone its bright lights on the behind-the-scenes struggles that occur daily in the nation’s workplaces.
Specialists say such duplicity can result from jockeying between cutthroat careerists for a hot project or a big promotion as happens on ”The Apprentice.” But in tough economic times, when job insecurity is rampant, treachery can be triggered when layoffs are in the air or blame gets hurled because sales are weak. In all cases betrayers are motivated by self-gain, such as the hope that if a colleague is eliminated, a promotion will be forthcoming or the ax will fall on someone else.
”That’s where the backstabbing is going to come into play,” said management consultant Gilda Carle of Yonkers, N.Y. ”People want what other people have. Some people are far more jealous because they don’t understand their own value. Unfortunately, they spend their time stabbing other people in the back instead of expanding their own growth.”
Professional relationships can sour rapidly when a company is under pressure, say specialists. A trusted colleague today may be a cloaked enemy tomorrow, particularly if his or her job is at stake. Job security was rated number one in importance to employees — ahead of benefits, workplace communication, work/life flexibility, and compensation — in an online survey conducted in 2002 by the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. The survey showed that 65 percent of 604 respondents considered job security as very important, and 30 percent considered it important.
”The thing you can always trust people to do is to take care of themselves first,” said Los Angeles business consultant BJ Gallagher. ”They’ll take care of you if they can. But if push comes to shove and they have to make a choice, they’ll take care of themselves.”
Fletcher, who spent almost a year working as a quality manager in a local manufacturing business, found this out the hard way. Fletcher said he had to interact with a production supervisor who had been with the company for over 30 years. The two were workplace equals and got along well in the beginning, he said, but the supervisor became critical of Fletcher and the relationship soured.
Fletcher was terminated by the company in January for tardiness, he said, but not before co-workers discovered a notebook kept by the production supervisor of the arrival and departure times of Fletcher and other employees. Fletcher said he suspects his colleague was asked to snitch on workers by a division manager who was under pressure to cut costs. He acknowledged he’d been tardy a few times due to a long commute but said he had stayed late many nights to work.
”We spoke every day,” said Fletcher of his former colleague. ”We spoke about personal things in our lives. How could you turn me in when we were friends?”
To avoid being blindsided by betrayal, an employee needs to have his or her interpersonal antenna up, said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement firm. ”You have to really understand where you stand with each person and you have to constantly be out there repairing relationships that have gone awry,” said Challenger.
There’s a three-step process to dodging the knife, said Tim Ursiny, author of ”The Coward’s Guide to Conflict” (Sourcebooks Inc.). Try to understand the other person’s perspective, connect with him by reflecting back his emotion and his content, and join with the person so that in some way you’re both on the same side of the table.
”The accountable person faces the problem, owns part of it, then goes to solving it,” said Ursiny, an executive coach and psychologist based in West Chicago.
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth also faced Trump’s firing squad and lost earlier this month but credits herself with holding it together even when she was being scapegoated by her teammates.
”When I was under pressure, I got very executive,” said the image consultant, college professor, and lobbyist. ”I followed the business book to a T, using proper etiquette.”
But Stallworth acknowledged the personality flaw that took her down. ”Instead of focusing on interpersonal relationships, I was focused on the task side of it,” she said. ”I should have borrowed some of the ”Survivor” tactics and formed alliances.”
But Challenger noted that when Vetrini attempted to form an alliance on ”The Apprentice,” it backfired. ”She was working at trying to negotiate her survival. She had not built strong enough ties beforehand with Bill to hold that deal together.”
Vetrini, who said she and Rancic remain friends, is still smarting from that pivotal moment in the boardroom. ”I’m so completely disappointed in him,” she said. ”I couldn’t believe he was even going there.”
Trump’s boardroom leaves people feeling off-center and unsafe, Gallagher noted. Competition carried to extremes can be ”deleterious,” she said.
”That’s when people start backstabbing, backbiting, sabotaging,” Gallagher said. ”Any human being, unless they’re Ghandi or Moses will go there. They’ll turn into the territorial animals they are.”
Joyce Pellino Crane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston Globe
July 10, 2003, Thursday THIRD EDITION
GLOBE NORTHWEST 1;
A GROOVIN’ REUNION WITH A RASCAL – AND A HERO
BYLINE: By Joyce Pellino Crane, Globe Correspondent
SECTION: GLOBE NORTHWEST; Pg. 6
LENGTH: 1039 words
He was the hometown boy who made good. I was the preadolescent watching for him from my parents’ sunporch windows in Pelham, N.Y., more than 30 years ago. But it wasn’t until last Saturday in Lowell that I came face-to-face with Felix Cavaliere, the soulful lead singer of the rock group the Rascals.
As Italian-Americans growing up in Westchester County during the 1960s, we viewed Cavaliere’s success as representing more than a brush with fame. He was one of us. His Italian-speaking father was my grandmother’s dentist. We were the have-nots in a WASPy town where a chosen elite were groomed for and presented to society at age 18. The path he was blazing meant anything was possible, even for us.
My older sister was a rock visionary at 15. The record album collection I appropriated from her when she left for college contained several Beatles albums, a Janis Joplin disk, and the Doors’ “Soft Parade” album. But her sights were set mainly on the Rascals in those years.
My sister and I had a direct line of vision to the Cavaliere house on Colonial Avenue. In between was the Pelham Memorial High School campus, and several houses away from the Cavalieres were the houses of grandparents and several other relatives. Often I’d find her spying on his house with my father’s World War II binoculars.
Then one hot spring day around 1967, Cavaliere really did show up. My sister watched as the rock superstar, then about 25years old, parked his sports car in his father’s driveway and walked across Colonial Avenue onto the high school grounds. He was coming to pick up Adrienne Buccheri, a goddess in our eyes. The two were engaged to be married, even though she had not yet graduated from high school.
Running behind, I followed my sister as she ran out the front door, down our front steps, and intercepted the long-haired Cavaliere, garbed in an ankle-length coat, as he approached the high school. Too shy to speak, I listened as my bold sister engaged him in conversation about his music.
Fast forward to last Saturday, and Cavaliere was appearing at Boarding House Park for the Lowell Summer Music Series. He was working with a different band called Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals. Center stage was his trademark organ. A classically trained pianist, Cavaliere wrote the music to most of the Rascals’ hits.
With his direction and lead vocals, the new band was indistinguishable from the old group of Eddie Brigati, Gene Cornish, and Dino Danelli.
“Groovin’,” “A Beautiful Morning,” and “Good Lovin’ ” had the middle-aged fans and their children hopping on this warm summer evening. Having my sons, ages 10 and 12, there, bridged them to my past, to my hometown, and to my ethnicity, which I, in many ways, had left behind.
After the concert, a still energetic Cavaliere brought me to a nearby room, where the concert organizers had laid out a buffet for the group. There visiting was Cavaliere’s childhood friend Phyllis Jefferson Walder, whose backyard had abutted his. Walder, now of Maine, had come to Lowell with her daughter and two granddaughters to hear Cavaliere.
“We had a log cabin in our backyard,” Walder recalled. “Felix used to hide back there when his mother came out looking for him to practice his piano.”
Cavaliere admitted it was a grind to practice so intensely at such a young age, but acknowledged it paid off for him. His mother, he said, recognized his talent and arranged for piano lessons three times a week. But her guidance ended when she died of cancer when he was 13. It was his defining moment, he said, and what drove him to make music his career and later to follow the teachings of peace from the late yoga master, the Reverend Sri Swami Satchidananda.
“My mother was in church seven days a week,” he said. “But when I went to the priests for answers about why she died, they couldn’t help me.”
“That’s why I ended up going to this swami,” he continued. “I needed an answer why. People are afraid to talk about death. I searched and searched until I found someone [who could].”
The answer, when it finally came, brought resolution. He said he learned that we are all on earth for a reason.
“This is the place where you work things out,” Cavaliere said.
As we talked later in the lobby of the Tewksbury Holiday Inn, where he was staying that evening, I realized how far he had grown beyond the New York City suburb of our youth. He had visited George Harrison at his home, sung with Laura Nyro, and followed Satchidananda across continents since 1967.
The Rascals had four No. 1 hits, six Top 20 singles, and six Top 20 albums during the course of their meteoric rise – which lasted only from about 1965 to the early 1970s. In 1997, the Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
When the superstardom ended, Cavaliere said, he was devastated. Infighting among the original group members eventually led to three court battles over the use of the band’s name.
“The group officially broke up in 1972,” he said. “The remnants of the rest was trying to keep the business together. First of all, my partner quit. Eddie [Brigati] left with a $2 million contract with Columbia Records sitting on the table. He just went home.”
Brigati had written the lyrics for many of the group’s hits. Even though Cavaliere signed the Columbia deal and recorded two more albums, without Brigati, the group’s magic was lost.
Cavaliere, who has five grown children by two women, never married Buccheri, and she passed away a few years ago, after marrying a close friend of Cavaliere.
While they were engaged, Cavaliere said he awoke one morning and asked himself why he was going to marry someone so young. “Groovin’,” “A Girl Like You,” “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” and “How Can I Be Sure” had all been written for her at a time when he was seeking inspiration to begin writing his own music.
“I believe she was divinely sent for the purpose of inspiring my creativity,” he said.
When Cavaliere left me at my car in the hotel parking lot, I sat behind the wheel and marveled at how a twist of fate had allowed me to connect with him in Lowell after all these years. I wanted to call my sister.
Joyce Pellino Crane can be reached at email@example.com.
A flap or two before green was cool, Newsday, June 8, 2008
Hillary, my not so evil twin, Boston Globe, June 16, 2008
My first moment of racism, Boston Globe, Sept. 15, 2008
Some things you can’t get back, Boston Globe, June 21, 2009
Ripe, red tomatoes, and a life lesson, Boston Globe, Sept. 14, 2009
Hoping for a miracle, Westford Eagle/WickedLocalWestford.com, July 29, 2009
Boston strong, but be vigilant, Westford Eagle/WickedLocalWestford.com, April 24, 2013
Joyce Pellino Crane took over the editorship of the Westford Eagle in April 2010 and ever since has devoted herself to chronicling the lives, victories and challenges of residents in the town of Westford, Mass. In June 2013, she also began editing the Littleton Independent. She views the stories she writes as future historic records to be preserved and archived.
In the previous decade, Pellino Crane covered national news from a local
perspective as a correspondent for the Boston Globe, weaving information about the economy, Hurricane Katrina, politics, Iran, and Iraq into stories about Main Street.
Her specialty is business writing, but she’s covered everything from breaking news to restaurant fare, while cultivating sources on local, regional and national levels. She is highly specialized in hyperlocal news reporting.
In 2008 she published her first essay on the Opinion page of Newsday,
and soon had a handful of essays published on the Boston Globe’sOp-Ed page.
Crane’s objective is to highlight the beauty of the human spirit, underscore moral
dilemmas, and explore emotional and philosophical quandaries.
She develops her stories around occurrences that usually go unnoticed, transforming a mundane event into a metaphorical journey: a lost watch spurs a memory of grief; a stranded baby crow lures a lonely boy.
Crane began writing for the Boston Globe as a technology columnist. Her
contributions have appeared in the Sunday Globe Magazine, as well as the Globe’s Metro, Business, LivingArts/Lifestyle, and regional sections.
She has written for Thomson Reuters, Crain Communications, American Business Journals, and IDG publications. Crane has covered technology, workplace, real estate, lifestyle, and retail industry stories, and she holds an MBA from Suffolk University in Boston, where she was the recipient of a merit-based Fellowship.
Crane is the single mother of two grown sons—both Eagle Scouts. Her elder son Christopher is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and her younger son Jesse-Paul is a rising college senior.