Monday, June 27, 2011
Texas Ag Ed Reunion @ Grand Saline Today
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MENTORS ARE FOREVER
My first mentor performed a service that, technically, didn't exist at the time I was a student. Today, he would be called a "life coach." I called him "Mr. Pollard," and he was my FFA Advisor, but he was easily the best writer I knew.
As a state FFA officer, my speeches and correspondence reflected Mr. Pollard's willingness to share his talent and discipline, which contributed to my early understanding of the difference between writing that was really good and that which was just good enough. He was a gentle editor who didn't make pronouncements, but asked questions: Have you thought about saying it like this? What if you approached it this way?
Without quite realizing it, I began to see that Mr. Pollard had a distinctive way of expressing his thoughts, and I started to think, vaguely at first, about concepts that I would later call voice and style. Partly as a result, I was asked to launch a new column, "The President's Pen," for the state FFA magazine. Several years later, armed with a degree in agricultural journalism, I would spend two years as an associate editor at the National FFA Magazine before joining Farm Journal.
At Farm Journal, I latched onto Charlie Ball, who was my first professional writing mentor. Not only did Charlie willingly share with me the nuts and bolts of his award-winning writing and photography, but also he became one of my best-ever friends. Today, Bill Pollard and Charlie Ball are still active professionals, and each continues to influence both my writing and my life in extremely positive ways. A mentor may be forever...if you are lucky!
The lines above were written a few years ago, but today (June 27, 2011) in Grand Saline, Texas, at Jim Prewitt's magnificent Landmark Nursery facility, I had the honor of reuniting with many men who once held key positions in the FFA and Agricultural Education of Texas high school students. Some of them assisted Mr. Pollard in the daunting task of "developing" a young Joe Dan Boyd.
Seldom do many of us have such an opportunity to thank those who made it possible for us to develop in a positive manner, to become the kind of people we were meant to be, to become fully actualized human beings, productive citizens.
One of those men here today, Emmett Tiner, who was Supervisor of FFA Area 2 when I was State FFA President, actually shared a house with Mr. Pollard (see the first few paragraphs in this brief essay) when both of them lived as bachelors in Big Spring, Texas. Mr. Tiner and I, along with State FFA Vice-President Joe Stephens, spent a full month in late 1952 visiting and speaking to FFA Chapters in far West Texas, and we had the opportunity of re-living key moments from that trip today.
My brother Tommy Boyd accompanied me today. He was President of FFA Area 6 when I was State FFA President, and his life, too, was touched by many of those at today's Texas Ag Ed Reunion.
Mr. Ira Black, who was my own Area 6 Supervisor as an FFA student, was there as well, and I was able to recall, in his presence more than once when his wisdom and guidance helped me deal with challenging situations as a young man.
For me, FFA was the most transformative experience of my life, and the most positive: I will never live sufficiently long to adequately thank all the men who made it so productive for me.
Today was a day for giving credit where it is overdue, or perhaps long overdue.