Trophy influencers

Of all the people you have ever known, only a select few have exerted a life-shaping influence on your mind, body and spirit. Why?

Such rare leverage only develops in meaningful interpersonal relationships built on mutual trust. Only through such exceptional encounters are we inspired, guided, trained, challenged, encouraged and otherwise changed.

Here’s my short list of the biggest difference-makers in my life and why (in no particular order):

1. Mrs. Sham. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Sham, wore coke bottle glasses and what I called ‘teacher’s perfume.” I never went to kindergarten, so this wonderful woman set the standard for what a Teacher is. Her most memorable lesson, never once forgotten: “When you start something, finish it.”

2. Gilmore Honey. Gilmore is distant relative, but I didn’t know that when he performed very entertaining pantomimes for my Cub Scout Blue & Gold Banquet. Later on, he and his wife Barbara were the directors of a church youth group I joined that performed upbeat musicals. Under his leadership I evolved from Christian-by-heritage to a Christian-by-a-personal-relationship with my Savior.

3. Carol Herd. Née Carol Allaire Rupp, she was my first and only real sweetheart and the girl next door—to my friends. We met when we were still in our mid-teens, and grew up and closer together, dating for seven years before wedding 34 years ago. Not only is she is my best friend, high fidelity supporter, cherished lover and trusted confidante, she is a most wonderful and dedicated wife and mother.

4. Hugh Brooks. I had the most amazing opportunity to tour with a singing group during college. Not only was it the most fun I’d ever had with 11 other people wearing the same outfits all crammed into a non-air-conditioned van, but the noncredit education on Life it offered was unparalleled. Hugh Brooks, the founder and director, imparted (and demanded) excellence and integrity, and exemplified a purposeful life lived with passion.

5. Walt Jones. Early in my career, Walt Jones took a chance and hired me as a very green (read: inexperienced) naturalist. He mentored me in natural history and environmental interpretation, and fostered my love of the outdoors and taught me how to share it with others in meaningful ways. I still follow his model of staff leadership and operational management.

6. Joe and Gladys (Rusty) Herd. As survivors of the Great Depression and members of “The Greatest Generation,” my parents daily modeled thrift, honesty, patience, and a dependable work ethic. Their love (to each other and their five kids) was not conditional, nor showy, but solid and unquestioned. From their life-sized illustration, we learned the virtues of loyalty, respect, responsibility, obedience, and faith, and the ideals of such a heritage in the home. In just a few months, they’ll celebrate their 65th Anniversary!

7. My children. Carol and I begat four children in four-and-a-half years. (The 1980s remain for us a terrific blur!) Andrew, Daniel, Becky, and Philip exerted a tremendous influence on me, primarily as they daily administered my on-the-job training in Fatherhood. As we all grew in knowledge and understanding, they motivated me to seek wisdom, set the best example, and provide what’s most meaningful for a most meaningful life. Together, my family is the greatest joy of my life!

Who are the biggest influencers in your life and why?