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HOWWE FORGE OUR PATH A Thank You to My Mentors
“Son, you’ve got to make your own way. You are welcome to come back and visit any time, but you need to find your own home now.”
looked so down, and I told him I’d just failed his midterm, he quipped back with,“You should have studied.”
These were my dad’s parting words to me right before I got on the bus to join the Navy at 17 years old. It was a real kick in the gut. My dad was right, of course. We do need to make our own way, but we don’t go it all alone. In my lifetime, I’ve had three mentors, without whom there’s no way I would be where I am today. I met my first mentor shortly after they shaved our heads in basic training. Our company commander, Chief Ralph Heasted, came in to give us a talk about how important each one of us were and how we had hidden talent. I didn’t really believe him. At the time, I didn’t know if I was lazy or just stupid, because I hadn’t done well in high school. Later, we took the GCT/ARI test, which is sort of combination of a math and IQ test. I scored an impressive 125 on the test, which is what is needed to get into the Naval Academy. Chief Heasted didn’t hesitate to give me a lot of responsibly, even making me RTC petty officer. He was the first person to really believe in me, and he convinced me to believe in myself. At Chief Heasted’s encouragement, I went to dental technical school and joined the dental corps while still in the Navy. It was in the dental corps where I met Bill Hutchinson, my commanding officer, who made sure I stuck with dentistry. When the time came for me to reenlist at 21, the Navy offered me embassy duty in Sweden. Despite my spotless record and prior promotions, Hutchinson said he would not recommend me for re-enlistment. Hutchinson told me I needed to go to college and become a dentist. If I wanted to re- enlist after that, he would recommend me then. Following his advice, I went back to school, but at the University of Oregon, I started to think I wasn’t up to the task after all. Though I studied hard, my grades weren’t the best. I remember feeling especially disheartened after I flunked my chemistry midterm. When the teacher, Dr. Koenig, asked why I
“I do study,”I insisted, reminding Dr. Koenig I was older than most of his other students and had recently gotten out of the Navy.“I study four hours every night.”
Dr. Koenig watched me for a moment before telling me to come to his office later that evening.
“Are you going to teach me chemistry?”I asked.
“No,”he said.“I’m going to teach you how to study.”
I was amazed a teacher with 500 students would take time to help me. The study strategies he taught me were invaluable. My grades really picked up, and not just in chemistry. Years later, when I taught my own students, I would give Dr. Koenig’s study lecture to them. Reading and retaining information is important in any profession. If you don’t read as a professional, you’ll never grow professionally.
I owe a lot to my mentors, and have tried to pay it forward, as it were, by being a good mentor to others. The mentors we find in life can help us shape our path and where it leads. Sometimes, mentors even circle back into our lives. When it came time for me to apply to dental school, I learned Bill Hutchinson was out of the Navy and teaching at West Virginia University. That’s where I decided to go myself and where I have been ever since.
Dr. Hal Reed
WV (304) 594-1670 | MD (240) 362-7107 | PA (724) 438-0600
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