Mentoring: New name for an old art |

Mentoring: New name for an old art

Marianne Virgili

With the Chamber’s Athena Awards approaching, I’ve been thinking about two late Athena recipients who were special to me.

Shirley Schiesser and Vicki Lee Green were my mentors.

I doubt that “mentor” would be a word that either Shirley or Vicki would use to describe themselves, partly because that term has only recently come into fashion, but mostly because they would have thought the term was just plain silly. In their day, women referred to mentors in terms of “role models,” somebody who provided a “good example,” or somebody you “looked up to.” Mentoring wasn’t an art or something that had to be studied ” it was just the right thing to do.

In fact, I can imagine Vicki and Shirley sitting around talking about mentoring. “Mentor, ‘shmentor’,” Vicki would say. “I’m not old enough to be a mentor, but you are, Shirley.”

Shirley would have replied, “Very funny. If I give advice or encouragement, it’s because I’ve been there and done that, not because I want some fancy title. If I notice a woman doing a good job, I’ll give her an “Atta’ Girl” paperweight, but forget the hearts and flowers.”

As you can imagine, these two women were self-effacing and more businesslike than nurturing. Their formula was simple: to give to their community unselfishly, to be equally as unselfish in providing opportunities for other women in the business world, and to never accept less from others than you would expect from yourself.

Mentoring for them didn’t require the lifestyle coaches and mentoring workbooks which are popular today. It didn’t require scheduled mentor-mentee (yes, that is a word!) meetings and regular mentoring quotes passed on via e-mail. All it required was a handwritten card congratulating someone for a job well done; a few candid suggestions on how you could do better next time; and Vicki’s wink and smile or Shirley’s “Atta’ Girl” paperweight when somebody really got it right.

Since all the Athena recipients have been mentors in my life, I decided to do some research on the word itself. “Mentor” is taken from an ancient Greek word meaning “enduring.” Because of Vicki and Shirley’s influence on so many, I think that word is particularly apropos. There is also a term called a “legacy mentor.” That’s the term for a “second generation mentor,” or someone who has been mentored themselves and becomes a mentor for someone else.

Thus the gift of Vicki and Shirley lives on, and so will the gift provided by the other Athena recipients and each of us who mentors another human being. You see, mentoring is a gift which can only be repaid by passing it on to another.

Past Athena recipients also include Donna Fell, Tillie Fischer, Jan Shugart, Dr. Cynthia Heelan, Debbie Wilde, Martha Cochran, Mary Steinbrecher, Ginger Watts, Sue Lagiglia-Corsentino and Marianne Ackerman. We hope you’ll join us at noon Wednesday, April 26, at the Hotel Colorado for our annual Awards Luncheon and this year’s Athena selection.

Marianne Virgili is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Mentored by every one of the Athenas, she is the proud recipient of two “Atta’ Girl” paperweights and hundreds of phone calls, winks and smiles from Vicki Lee Green.

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