Posted in Special People
January 7, 2011

What does it mean to be a mentor?

One of my most inspiring mentors, Tony Carr, is having a Big Splash this weekend (although I would imagine the water in Cape Town might prove to be a little cold), as he and his very special partner, Margaret, is celebrating 120 years of being alive and well and living a Cape Town. I, unfortunately will not be able to make it there on a Face- 2-Face basis, but I am planning to take some time out, pour a little fruit juice and “virtually” have a little splash in their honour (It might involve a little splash of vodka with a twist).

Thinking about this special day for Tony and Margaret, made me think of what make them such incredibly momentous people. This in turn made me think about what it means to be a mentor. If you count the number of times I have used the word “think” already, quite clearly, I think that this is the first response they elicit in those around them- to make them think

But I think I am digressing. Tony and Margaret personify the word. Mentors.

According to the dictionary (online of course) to be a mentor is to be “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Them to a T.

Tony started off as my imaginary friend (that is what my husband thought). When I started my studies, I discovered Tony somewhere in the realms of the virtual world. Even though I never smacked eyes on him, he was there with advice and gentle prodding and pulling, guiding or rather reflecting me in the right direction whenever I dashed off on a wild goose chase or he had to un-cringe me from various foot in the mouth (my speciality) situations. Sometimes I wondered if he is the voice in my head or if he even really exists (in real life that is).

He has the ability to bring out the best in people. He makes the time- a rare quality when it comes to academics. When you get despondent with teachers who do not want to learn and learners who do not want to teach, he ALWAYS comes up with a subtle solution and even makes you think that it was your brainwave. When you reach a dead end- he is there to inspire you.

Big scale mentoring is his speciality as is evident in his conferencing persona. He is always ON. Never OFF. In ten places at the same time- virtually everwhere- no escape-relentlessly pulling the world into an educational debate of note. Always pushing the boundaries while at the same time making everyone feel valuable and noted. The best conference director ever.

Which brings me to Margaret.   I can only think that we need to give Margaret some of the credit here as I cannot see how Tony can be this omnipresent person without having a life-force to support and inspire him. I first met Tony and Margaret in Hogsback (my paradise) after years of Tony being my imaginary friend and was astonished to see that they (both) actually exist in real life (or I might also have been mistaken as the fresh mountain air can make you think that you see things, hobbits, fairies). What striked me though, was the sense of their communal mentorship- something more than just being soul mates.

Margaret and Tony, even though we cannot be there to splash with you, I do hope that you will be dancing wildly (I will do my jiggle here in your honour). And I want to thank you both for changing the lives of those you touch, including me, by being mentors in the true sense of the word. Thank you.

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