Donya Lester is good about notifying the Indiana ag community when something related to Purdue University occurs. She's the executive director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association.
Recently, her Facebook post hit me harder than most. She reported on the passing of someone who helped shape my life. That's a moment that makes you stop and reflect.
Martin Stob was an institution in the Purdue Animal Sciences Department. He passed away a few days ago at age 88. Many students remember him as the tough but fair teacher who could make difficult material interesting. I remember him as the counselor who finally helped me put direction to my life.
Many students today don't particularly relish going to see their counselor. And in many cases, they seldom do. It's all online registration today. To me that's a casualty of the modern techno-world. If registration was online in my day, I may have never found my right path.
Back then, nobody even dreamed of an online world – the Purdue computer in the basement of the Math Science building was a monstrous contraption; this laptop I'm writing on has more power! Heck, those were the days of punch cards and computer paper with the little holes on the edges. If you don't know what I'm talking about, just understand that talking to one another on the computer or using a computer to do anything was at one time anything but 'plug and play.'
Ah, I digress. But that was Martin Stob's time – he transitioned the days before computers and helped students prepare for what lay ahead. I went to him near the end of my sophomore year, still undecided about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I will never forget his advice.
"You have plenty of time to decide, Tom," he said. "Just remember one thing – keep as many options open as possible. Don't close a door on something unless you have to. That way you will remain flexible, and you can change course easily in the future. "
It was, and still is, some of the best advice I ever received. I pass it along whenever I'm speaking to high school or college students who aren't sure what they want to do as a career, or even what life is about.
"Keep your options open as long as you can – get an education that will let you go many different direction when you decide which way you want to go," I tell them.
That's why I picked up ag education as a dual major for my junior year. Still undecided two years later, Stob helped me see value in earning a master's degree. It would help me "keep my options open" that much longer.
Eventually, I chose teaching over working for a feed company. It wasn't long before the Lord aligned the stars and I found my true passion, writing. If it weren't for Martin Stob, It might have been a lot harder for God to arrange, but then I know God had a hand in those counseling sessions all along.
Take a minute to reflect. Is there someone in your life who made a huge difference? If so, track them down, tell them how much you appreciated it, before it's too late. I let my opportunity pass.
Alas, Martin, dear friend, I hope you know how much you influenced the lives of so many students, particularly mine!