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For Plymouth State alumni, their college years were the best years of their lives in so many ways: the first taste of independence; the lifelong friendships forged in the res halls, on the field, or in the dining hall; the all-night study sessions, concerts, and sporting events.
During their college years, one special person made the difference. A mentor who believed in them, who opened their eyes to new ideas and perspectives, set them on a path to a great career, and whose impact on them is still appreciated years later.
Alumni and students share with Plymouth Magazine memories of their most beloved mentors, all of whom have served Plymouth State for decades and have recently chosen to retire.
Join your fellow alumni on this sentimental journey and then let us know: Who was your mentor at Plymouth State, and why?
Peng Khuan Chong
Professor of Political Science
50 years of teaching at Plymouth State
Consummate instructor, educational role model
I was fortunate to have Dr. Chong for multiple political science and government courses. He inspired me to challenge myself academically. I went on from Plymouth to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and attend law school. I attribute my motivation to attend law school in part to the courses I took with Dr. Chong.
47 years after we met, I came back onto campus as a faculty member teaching a course in the Criminal Justice Department and stopped by Dr. Chong’s office. As we were talking, he suddenly stopped and said to me “What is your name again?” I replied, “Rick Hubbard.” He then exclaimed: “I remember you! You were a good student and a great soccer player.”
Not only was I impressed with his memory, but I was also touched. It demonstrated why Dr. Chong is fondly remembered by so many.–Rick Hubbard ’73
A great source of inspiration
Professor Chong was one of those professors who I will always remember. He really made a difference in my life. More than 30 years later, I still remember him taking the time to get to know me as a person, and we spent many hours in his classroom and in the coffee shop discussing the world, career ideas, and different paths and different cultures. He lit a fire inside of me and helped me create a future that has served me well.
When I switched careers many years later to go into education, we were soon talking again, discussing my new career. He is, and always has been, a great source of inspiration for me.
I wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement. –Carol Sussman-Ghatak ’81
Professor of Education
46 years of teaching at Plymouth State
Made class fun
In the fall of my senior year at PSC I was lucky enough to have a young, new professor, Mike Fischler, for one of my education classes. Although his class was at 8 a.m., I don’t think any of us ever missed it! Dr. Fischler made class fun with his guitar and great teaching methods. It was great to grow with him over the course of that year. I was also lucky enough to babysit for him and his wife Reine and get to know their family. Although I graduated many years ago, I have always kept in touch with Mike. He has remained supportive of my family and me over the years. Congrats to Mike Fischler on his retirement! I hope he loved his years at Plymouth State as much as I loved mine.–Lee Richman Nelson ’72
Life-changing teaching and mentoring
I had the great fortune of crossing paths with Michael Fischler early in my graduate education. He has been a source of wisdom and support for me for two decades. His teaching and long-term mentoring have been nothing short of life-changing.
A part of me is saddened to realize that Plymouth State students will soon no longer be as able to interact with and learn from Mike, but I find his interest in exploring a new life stage apropos. As the Tao Te Ching, one of the many catalytic works Mike introduced me to, instructs: “The world belongs to those who let go.” –Matthew Curtis ’00G
John P. Clark ’71, ’73G
Founding manager of ALLWell North; longtime athletic director
45 years of serving Plymouth State
Lifelong friend and mentor
I have been very fortunate to have a lifelong friend and mentor in John P. Clark. From my early days as a college freshman at Plymouth State, John has been a trusted leader that I have leaned on for guidance with every day and lifelong decisions.
A phone call with John, saying “hello buddy” has created a bond that will always be cherished. When you meet John in person, he welcomes you with his infectious warm smile and a handshake or hug. I have been lucky, like so many others, to have John as a trusted friend and mentor. –Paul Hogan ’79, ’88G
Guidance with humor and wisdom
I was lost my first year at Plymouth. I had no plan or idea where I was going. I struggled my first three semesters ending up on academic probation. I loved Plymouth State—physical education, my friends, and the work with student activities—and I was determined not to fail.
John gave me what I needed most, a hand on my back supporting me. He asked me the right questions, and guided me in the right direction with humor and wisdom. Thanks to him, I learned how to lead, organize, and make things happen.
That was a long time ago but to this day John P. Clark is my mentor and the person who set my life on course. I am grateful for the time I spent in John’s office. For me John is Plymouth State University. –Sheila Harding ’80
Commitment and compassion
I don’t think there is anyone who loves Plymouth State more than John Clark. He has spent much of his life here at Plymouth State, both as a student and an employee, and he knows everything and everyone who has ever been associated with this institution. One of John’s favorite activities is to tell stories, and this is how I have learned so much of Plymouth’s history and of all the characters that have graced these halls.
My favorite “John story” really shows his enthusiasm for Plymouth State and its people. It occurred during Homecoming one year. John was so excited about seeing all of his old friends and former student-athletes who had come back, he was bouncing around, hugging them and welcoming everyone. He didn’t necessarily remember every former student-athlete’s name, but he made each one of them feel back at home. He hugged one gentleman and the man said, “I’m from the opposing team, and I just want to know where the bathroom is, but thanks for the hug!” This story truly embodies John’s excitement for Plymouth State.
John’s commitment to the athletic staff was enormous, from giving folks the opportunity to grow professionally to helping in any way he could with personal life issues, he is always there for us. There are no words that describe our gratitude!
–Kim Bownes ’08G, athletic director
Former men’s basketball coach and senior associate director of Admissions
41 years of serving Plymouth State
A source of positivity and support
During my time at Plymouth, each morning consisted of walking into the Admissions Office for work and being greeted with a joyous welcome from the front office. It never mattered how busy the day was, Gene Fahey had a genuine ability to create space for you. He was enthusiastically invested in the lives of others. Despite all he had going on, I always felt seen by Gene; he had a knack for paying attention, asking thoughtful questions, and listening to those he cared about. He was an incredible source of positivity and support in my time as a student employee in the Admissions Office and as a member of the PSU community. Gene was the first to give generously to the fundraisers my peers and I were running on campus, as well as the one who kept track of our progress. When I think of the values that the Plymouth community embodies I think of Gene. He is woven into the fabric. With a deep love for people, Gene’s compass points true north. His many years of dedicated service are felt and continue to ripple outward.
–Bryan Funk ’11
Soft-spoken and impactful
At a time when I may not have been meeting my full athletic potential, Coach Fahey once suggested to me that I was performing “within” myself. Knowing Gene, I realized this message might only be the envelope, and the real content was enclosed. Leave it to Gene to wrap a kick in the pants in what might be considered a compliment, and to deliver the message in a way that required thought and investment to derive the desired result. Also, leave it to Gene to provide words, albeit delivered in his usual soft spoken manner, that were impactful to the point that I have remembered them periodically over the last 35 years. Knowing Gene Fahey as a leader, a colleague, and as a friend has been and remains an honor and a privilege. Thank you Gene and best of luck in your retirement!–Darryll White ’82
Professor Emeritus of Tourism Management
37 years of teaching at Plymouth State
Supportive and encouraging
Dr. O … made me want to be the best student possible, not just in the classroom but outside the classroom. One of the memories that will always stick with me is the night of the Evening of Connections Dinner last October. I was the student speaker and after my speech, Dr. O came up to me and said that he was very proud of me. It felt great to make my advisor proud! –Anna Brown ’16
Quick wit and committed teacher
At the end of my freshman year at PSU I still had not declared a major, so I went through the entire course catalog and selected a handful of majors I thought might be appropriate for me. I decided to talk to a few advisers regarding those degree paths, and Mark Okrant was the first and only adviser I ended up speaking to. It was evident from our first conversation how much he cared about his students and wanted to see them succeed. His quick wit and kind sense of humor were always appreciated.
–Sean McGlynn ’15
Louise Samaha McCormack ’72
Professor of Health and Human Performance
36 years of teaching at Plymouth State
Making students better than they ever thought they could be
It’s challenging to put into words what Dr. McCormack means to me. She was my professor and advisor, but most of all she was and remains my role model. She inspired all of her students, including myself, to be the best professionals, advocates, and human beings they can be. Dr. McCormack has taught me to constantly strive for perfection and to never stop learning. With every failure and success I experience, I always reflect on how to do it better—how to be better. I hope 40 years from now I can say that I inspired one person the way she has inspired so many of us.
Thank you Dr. McCormack, for having the strength to push students past what they thought they would be and making them better than what they ever thought they could be. –Tricia Twomey ’08
Most influential role model
Dr. McCormack was my most influential professor at Plymouth State. Her intelligence, kindness, and passion for our chosen field made me proud to be a physical educator, and to demand equality and respect for the important work that we do. She continued to work tirelessly with people of all ages in making physical education an integral part of every child’s education. When I’m asked about my life’s most influential role model, I say “Dr. McCormack. She’s the reason I present myself as an education professional, and she’s the reason I understand the importance in giving my all every day.
Thank you for preparing me for the most rewarding job in the world, which has filled my life with daily joy for the past 26 years.
–Mary O’Sullivan ’82
Professor of Business and Communication Studies
34 years of teaching at Plymouth State
A touchstone for his students
I had two classes with Warren, Organizational Communications—which was phenomenal—and Intro to Public Relations, which I signed up for because he was such a great instructor. But it wasn’t until after graduation when I started my career that I truly developed an appreciation for his teaching. I realized that everything he taught me was exactly what I needed to know for working as a PR professional in the real world. I was able to take what he taught me and carry it with me as a guide.
Since then, he has been instrumental in my career. He’s been encouraging, someone I can talk shop with—he’s been a touchstone for me all these years, and I hope he knows that. I’ve never had a professor like him before.
–Amanda Bacon ’04
The man, the myth, the legend
I first became aware of the man, the myth, the legend of Warren Mason during my first year at Plymouth. As a tutor in the Writing Center during my time at PSU, many students came in for assistance for his marketing communications course. When I enrolled in his writing course (and the subsequent public relations course) I found out first-hand that he held his students to a high standard of work.
Warren gave me the opportunity to help teach a section of his Introduction to the Academic Community. This first experience of being a teaching assistant started me on a path for future graduate school programs in marketing and communications with teaching opportunities at Syracuse, Indiana, and Emory Universities. It’s probably no surprise that today I’m a marketing professor, and he played a consequential part of that.
Many thanks for making my Plymouth experience so profound, Warren. –Anthony Koschmann ’02
Professor of Anthropology-Sociology
28 years of teaching at Plymouth State
Warm, welcoming, and unforgettable
Stacey Yap is one of those unforgettable people who moves into your life and her story completely changes your perspective from that point forward. I met Stacey in my first week as a PSU student. I was undeclared and she had been assigned as my advisor. She was immediately warm and welcoming, asking me about my interests while she shared her own passions throughout our discussion. I’d learn a little more about her in each advising session: her daughter, the dancer and hospitality professional; her corporate career in consumer research; her love of the nearby garden oasis—every time I left her office I would have some new and interesting topic to investigate. Her desire to learn more was just contagious!
Thank you Stacey, you truly are an inspiration for all of us! –Ava Tyler ’14
Passionate and inspirational
When I first met Professor Yap I realized she was a very special person. Her passion for the subjects she taught are what inspired me to continue to sign up for many of the courses she taught. In her classroom, I was able to visualize the issues and conflicts she discussed in class, which inspired me to dig deeper.
Professor Yap understands and connects with people, which allowed me learn and develop new perspectives on issues that I would have never imagined myself contemplating before. Her love for people served as her platform to teach and bring awareness to social equality, racial discrimination, and women’s issues around the world. It’s hard to believe that she never envisioned teaching would be her career, but I feel blessed knowing she was able to teach and inspire students like me to care about people around the world. Stacey Yap has made my education experience at PSU a very special one. –Zach Ziemba ’17
Professor Emeritus of Geography and Environmental Planning
27 years of teaching at Plymouth State
A gifted educator and a good friend
I met Bryon in spring of 2001 when I took my first geography class called Physical Environment. At the time I was a meteorology major; after only a few weeks I quickly realized I was in the wrong major. Bryon taught with such passion and enthusiasm that it made me confident in my decision to become a geography major with a focus on terrain analysis. Bryon became my advisor as well as a mentor and friend to me over the last few years of college.
Bryon encouraged me to pursue graduate school and we remained in touch after I graduated. During my graduate program at Plymouth State, he was a mentor for my thesis project, and provided me with encouragement and guidance during that difficult process. I remain in touch with Bryon today and consider him a good friend. I will miss him; the Plymouth State Geography Department won’t be the same without him! –Linda Burbank ’04
A man of great wisdom and a lifelong mentor
I remember the first time I met Bryon Middlekauff. It was in Environmental Geography, one of the first physical geography courses I took at PSU. He pulled out his old-school overhead projector and had these surprisingly well-drawn diagrams of geological features and processes. His face lit up as he began his lecture. You wouldn’t think overhead projector slides would be so exciting, but he knew how to turn any physical geography topic into an exciting one! I always found his lectures captivating and inspiring and thought to myself, “Now there’s a guy who loves his job!”
He was dedicated to his students and to making higher education a worthwhile experience. He became a lifelong mentor to many of his former students, including me. To this day, I sometimes find myself asking him for advice.–Meghan Rodier ’09
Professor of Geography and Environmental Planning
20 years of teaching at Plymouth State
An enduring impact
The Bachelor’s of Science in Geography with a focus on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was the primary reason I chose Plymouth State, and it was also what lead me to taking four years of classes with Dr. Kurt Schroeder. His professorial demeanor was aligned with my learning style–his preparation, confidence, and tone in which he delivered information made the information interesting and easy to retain. In addition, I believe he trusted me and allowed me the space to help other students in the class in certain situations. I’m certain that my love of providing hands-on support was born in that GIS lab, because of Dr. Schroeder.
I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Schroeder and his impact on me is enduring. He was the start of my career: What I learned from him in the computer lab put me on the path to my now 14-year career in GIS, in which I now direct my own GIS program for the Town of Arlington, MA. Thank you, Dr. Schroeder!–Adam Kurowski ’02
Naturally, Dr. Schroeder worked with us through labs and theory to develop skills that we could apply in the professional world. He offered support throughout assignments and offered an immense amount of patience as we were introduced to new technology. His demeanor was steady and jovial. So I always felt welcome to request help or the key to the GIS lab. But the one act that stands out, and what I’m still grateful for today, wasn’t just what he did for coursework preparation. When I graduated, he gave me an envelope loaded with work and projects I had submitted to him for previous class assignments. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was substantiating my resume portfolio. The contents of that envelope gave me talking points, examples, and proof that created credibility in my early interviews. Internally, that deed promoted self-confidence, which is a cherished asset to have in any interview process.
As I went back to Plymouth in ensuing years, Dr. Schroeder was always interested to hear and learn about how I was adapting to a professional career. The depth of his questions showed that he was genuinely concerned and interested in my well-being and professional development. As Maya Angelou once said, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Speaking for Dr. Schroeder, I’ll never forget how he made me feel prepared and always welcomed back to the Plymouth State community.–Jon Albertini ’02
Top of page: Karel Hayes illustration.
Plymouth Magazine is now online!