Today, I came home from an amazing day out in the snowy mountains with friends and family and checked my mail to find my Department of Journalism at Western Washington University alumni newsletter. On the front cover was the news that my mentor, Pete Steffens, had passed away.
I immediately teared up, thinking of the moment this beloved journalism professor of mine stopped me in the middle of campus one foggy morning in Bellingham, Washington, after I’d taken a quarter away from writing and decided to pursue science and biology (I know, this still makes no sense to me). Pete, ran into me in front of the science building and he said something like, “Sarah, where have you been? We’ve missed you!”
We walked together for a while, and I didn’t have a good explanation for why I forsake my lifelong dream of being a writer. Truthfully, I felt lost. Maybe I was scared that I didn’t have what it took. I don’t know. But Pete saw through me that day. He asked me to come back. He told me I had great potential.
He believed in me. He made me feel special.
And because of this, I changed the trajectory of my career.
That’s the power of someone who cares. Someone who stops and takes an interest in someone else.
Pete Steffens did this for me.
It is not an understatement to say that because of Pete, I went on to write thousands of articles for magazines, more than 5,000 blog posts for various publications, and nearly six books. In the back of my mind, there has always been Pete’s voice telling me that I can do it, telling me that I am talented, important … able to succeed.
In remembering Pete’s legacy, I hope you will take the opportunity to recognize the talent and potential in someone. I hope you’ll cheer for her and give her a little nudge along her journey.
You’ll never know how very valuable that nudge may be.
Thank you, Pete. I am forever grateful.