The Professor that Inspired you to Work in Public Service

Home Forums Careers The Professor that Inspired you to Work in Public Service

This topic contains 24 replies, has 21 voices, and was last updated by  Todd X. Davis 9 years, 1 month ago.

  • Author
  • #123459

    Tarryn Reddy

    We have all had a professor that has inspired us to follow our dreams or completely change our career path. I’m talking about the professors that have dedicated their lives to educating students on how to become better public servants or motivated us with reasons to dedicate our lives to public service.

    Who is the professor that has had the greatest impact on your life? Why were they so great?

    Was it because they were knowledgeable, excellent speakers, brought light to material in new and interesting ways, or were simply amazing role models?

    Add their name, university and their area of expertise and maybe we can get them on GovLoop to answer some questions!

  • #123507

    Todd X. Davis

    My father and my wife inspired me.

    I was too young for Viet Nam and too old for Desert Storm and never had a chance to serve as did my father so I decided to serve Veterans in the form available to me – by applying to VA, and it took several years to find a fit. It remains my inspiration after years on the job, knowing I am working to serve the likes of my father and type of person that also serves our country.

  • #123505

    Steve Ressler

    Great email I just got:

    “I can’t tell you a particular person who inspired me – it just kind of evolved.

    But I can say that one influence on how long I’m here was my grandfather, who worked for State and Customs for 41 years, traveling the globe to help other countries set up their own customs agencies.”

  • #123503

    It was a high school goverment teacher by the name of Earl Willits. He constantly reminded us that it was our government, and therefore it was our responsibility to participate at least at the level of voting. One day during a discussion of the process for passing a bill, he reiterated this litanty and in mid-sentence he said “What a hipocrite I am…” The next day we had a substitute and came to find out the Mr. Willits had registered to run for the state legislature and went on to serve several terms before his untimely death. I followed his voting record and am proud to say that Mr. Willits was the epitome of integrity to the values he tried to teach. It was many years before I realized the value of his efforts, but today I am happy to say that it is one of my true values.

  • #123501

    David Sonnenberg

    That’s an easy one….John F. Kennedy

  • #123499

    Jana Opperman

    It wasn’t a single person who inspired me to work for protecting the environment-it was a life experience. I decided I wanted to become a naturalist/environmental educator when I was at a summer environmental camp run by the State. I was always an outdoor person, my Mother encouraged my activities outdoors, she even taught me how to take water samples and test them for DO and other chemicals and identify the insect larvae under the rocks in streams. We went camping across country several times and when visiting State and National Parks I used to “interview” park rangers on how they got their job, what schools they went to and how they developed their experiences. I was a naturalist after college but then there was a science teacher shortage and they increased teacher starting salaries to $18,000(! I went into education for the money!!!) a year, I did the math and got a masters degree, and taught “formally” (environmental education is a bit less formal than what goes on in the classroom) for 12 years, now I work for the state “teaching” in another way. I still never loose an educational moment where ever I am…

  • #123497

    Martha Garvey

    I had lots of teachers who inspired me. My American history teacher in high school, Harry Hont, looked like Rasputin but taught like an angel. Under his watch, I wrote papers about the causes of the Civil War, the history of ragtime, and the development of the American public school system. He turned a group of students into a group of history investigators. We learned–and taught–things that amazed and shocked us. He made history come as alive as a current event. Thanks, Harry.

    But I have to praise my mother, Martha Garvey Sr., poll watcher, committeewoman, community activist, volunteer teacher, and general fun gal. When I was a kid, she enlisted my four sisters and me in this game called “Let’s Collate and Fold the Flyers,” among others. 🙂 As I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, I watched Mom work for changes in our Pittsburgh community and in our world. Sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn’t. She never quit, and she usually managed to have a good time doing it. Through her, I began to understand what service was. Though she formally from the community organization she led, at 79, she still serves on an advisory board for a public school in Pittsburgh, studies Spanish one morning, and the Torah another.

    I am honored to share her name.

  • #123495

    Phyllis L. Alberici

    Actually it was my mother and father. My Mom was in the Red Cross in northeastern Vermont and my Dad served as Mayor of Newport, VT. And my adopted grandfather was a state senator. Rather than a professor or a President (OK, maybe FDR), I lived community and government service around the dinner table.

  • #123493

    Carol Davison

    My mother and father. Dad was a Marine who overcame an alcoholic, abusive, adulterous father who abandoned his seven children. My dad become uber dad to his five children, and six orphaned nieces and nephews, , uber municipal employee, Sunday School teacher and superintendent, boy scout leader, took his 4 daughters and mother in law camping, etc. I remember him taking me to deliver food baskets to the poor. I look in the basket and asked “Dad, why are we giving them books?” He replied “So their children have something to open for Christmas.” Dad didn’t talk the talk, he walked the walk.

  • #123491

    Mine: Jane Vallier…semantics and creativity professor. Totally changed my view of the world. Thanks, Jane!

  • #123489

    Martha Garvey

    So touching, Carol. Thanks for sharing this. He sounds remarkable, your dad.

  • #123487

    It was a young US President for whom I had campaigned who said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” There was an entire generation of us who responded to that call. Working all over the world (some in the Peace Corps) we said, and believed, that we COULD do something for our country, and that it was worth doing.

    Many of us have retired, some of us are still hanging on. We had the dream and I suspect that it could get rekindled quickly into some kind of social action. We who are baby boomers have earned money; we will soon retire in huge numbers and will have time; we have not forgotten the passion; and with our collective experiences, we know how to get results.

  • #123485

    Susan Smoter

    My mother! She taught me to give back and to work hard. She worked for the federal government for nearly 40 years and then worked after retiring as a contractor for another 10! I’ve learned it is rewarding to work in the public sector. I truly believe we are called to a high level of service and that Civil Servants make this country strong. I want to help bring in behind my generation the bright, young people who have imagination and energy to build the structures we need to regain our place in this competitive global economy — but, never lose sight of the goal — to serve our country!

  • #123483

    Tom Worthington

    Tarryn Reddy asked February 17, 2011 at 3:11pm:

    The Professor that Inspired you to Work in Public Service

    Sorry to disappoint you, but no one did. I needed a job and wanted to get into computing. So I joined the Australian Public Service as a bottom level clerk. I was then able to apply for a job as a programmer’s assistant in the Australian Bureau of Statistics and work my way up the IT career path, being trained in-house along the way. In the process I did find I had an interest in public service, or I would not have stayed for decades.

    Those universities which most influenced my career were the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian National University. This was not through formal studies, but there role in providing support for IT initiatives in government. I ended up teaching at ANU and give an occasional talk at ADFA.

  • #123481

    jill herndon

    Similar story here — with high drama. I worked for Eunice Kennedy Shriver in her ground breaking summer camp for special ed children at a time when many if not most opportunities were closed to them. Some of us went on a spontaneous visit to the White House with her. We had had diner on the PT 109 on the Potomac as our “pay” for the summer volunteer work. Eunice decided to drop in on JFK and took us with her. He came to meet us and take us up to his private library. He said a few inspirational things. Late the winter after he had been shot, I ran into Eunice. I had an assignment to talk about my summer work with her and recruit more High School students to join us. That half hour with a grieving and pregnant Eunice re-affirmed JFK’s message, and again hammered home the “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.” Eunice made this even more important by focusing on how a woman could do it, and counseled me in the importance of getting into a policy position to have more influence on how things run. It was 1963-4 and few women were in policy positions. We were tracked into direct social services — also worthwhile but not nationally pivotal.

  • #123479

    jill herndon

    Second point made by Priscilla — the surge in retirees from that core motivational group — I am in awe at the quality of substitute teachers and assistant teachers in my county. Intriguing too when the substitute “assistant” is a PhD. I find it bumps up the conversational level with the children on WHY are you HERE — e.g. what is an education FOR? — and then making real connections for them on learned abilities and their personal future choices.

  • #123477

    Karen Simpson

    There were two teachers in high school who inspired me to work in public service: My German teacher and my Major Authors teacher.

    An interesting combination, but they are part of the reason I work for the Federal Government.

  • #123475


    My dad, retired Command Sergeant Major from the US Army. Who always wore the uniform with pride!

  • #123473


    My Dad, Edmund G. Smith, a WWII vet who passed away in 2002.

  • #123471

    Meghan Benedict

    My father has working for the DoD for the past 35 years. He was always proud of the work he did and he encouraged me to apply for a federal job. Now, that I have one with the IRS, I intend to be a lifer.

  • #123469

    Bill Brantley

    Two famous professors – Dr. Carl Sagan and Dr. Richard Feynman. Cosmos had a major influence on my life and the two books by Feynman further inspired me.

    A professor that I actually met and who had a major influence on me was Dr. Jones in the Eastern Kentucky University Philosophy Department. I took his course in Technology and Human Values that was much more than title suggested. He had an engaging style of teaching that made for a lively class. Students would show up early to class to just start the discussion and we often stayed long after the class was over. He was the professor who lent me Gleik’s book on chaos and inspired me to go into public service after his lecture on Athenian democracy.

  • #123467

    Gerry La Londe-Berg

    I would say Eileen Gambrill from UC Berkeley for her attention to detail and thoughtful criticism. The other name that jumps out is Robert Pruger also from UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare.

    In my own blog I once wrote about Professor Pruger:

    “I believe that the secret to success in a bureaucracy is “Hold Onto your Discretion.” I learned this from Robert Pruger at Berkeley. His description of life in the bureaucracy was very helpful. Each of us has a great deal of discretion and choice in our daily activity. Even within any set of rules and regulations, individuals perform the implementation, hence there is inherent discretion. Any good manager or supervisor values the quality of what we perform as individuals. If the individual produces quality, as it is defined in that setting, then the people leading the system (if they are smart) let the individual continue to perform with minimal interference. Therefore, by producing quality we increase our range of discretion.

    In a well run bureaucracy, those who produce a quality product are promoted and/or listened to; our inputs into policy development are also respected (thus providing leadership in a sense). Adding our input into policy yet again increases our discretion by letting us shape our work environment.

    In contrast, someone who is not doing well is questioned. They are monitored. Their range of discretion is limited. The poorer someone performs, then the more their supervisor tries to guide and direct them. They have lost discretion. As a supervisor, I explicitly described this to the people I supervised. I tried to let them know that I would allow them the maximum discretion it was in my authority to offer them as long as they performed well and attended to quality.”

    Bob Pruger taught me that.

  • #123465

    Jenyfer Johnson

    My mother raised me to give back to my community and be a strong woman, able to support myself. She was a single mother, starting 1969, raising myself and my 3 younger brothers on a Secretary’s salary. We still volunteered for the first Earth Day, Girl Scouts, Choir and any other events we wanted to do. She taught me to find something I liked to do that I could earn a good living doing…that was my drafting.

    My other big influence was my Professor Mr. Baran, who taught “Strength of Materials”. He was a WWII veteran and loved to tell us war stories in class. He taught me so much more than what was in the books. He taught me (not trying to sound sexist here) that we women were entering a “man’s field” and needed to be tough, we needed to work a little harder to earn respect, we needed to stand up for ourselves and do our work WELL and not let men walk on us! He was tough on us but I learned how to deal with someone being tough on me and how to handle it and it’s helped me all the way through my career. It was hard when I was going through it…but I have thanked him over and over! He encouraged me to go into a job in shipbuilding, which led to me applying for a job at a Naval Shipyard. I have him to thank for my government career!

  • #123463

    jill herndon

    More idealistic than my experience.

    There are other drivers in management desires to celebrate their employees.

  • #123461

    Tim Evans

    Um, that would be the one who left me twisting in the wind at my M.A. Oral Exam.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.