The Importance of Mentors
By Richard F.X. O’Connor
My youngest daughter was recently recognized as an Outstanding Alumna by her grad school, Stonybrook University. In conversation I found that this very accomplished woman has never had a female mentor. Yes, an occasional teacher who counseled but not that one person to whom she could turn for life and career advice. For 30 years I’ve been asking women if they had women as mentors. And, importantly, if they have mentored other women.
The unscientific survey result is that, as a rule, they don’t. We men do.
Since I’m not a sociologist, I’m not going to try to reckon why this is so—or not so. Suffice it to say that I recommended to my daughter that she consider becoming a mentor to young women.
The question arose because I have had male mentors all my life, and at my advanced age still have two—men to whom I turn for their wisdom.
Let me tell you about one, the writer Ted Berkman. About a decade back I was at one of Barnaby Conrad’s weekly lunches at the Miramar and introduced myself to the gent next to me, Ted Berkman. He had heard that I once worked for Doubleday and told me that that house had published him.
"No kidding," I said. "Who was your editor?"
"Lee Barker," Ted responded.
Le Baron Barker, Jr. is a well-known name in editorial circles of a bygone era, so I asked what was the title of his book. He demurred saying that it was a long ago and not well-remembered biography entitled "Cast A Giant Shadow."
I darned near choked on my sandwich and said, "You don’t mean the Col. Mickey Marcus story?" Marcus was the American officer who trained the nascent Israeli Army just before statehood. "Mr. Berkman, I wrote the dust jacket copy for your book 30 years ago."
Talk about the small world department. Ever since, Ted has called me "M’boy" even though my hair is imperceptibly darker than his white goatee. Ted finally wrote his autobiography, "Around the World in 80 Years," published by Virginia Cornell’s Manifest Publications, Carpinteria, and I was privileged to be one of his editors.
The book opens with Ted interviewing Winston Churchill as a radio broadcaster during WWII. It goes on to cover the accomplishments of this globetrotting gadfly. Among his many other books is a biographical novel of J. M. Whistler. Berkman’s movies include "Fear Strikes Out" (Anthony Perkins as Jimmy Piersall), "Bedtime For Bonzo" (starring a former president), and Kirk Douglas played Col. Marcus in "Cast A Giant Shadow." In television Berkman wrote for Studio One and he is a talented lyricist and jazz pianist.
Finally, he is my friend and mentor.
–Richard F. X. O'Connor is the published author of seven books including the best selling "How To Make Your Man More Sensitive" (E.P. Dutton/ Fawcett) and "Ident-A-Kid" (S&S). His self-published work is "How to Market You and Your Book."