A Letter to My Mentor, My Friend

Dear Mike

You changed my life. In the relatively short time I’d known you, you made an impression on me that will last a lifetime. I can’t begin to thank you enough. You were more than a lecturer, more than a man: you were an inspiration. I’d never backed my ability as a student. In fact, I thought university was beyond me for many years. After discussions with you, that self-doubt subsided. I went from a high school flunky to topping my degree. It was your personal and emotional care that nurtured my inquisitive mind. You pushed me further and further with every challenge. I couldn’t have won the top honour, the College Medal, without you. To this day, it’s the most significant achievement of my life.

When I asked you for a reference, I expected something along the lines of, “Anthony was a diligent student.” Instead, I got this:

[Mr Siokos’s] testamur will demonstrate the level of academic excellence he achieved so I would like to highlight those other qualities which Mr Siokos has demonstrated which I feel are at least of equal importance. Mr Siokos has always been a thinker and a self starter, one able to organise his own time, study and work plans. He has demonstrated significant skills in the area of leadership within his group and in the wider area of college life. All he has achieved has been achieved with integrity and a level of personal maturity which is noteworthy. He has been particularly impressive when the challenges presented to him required acts of creativity or the need to display problem solving skills. I suspect that these demonstrated levels of excellence are an extension of his previous life and work experiences and the level of personal maturity which he brought to his studies. What is significant is that it is unusual to find both academic excellence and this range of personal and interpersonal skills in one person. I have no doubt that Mr Siokos will succeed in whatever he personally commits to and I recommend him to you without reservation.

When I read it for the first time, I had tears streaming down my face. How could someone say such things about me? And to hear them from you was humbling.

At your age, when you could’ve given it all away, you kept sharing your knowledge. Your mischievous sense of humour was unexpected, yet so keenly welcomed by all of us – your students.

You helped so many people achieve their academic and personal goals across a broad range of tertiary institutions. You mentored me to have my research published in an international journal. Again, without your patience and guidance, this wouldn’t have been possible.

I enjoyed our chats about your life in England, your family (of whom you were always proud), and your love of sport. My personal favourite was how you found yourself sitting behind the goal at the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final. One of the few who could say, “I saw England win a World Cup.” You said the ball had crossed the line. That’s good enough for me.

Mike, as sad as I am to learn of your passing, I want you to know that every day that I work in education, I owe it to you. I work to be the best I can be because you believed in me. You lit up what otherwise may have lay dormant. You taught me to question everything, you supported me in my pursuit of truth and integrity, and most of all, you helped me understand the value of study. I have the confidence to face any academic pursuit.

Rest in peace, old friend. I won’t ever forget you.

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4 Responses to A Letter to My Mentor, My Friend

  1. Joe Gorman says:

    Lovely tribute, Anthony. Your story from “high school flunky” to university graduate sounds very familiar. The eternal value of good teachers! RIP.

  2. Silvina Flores says:

    Beautiful words! I believe people like him have the power to change the world, and without even thinking about it, they do. You are a lucky man for having met him and for all those valuable lessons and memories you will have in your heart forever.

  3. A truly moving tribute. May he rest in peace.

  4. Anthony Grima says:

    That’s a fantastic tribute. RIP.

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