One of the greatest legacies a person can leave in their beloved profession is to be a mentor for those new to the trade, who are well aware of the shadow cast by the giants who paved the way before them. Better still is if those mentors have giant hearts. Last week, I learned of the passing of one of my mentors, Vic Folliott.
While my career has always been in print media, for two years, I also worked in community radio in Centre Wellington. Broadcasting was not in my plan, but an opportunity to appear as a guest on a radio show turned into volunteering, then turned into two years on-air. Vic championed me every step of the way.
I was as green as they come, standing before a radio dashboard of flashing buttons, flip switches and screens. I had to learn everything from scratch. It was intimidating, but it was rewarding. Vic’s patience was appreciated. He coached me on voice inflections, breath control, timing and pace. He wanted me to come to love radio as much as he did. And I did.
His passion for the medium was rooted in his life-long career in broadcasting. He’d done it all. Seen it all. Survived it all. Loved it all. In an industry with a brutal turnover rate, Vic was a veteran of radio, so when he told me stories or shared advice, I listened.
That’s what mentors do: they share experiences and lead with experience. I’m not sure people today value that the way we should. The technology gap has created a young versus old mentality. Shame. The best lessons always come from those who have actually lived them. That is universal and timeless.
Vic and I shared a deep passion for music of every genre. We didn’t hear music, we felt it. Introducing one another to new music, artists and bands was one of our favourite activities. I fondly remember him calling me into his office to listen to a song he’d recently discovered. It was a powerful acoustic ballad. We just sat there, not looking at one another, not speaking, just staring at the floor so our focus was on the song. When it was over, we both wiped a tear from our eyes and collectively sighed, wow. Powerful.
When I left the airwaves, Vic supported me. He understood print was my medium, it’s where I belonged, and he respected the Advertiser, because again, he saw the value to community as the big-picture purpose. Vic genuinely loved where he lived and in business, he always led with the need to support our community. He walked the talk.
I won’t profess to have been close to Vic these last few years, though I would get notes of encouragement from time to time that let me know he was reading along. I found out about his passing through a friend, a former colleague, who loved him dearly, and since then, I have read many lovely statements about Vic’s legacy.
It calls to mind the lyrics of Rush’s song, Spirit of Radio. Vic embodied that spirit and I’m grateful I tuned in.
If you’re fortunate to have a mentor in your career, glean everything you can from their character. Ask questions. Listen to their experiences. Be curious. Watch how they carry themselves in business, but also in life. Know the “why” behind the passion for what they do. Tune in.
Thank you, Vic. Rest easy.