Giving thanks to two special mentors

I chose this column, appearing the day before the Thanksgiving morning issue of the P-B, as a way to thank a few people in my life. Some might call them friends, some might call them heroes, but what they are commonly called are mentors.

Although the number of people who have touched my life is far too great, I thank all of you. However, there are two that I would like to thank publicly.

I’d like to begin by thanking a man who has helped me in many endeavors and has taught me more about he joys of theater. Jerry Casper is the director of theater at Rochester Community and Technical College. When I was beginning in the world of theater, I was unsure if I would ever get a part in a play. I’d done school shows, but I wanted to do something at the Rochester Civic Theatre. My mother and sister had both done shows there and I was hoping it’d be my turn.

At the time, Jerry was the Young People’s Theatre director, and the show that I was auditioning for was "Pinocchio." I was so nervous at the audition, and the fact that there were people there who I had seen on stage before made me even more afraid. I walked in, did the reading and left. Later that week, I got a call saying that I had been cast in the show. I was so thrilled.

In my later years, I have had Jerry for a teacher at RCT’s Summer Theatre Institute, and he gave the students there a college-level theatrical education and training.


Jerry, I’d like to thank you for all that you’ve done, and I’m going to take you up on that offer for helping me prep for my Guthrie audition.

My second mentor I have known since I started at Lourdes High School. Diane Walter, a religion teacher at Lourdes High School, is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. I was able to have her class for one semester as a sophomore and a junior. I was able to learn a lot from her course, but it is the discussions that we have had out of class that have made things worthwhile.

I will admit that I have had my share of problems in my 18 years on Earth, and I have had many people, such as my family, to talk to — and I thank them for that. But now and then you need an outsider’s perspective of a situation. The compassion that Mrs. Walter has for her students is something that all teachers should aspire to develop.

I know that teachers care for their students, but Mrs. Walter has been there to stay an hour after school to talk with you, willing to help you on any problems you’re having in almost any class. And she always has a funny story to tell you to make you smile and laugh.

Diane, I’d like to thank you for listening to me whenever I felt like I needed to talk to someone, and thank you for all of your stories that you share. You are truly an inspiration.

There are many more people whom I’d like to thank, and now that it’s my senior year, I will get around to it. I’d like you to know that, even if I didn’t mention you, you have touched me in some way. Anyone who I knew, know, or will know is a mentor in some way, and that is something that I can be proud of. Thank you all and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Joseph Pyfferoen is a senior at Lourdes High School. To respond to an opinion column, send e-mail to

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