Eye On Illinois: Thanking your mentors is always worth the effort

Make time to be thankful.

One of my great blessings was my high school’s centennial celebration, specifically the organization of an alumni marching band. We rehearsed Friday night, played alongside students on the sidelines and got to join them at the end of the halftime show for the school song. Saturday morning we reconvened to march in the parade.

The entire weekend was an exercise in musical muscle memory, copious nostalgia and constantly making sure we all agreed on the difference between left and right. Then, of course, there are the earaches and back pains that come with strapping on a bass drum for the first time in two decades.

It would’ve been a good time under most circumstances, but the weather was perfect, the football team won by several touchdowns, and although carrying percussion down main street is more laborious than a clarinet or piccolo, the actual musical requirements are significantly easier for those of us not responsible for melodies.

That said, the actual highlight of the experience, ranking just ahead performing in front of my kids, was having one more chance to play for Mr. Shupe.

I could call him Don, though I never would, and even running into him at church and around town was never the same as entering that time machine.

When we graduated 25 years ago, I tried to go out of my to way explain just how special it was to be a part of Mr. Shupe’s band program, to learn the power of working together toward a common goal and how doing so could build deep, lasting friendships.

But I always felt whatever words I said or wrote would never quite do those emotions justice.

Most people wouldn’t relive high school. For me that’s pretty true – with two exceptions. I’d sign up tomorrow to write for Drops of Ink and play cymbals for the Marching Wildcats, even the hard parts, because Mr. Shupe and Mrs. Schneider modeled for me the kind of adult I wanted to be personally and professionally.

They provided the essence of my high school experience, and my hope for anyone with children is to be able to trust their kids to the care of people like my role models who invested in our success by caring more about the people we were than any skill we might have.

Reflecting on that experience, I realize the real blessing wasn’t how the weekend made me feel, but that it gave me the chance as an adult to look a beloved mentor in the eyes and express my gratitude.

I hope you have a beloved teacher, and even more so that you have a chance to thank them for shaping your life.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at