A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away...
I was an undergrad student at Alabama. Still desperately trying to find my groove academically (although I had made progress on that front in JuCo in FL). Still recovering from the devastating embarrassment of my near-total lack of success at my first college. Still sorting through the self-created wreckage of my faith, though embers of re-ignited flames were beginning to show.
In that setting, I had to take an operations management course. The title back then was "Production & Operations Management," and the course had a well-earned reputation for being hard. Somehow, I clicked with it. And with the professor, a guy named Johnny Charnetski. Made an A in the class, for which I was very grateful and very proud. Anyway, on a test in that class, Dr. C. wrote "Have you ever considered graduate school?" I hadn't; in fact, my first reaction was to laugh. But I began to think about, especially after following up on his comments in his office. (My question for him was basically, "Are you serious??" He said he was, and elaborated...)
In another semester or two, I took an economics elective called "Current Issues in Economics." That one I took because (a) it was a 3-week full-credit course, and (b) I had the professor before in an earlier class and like him. The professor was a guy named Ron Bird. The class was awesome! We discussed the economics of education, of sports, of labor relations,...The combo of labor & sports was a very cool discussion, since one of my classmates was playing O-Line for the Packers at the time, and was the Green Bay Packers' player rep for the NFLPA union. A day came when I stuck my head in Dr. Bird's office to check on something. He said, "Mike, have you ever thought about getting a graduate degree?" By this time, I was able to answer something like "well, I've been thinking about it." He encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree.
So, shortly after, there I was, in the Master's program in Economics at Bama. The M.A. program director also taught me macroeconomics. (best Ron White delivery: "We've met...") His name was Ted Vallery. One day, I was in his office checking on something, and he said "Mike, have you ever considered getting a Ph.D.?" After I rediscovered control of my mouth & closed it, I mumbled "no" and asked about what all is involved. He talked me through it and encouraged me to give it some thought. The irony is, I was an average student (at best!) in his class.
Thus, in about a one-year period, I went from clueless undergrad student to applying for the Ph.D. program in Financial Economics. Now, 27 years later, here I am, back in the university classroom, digging every minute of it.
All because three different professors saw something in me that I didn't see myself. They all challenged me severely in their respective classes, and then saw something in how I approached the courses. It is correct to say that all three had much to do with my education and my career choice(s).
To close, thanks Dr. C., Dr. B., & Dr. V. You guys all three made a difference to me. I hope I can inspire & encourage my students the way you three inspired & encouraged one of yours a long time ago at the University of Alabama.
p.s. - Dr. Vallery passed away not that long ago. I hope he knew what a difference he made in my life! I sure wish I had told him more clearly. And I'd love to know where Dr. Charnetski & Dr. Bird are. Last I knew, Dr. Bird was working w/ a think tank of some sort up around Washington, DC.