Day 22, Idea Machine Project: People Who Impacted My Life

Day 22, Idea Machine Project: People Who Impacted My Life

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Today’s topic for Becoming an Idea Machine is to list 10 people who made an impact in my life and briefly explain why.

I’ve intentionally excluded family members because that’s too easy and too complex. I thought about excluding teachers, as well, but decided to include a couple of my early school teachers who helped to spark, inspire and nurture my innate curiosity.

Backstory: I’m journaling-then-blogging my way through Claudia Altucher’s new book, Become an Idea Machine, [affiliate link]which is based on James Altucher’s supposition that “ideas are the currency of the 21st century.” James is Claudia’s husband (in case you didn’t know that).

This list isn’t in order of significance but somewhat chronological, based on the order in which they appeared in my life.

Since I’m doing this very stream-of-consciously I’m not doing much editing. My apologies to any former teachers who may read this and cringe at the sentence structure in these Idea Machine posts!

First Grade

My first grade teacher was skeptical when my parents enrolled me in the first grade at age 5. We had no kindergarten or preschool in my school system back in those days, so she put me in the lowest reading group. Within a week I was in the top reading group.

At some point during the school year, Mrs. Allen wrote on my report card, “Sheree has great potential.”

We had a traveling art “instructor” who visited our school periodically. Or maybe he came just once. I have just one memory of this man. We were drawing and coloring and he said to us, “You can use any colors you want.”

I have never forgotten that that this man said we were free to choose colors based on our imagination, not based on a rule of something being the “right” color.

You can color your picture any color you want.

You have great potential.

Those things might seem silly or irrelevant in the big scheme of things, but they made a huge impact on me.

One sentence from an art instructor.

One sentence and a few actions from a first grade teacher.

Every little encounter, every little word you say, can change another person’s life.

Mrs. Sue Hester

Mrs. Sue Hester was my third grade teacher. She had a reputation for being a hard teacher, lots of discipline.

She was quite prim and proper (to me). I suppose she must have dressed up more than was usual, even in those days. I once drew a picture of her wearing pearls and a mink stole. Perhaps because of my first grade art instruction (see above), I might have been a bit too impressionistic in my artistic representation, because she thought the mink stole was a snake around her neck. 🙂

We did a lot of school plays in the third grade. I remember getting a few narration roles and playing Rudolph in the Christmas play. My nose was made from a section of egg carton.

I remember having a few conversations with Mrs. Hester that made me feel like an adult, not a 7-year-old kid. My family was building a house that year and the house burned just before construction was finished. We talked about that on at least one occasion.

Despite my unconventional artistic skills in drawing and coloring the mink stole, Mrs. Hester told my parents I was gifted.

Fourth Grade: Mrs. Judy Bowen

Mrs. Bowen was the perfect teacher for me in the fourth grade. She really encouraged and enabled my curiosity, creativity, and interest in speaking and media. During that year, I won my school’s public speaking contest sponsored by the 4H Club and moved on to the county-wide competition.

I also got to do a report on Lapland during the 4th grade. When I came home with the topic, my mother first said “that’s not a place.” I’m not sure if I picked the topic or it was assigned to me, but I’ve always had a thing for the Scandinavian countries, caribou and related. A visit to those countries in the far north of Europe is at the top of my travel bucket list.

Mrs. Bowen let me use an opaque projector and record player to give my first official multimedia presentation—on West Virginia. Other students were doing speeches and maybe a poster as a visual. I wanted to use the big, hulking projector, and play music.  Mrs. Bowen let me do so, even though it probably meant she had to haul the projector from a store-room somewhere to the classroom and then move it back.

Last Fall, while at the farm without internet, I wrote a draft of a blog post about my public speaking and presentations in the 4th grade and managed to lose the file or forget what I named it. When I find the file I plan to publish it at ShereeMartin.com and I’ll update this post with the link.

Curtis Ikard

Mr. Ikard was my band director. He was a huge influence on my life (previous blog post where I wrote in detail about Mr. Ikard).

In a nutshell: Mr. Ikard taught leadership, commitment, work ethic and opened my eyes to the broader world of art, music and life.

Mark Kelly

Mark was a school classmate in Russellville. By the 8th grade we were quite competitive (or at least I was competing with Mark, I’m not sure if he knew that). We were both extremely interested in politics, but had zero in common at that time. But unlike the era of today where political rivals demean one another, Mark could have meaningful and inspired debates about politics, history, music.

Mark said he was going to law school to be a lawyer. That sparked my own interest in law, although my admiration for Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln also played a big role in my interest in law.

Today, Mark and I are still friends, although I don’t see him very often.

Sarah Dodson

This is an out-of-the-blue influence. I haven’t thought of Mrs. Dodson in ages.

A few days before I started college at The University of Alabama I received a phone call from a woman named Sarah Dodson. She wanted to write a recommendation letter for me to Delta Zeta Sorority. I was going through rush and recommendations helped. At the time, I’d never heard of Delta Zeta, so I politely said “Yes, thank you” and never thought much about it. I had my heart set on a few other sororities, where high school friends had pledged.

On the morning that bids were issued, I received a call informing me that I had not received a bid from my top choices, but that Delta Zeta wanted to issue me a bid. Would I accept it?

I was sort of in shock, but didn’t want to be left out on “Squeal Day” (as bid day was called, at the time).

I said “Yes, I’ll take a bid from Delta Zeta.”

I knew no one in that house. I’d dropped DZ after the second round. It all worked out.

Long story short: Had I not pledged Delta Zeta I probably would not have been active in student government and student leadership at Alabama and I definitely would not have been Panhellenic president.

It’s unlikely that Delta Zeta would have given me the last-minute bid without the recommendation of Sarah Dodson. It was another influence, a woman named Sue Frances Byars, who (I believe) shared my name with her friend, Sarah Dodson. Mrs. Byars taught me to play the piano when I was in the 4th grade.

Dr. Al Miles

Dr. Miles was the VP of Student Affairs at The University of Alabama during most of my undergraduate years. He worked with most of the student organizations that I got involved with early on and became a mentor for me.

He taught a small seminar course for student leaders where I was introduced to formal theories of leadership, management, personal growth and development. I loved all of that.

Dr. Deborah Crown and Dr. Diane Johnson

They team-taught a combined 6-credit course in Organizational Theory and Behavior, which I took in the second semester of my doctoral studies. I loved everything about that course and their response to my work gave me confidence in my intellectual capacity for doctoral level course work.

As a result of that course, I contemplated switching from the College of Communication program to the C&BA doctoral program in Management. Doing so would have required that I forgo a huge Fellowship the coming year (or extend my anticipated Ph.D. completion date) so I didn’t make the switch.

Although I haven’t yet made the mark with my theoretical insights from that course, the work is still on my horizon. I know something is going to come from it, just not through a traditional academic route. I get distracted by classroom duties and service requirements.

Frank V. Potts and Gordon Rosen

These were two of my most important mentors as a young lawyer. Both men were giants in the Alabama legal community, in terms of ethics, legal status and commitment to law as a life and philosophy, not just a way to make a living. They had big hearts and worked to make the world a better place.

From day one, they treated me as professional equals. I am grateful to have known them as a lawyer and a friend.

Al Owens

Chronologically speaking, Al’s influence came much earlier in my life. Al was a developmentally-disabled man who lived in my small hometown.

Everyone knew Al and Al knew everyone. He always called me “little girl.”

For many years, Al was allowed to wear a police uniform and he occupied himself around town visiting people and having conversations.

The City took away his police uniform after an out-of-towner stopped and asked Al for directions to someplace. Al shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know.” The visitor complained and Al’s uniform was taken away.

Mr. Ikard (see above) had a band uniform made for Al, so that Al could wear a uniform. Al was our honorary band manager.

Al showed me, at a very young age, that everyone is worthy of respect and can make valuable contributions, regardless of their intellectual capacity.

Well, those are my 10+ people who impacted my life in a major way! This is a great exercise and I highly recommend that you take the time to think of those who’ve shaped your life for the positive.


I was fortunate to have many good school teachers in my public school system so the exclusion of many is by no means an indication that they didn’t shape my life in some significant way.

About Sheree

Change Catalyst, Idea Explorer, Dot-Connector, Square Peg