A person who had a positive impact in my life. There are many, but this one
got me off my duff and started me to take positive changes that impacted my
Bart and I have been friends since he arrived in my hometown back in Junior
High School. The fact that I called it Junior High and not Middle School is a
tip off to our relative age.
Bart was one of if not the brightest kid in our graduating class. There are
one or two that might disagree, but that’s not the point.
Bart encouraged me to and helped me study for and take the PSAT exam when we
were underclass in high school. Which did prompt me to think about life after
high school, but that’s not the story I want to tell.
Actually, there are two, the first one impacted my life in a positive way
and the second my youngest daughter.
The story begins during a visit from Bart while he was back in my hometown.
The conversation at one point led to my education, or lack thereof. My post
high school attempts at higher education were not overly successful.
Two semesters at Midland College (now Midland University) resulted in
academic probation so I dropped out. Attempted to enroll at the University of
Nebraska in Lincoln but was not accepted due to my academic status at Midland.
Enrolled at Northeast Technical Community College (NTCC) as a ‘new’ student and
was accepted by not disclosing my time at Midland. Eked out an Associates of
Arts degree in Broadcasting at NTCC after transferring my Midland credits over
just before graduation. One failed semester of Marketing classes at the
University of Nebraska in Omaha.
At that point I gave up getting a bachelor’s degree and settled in on my
hourly pay job in Quality Control at the 3M factory in Valley, Nebraska. That’s
a long set up.
When Bart asked me why I never finished my degree I told him that a full-time
job and young daughter meant no time study and all the early failures were a
sign that I just was not up to the task…
That’s when Bart looked me in the eye and said…”Ron Wilkie, stop
selling yourself short.”
Did I stop selling myself short? Sadly, not immediately. To be honest, I
don’t remember the exact year of the conversation, but it niggled at me. Could
I do it? Did I deserve it? Then the words would come through again.
“…stop selling yourself short.”
3M had a tuition reimbursement program so I went to my manager and asked him
if he would approve my entrance. He sent me to his boss, who oversaw both
Quality and Engineering. I was shot down for wanting to take business classes.
He would only approve engineering students.
The Production Control Manager heard about this and offered to approve me if
I would transfer to his department. One year later I had my Bachelor of Science
Degree in Business Administration from Bellevue University in Omaha. This degree
got me an immediate raise in pay and set up every promotion and new job I’ve
been offered ever since.
I later went back to Bellevue University and earned a Master of Science in
Management degree. That degree helped me to be offered my current position of
Customer Service Manager and head of the department.
One small nudge has meant a lifetime of incremental advancement and no fear
of continuing to learn.
The other story? Bart visited us one summer while my youngest was in Middle
School. She was being recruited by our local private boarding school. Academics
is the focus at this school. Not everyone gets in and it is easy to be expelled
for not meeting academic or ethical codes. She was unsure of (frightened of)
being able to meet the high standards.
Bart encouraged her to go to Wayland Academy. She was also encouraged by her
good friend Sophie who became her best friend at the academy. Sophie became
valedictorian and Ri was in the top 4 of their graduation class.
Bart was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years back. I’ve known
about the illness but have not discussed his health until recently when I found the attached YouTube interview, he discussed his journey to date with the disease.
I will have fond memories of Bart forever. He is a true, honest, and giving