Guest Post: Profiles in Mentoring: A Conversation with MENTOR’s Michael Garringer about Translating Research into Practice

By Jelle de Graaf and Vera van den Berg*

MikeGarringer.jpgMichael Garringer is the Director of Knowledge Management for The National Mentoring Partnership, MENTOR. Michael has played a vital role in the development of youth mentoring program supports for many years. One of the crucial roles Michael has within this field is the translation of academic research to more understandable guidance for youth mentoring programs. This includes efforts aimed at addressing the gap between research and the practical application of that research, hands-on training, and technical assistance for youth mentoring programs across the country. In addition to working on these tasks, Michael is involved in many other events within the field of mentoring: organizing the research-focused sessions at the yearly National Mentoring Summit in Washington DC and supporting the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring at Portland State University, as well as conducting nation-wide surveys on the state of mentoring in the United States. 

  1. What inspired you to become Director of Knowledge Management at MENTOR?

What inspired me to do this work generally is what I’ve learned during different jobs in this field for a few decades now. I first got involved in mentoring through a library and information services angle where I had the opportunity to collect, organize, and read materials about educational subjects which eventually included mentoring when we received an OJJDP grant to support their funded programs in the mid-90s. This was at what is now Education Northwest in Portland, Oregon. At that time, nobody within the organization knew much about mentoring, but I was tasked with collecting information about mentoring that we could draw on in the new work. As I gathered all this research and program manuals and other information over time, I started to become known as the “they guy who knows things” about mentoring and it snowballed from there. At a certain point, mentoring programs started calling me and asking for advice and information. I enjoyed helping people in that way—it was like being a one man reference desk. I realized it can be hard for people that don’t have the academic mindset or background to understand what to take away from research. I felt that my role as translator of research was helpful to them and a niche that needed to be filled in our field. An organization like MENTOR is the perfect place to do that.

  1. What positive developments have you seen in youth mentoring during your involvement?

I would say the most positive development I’ve seen in our field is the diversification in the ways in which mentoring is thought of and how mentoring is applied to help young people. The past ten years, I’ve been impressed by the diversity in our field in terms of program models: Hybrids of one-to-one matches that meet in group settings, many varieties of group and team mentoring, mentors working in clinical settings, mentoring combined with other interventions, and so forth. The reason why I’m excited about these developments is that we’re getting closer to the best applications of mentoring. Some young people need one-on-one mentoring and a long-term friendship. In other cases, a mentor can be a guide to other services and make sure that young people take advantage of services that are available for them. Nowadays we see that mentoring is being applied to bigger social problems, like poverty and economic mobility, which have multiple causes. That’s quite a leap in terms of the impact of our work, but mentoring is certainly a piece of the puzzle on those fronts. I think when we connect mentors to other services or give them a role that is very well-defined in a particular context, it could maximize the help a mentor can provide and the overall impact on those large social issues.

One example of the integration of mentoring with other services is the use of mentors from the community within Youth Build U.S.A., which is a program for supporting young adults who have left school early and want to go back and complete their education. I provided some help to them when they were first considering mentoring. In addition to these educational goals, students in the program also learn job skills by studying several trades and get hands-on experience. Within this program, they realized that one of the missing pieces in the program was a community-based mentor. The staff could help young people get their high school diploma and other job-related skills, but their students needed support more broadly. They also needed someone to encourage them to stick with it, Thus, a mentor for them doesn’t function as an intervention exactly, but rather as “glue” that holds the intervention together, helping youth get the most out of everything YouthBuild offers.

It’s exciting seeing programs that give mentors this kind of “connective tissue” role. One-to-one mentoring programs where the mentor is the intervention are great, but the most important development I’ve seen over the years is to see mentoring thoughtfully and intelligently applied in many other contexts. And more than one mentor, too. Another trend I’m seeing is that it’s not about one person supporting a young person, but about a group of people taking on mentoring roles to help a young person.

  1. What developments do you hope to see in the near future?

Well, I think we have some very interesting research findings on the way in the next few years. Our field desperately needs longitudinal studies on the long-term impacts of being mentored. There haven’t been many of those globally. David DuBois and Carla Herrera are currently working on a longitudinal study at the moment, following up with all the participants from the Big Brothers Big Sisters study conducted 30 years ago. These participants are all grown up and living their lives as adults. The study will hopefully tell us if mentoring made a long-term difference in their lives, which is a very big picture question that the mentoring field has been wrestling with for a long time. We certainly see examples of those very long-term, deeply transformational relationships, both in programs and natural mentoring relationships. There is evidence that mentoring can have that long-term benefit but the jury is still out as to the long-term effects of mentoring from a policy perspective. We don’t know if it is an effective way of addressing societal problems one individual at a time, over the long haul.

Next to the policy part, I would love to see research at the individual level aiming to understand what makes some people a really good mentor. A challenge in our field is that we want to believe that every adult can be a mentor to a child, but I don’t think that is true. It is important to find out what makes a mentor a great mentor. You see these people in every program that just “get it” and that young people flock to. Our “super mentors,” so to speak. I want to see us learn what makes those people special and to see if those qualities can be taught or if we, in fact, have a limited number of awesome mentors available to youth. If the latter is the case, that obviously changes what mentoring can achieve or how we perceive the idea of taking mentoring “to scale.”

  1. What message would you like to pass on to today’s youth that could help them successfully develop their school- and professional career?

The thought I had about this question is what I tell my own children as well: don’t obsess about school and career. The reason I say that is that a lot of mentoring here in the US is developed from the perspective of very successful people who make sure that every child is a success according to their definition of success. There is an expectation that every mentee has to go to a great college and pursue some professional career and has to “make it” in these kinds of upper middle-class ways. The way we define success for a young person is adult-oriented and oriented on a particular class perspective. So keeping that in mind, what I would say to young people is “if it is your dream to become a doctor or lawyer or whatever, then go pursue that dream, but there is more in life than your job and more to life than what kind of degree you end up getting”. Our goal as a nation can’t be that every mentee goes to Harvard. The notion that everybody needs to have a professional career to live a happy life sets some young people up for failure. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have to care about school or a job, but it does mean that success should be defined by what that young person really wants and what will make them happy. I agree with the advice President Obama gave once (on Bear Grylls’ TV show, of all places): There are two keys to lead a successful life. The first key is to be useful to somebody or something. Make the world better in some way. The second key is to be kind,”. The first one could be serving as a mentor for someone or helping out a sick family member, for example. The second one, kindness, is something we often forget as a society. I feel like the last year has, unfortunately, proved that pretty starkly.

  1. Based on your previous answer, what message would you like to pass on to today’s youth mentors?

I would say the ability to truly listen to what a young person is saying and to hear them for who they are, being truly open to the experience. Especially in the US, we often have matches that are crossing a lot of social-economic, racial, or different lines. It is critical for a mentor to truly listen with an open mind in a judgement-free way, even if there are differences.

Also, it is important to share power in the relationship, the ability to have it be a mutual experience. I think sometimes mentors go into the relationship with a mindset of “I’m here to fix something” or “I’m here to get you out of these terrible circumstances in your life”. They don’t let their mentee take the reins in the relationship. We often forget that young people are capable of many great things if we just empower them. Share the power within the relationship in a way that empowers that young person rather than your own directing. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun. Voluntary relationships are mostly done because they are fun and satisfying. I think programs can sometimes be too purposeful and forget that younger children need some fun in their life.

At a youth mentoring conference I was recently at, someone said, “The best advice you can give to a mentor is to be patient,” which resonated with me. When we look at research into matches that end early, it’s often because mentors think that they have to have this massive instant impact on this young person’s life. When they don’t see that, they get discouraged and walk away from the opportunity. We have to teach mentors that the journey is the point, not to be obsessed with the end goals.

Also, applying mentoring in big social problems. If we really are going to use mentoring to tackle big social problems like poverty and so forth, we have to be more intentional about what causes influence these big social problems. One of my favorite quotes is from William Sloane Coffin, the former Chaplin at Yale: “To show compassion for an individual without also showing concern for the structures of society that make him an object of compassion is to be sentimental rather than loving.”

That means that if you care about a person’s needs without bothering to care about how they wound up with those needs, you’re doing it wrong. I love that mentors care for the mentees that enter their lives. But I’d love to see them turn around and be equally concerned about why their mentee’s life is rough in the first place and put some energy and effort into that. The power of mentoring can’t just reside in the individuals lucky enough to receive it, it has to then add up to meaningful change in the world.

(*This article originally appeared in The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring and is reproduced here with the gracious permission of the publisher.)

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Women Mentors Leave a Legacy

Alyse Nelson, the CEO and co-founder of Vital Voices Global Partnership, believes that “mentorship is critical to catalyzing future leadership and spurring economic growth. It’s universal, cost-effective, and efficient. Every woman has something to offer as a mentor and every woman has something to learn as a mentee. If we can harness the power and potential of women who are committed to sharing knowledge, skills, and access then we can accelerate women’s leadership globally.”

According to a survey by LinkedIn (quoted on the NPR website), nearly 1 out of 5 women said they’ve never had a mentor at work. While there are several reasons proposed in the NPR article for this lack of mentors, there are also many examples of women who have served as mentors, and, unfortunately, many of them died in 2016. To honour these women and the legacy they have provided, we list them in this end-of-2016 tribute.

(Note. When a mentor dies, most people use the past tense to describe his or her mentoring. For example, a person might say, “he or she ‘was’ a mentor to so and so.” However, in our understanding of mentoring, one of the things that make it different from so many other forms of influence, it that what a person learned from a mentor lasts a lifetime. Therefore unless the person being mentored has also passed on, we prefer to use the present tense, “is” a mentor to indicate that mentoring provides a never-ending legacy.)

vera_rubinFeminist icon, pioneering astronomer and Medal of Science award winner Vera Rubin (Bio)  (1928-2016) is a mentor to many young scientists. When Dr. Rubin was told by her high school physics teacher that she’d been awarded a scholarship to Vassar, “he said to me, ‘As long as you stay away from science, you should do okay.’ It took an enormous self-esteem to listen to things like that and not be demolished.” What Dr. Rubin learned from that experience was that “rather than teaching little girls physics, you have to teach them they can learn anything they want to.”

esma_redzepovaRoma musician, singer and humanitarian Esma Redzepova (Bio) (1943-2016) was mentored by Macedonian composer Stevo Teodosievski. She acted as a foster parent along with her husband to 47 children. She supported women’s rights and was awarded the Macedonian Order of Merit.

florence_hendersonBroadway star and TV-icon Florence Henderson (Bio) (1934-2016) is a mentor to Brady Bunch star Barry Williams. She was the first woman to host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and became a role model for women to hold hosting and broadcasting positions on network television and was the childhood television heroine of Calista Flockhart. She was mentored by Christine Johnson, considered Broadway star Mary Martin her role model, and as a child, Ms. Henderson idolized actress Jane Wyman. In discussing her serving as a role model in playing mother Carol Brady on the Brady Bunch, she said, “I begged them [the producers] to give Carol Brady a job. They wouldn’t do that. I mean, those clothes, for God’s sake, take a look at them! I didn’t choose those, please…But I said, ‘Can I just hit the kids every now and then? I mean, real life!’ They wouldn’t let me.”

gwen_ifillTrailblazing Journalist Gwen Ifill (Bio) (1955-2016) is a mentor to many including CNN host Don Lemon, NBC journalist Yvette Miley, Kim Godwin, CBS news producer, Joy Reid, April Ryan, White House Correspondent, Shawna Thomas, journalist, Joey Cole, news producer, Rashida Jones, news editor, Audie Cornish, news host, among others. Ms. Ifill became the first African American woman to host a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program with Washington Week in Review. Fellow journalist Hari Sreenivasan said “There is a professional ladder in this business, but, as a journalist of color, what she impressed upon me, as a friend and a mentor, is that it’s not just enough to climb that ladder. It’s about making sure that you pull someone else up, and then they pull someone else up along the way.”

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Additional examples of mentoring can be found in the Peer Resources Mentorpairs Database.

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Latest Entries to the Mentor Hall of Fame

Latest Entries to the Mentor Hall of Fame

Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors.

The list of mentor pairs in the Mentor Hall of Fame was compiled by Rey Carr from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. Mentor pairs portrayed in fiction or movies are also included.

Pairings are divided into ten general categories. In most cases, mentors and their partners could be included in the same category. However, where a mentor and partner are from different career or life areas, the pairing has been placed in the partner’s category. (A few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are included at various places in the listings.)

The categories include

  • Actors, Comedians, Producers and Directors (Stage, Screen, and TV)
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in motion pictures and television
  • Musicians, Songwriters, and Singers
  • Classical and Broadway Musicians, Composers, Conductors, Ballet, and Modern Dancers
  • Fashion, Media, and Celebrities
  • Artists, Writers, Photographers, Publishers, Novelists, Poets
  • Mentoring relationships depicted in print (novels stories, fiction)
  • Sports Figures, Athletes, and Coaches
  • Historical, Political, Spiritual, and Civic Leaders
  • Business, Industry, Education, Science, and Medical Leaders

Here are some of the latest entries to the Mentor Hall of Fame:

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Mentoring Domains Seek New Homes

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As part of our business downsizing at Peer Resources, we have a number of domain names that we no longer need. Here is the list:

The first six domain names presently are pointed to our primary business website. Why not buy one, arrange to have it point to your existing website or create a new one and use it to let others know what you have to offer.

We are selling each of these domains for $500. However, if you decide you want to purchase them before November 19, 2016, we will sell them for $350 each.

Contact: rey.carr@gmail.com

Exploring Brain-Based Needs (Guest Blogger Larry K. Brendtro)

(I’m blessed to know people who are great bloggers (writers) and are willing to let me share their work with people who appreciate growth and development. Today’s guest article is by Larry K. Brendtro, a terrific writer, and one of the founders of CF Learning. Dr. Brendtro is a psychologist and special educator whose work on positive youth development, resilience, and peer culture shifted the perspectives and practices thousands of youth organizations. His post about one of my heroes,  Abraham Maslow, revealed details I thought were essential for understanding how positive growth can survive adversity. More information about Dr. Brendtro is available on his website.)

The leading pioneer in research on developmental needs was Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Ironically, as a youth, he was deprived of positive support from his own parents, peers, and teachers. His father Samuel escaped from an unhappy home in Russia by sailing alone to America when only fourteen. Becoming a barrel maker in Brooklyn, he perpetuated poor parenting of his seven children with comments like, “Isn’t Abe the ugliest kid you’ve ever seen?” Maslow’s mother hurled more hostility, and later in life, he would describe “her total selfishness, her lack of love for anyone else in the world, even her own husband and children.”[1] Yet Maslow surmounted the shaky self-esteem of his childhood by recognizing that his parents were products of an unhappy upbringing.

As a youth, Maslow experienced frequent anti-Semitic attacks, so he joined a gang of Jewish boys for protection. But, these peers rejected him when he refused to participate in their cruel activities. “I couldn’t throw rocks at girls and I couldn’t kill cats so I was ruled out of the gang.”[2] At school, he was treated contemptuously by many teachers, but one made a remarkable difference with her warmth. “I was just ready to love anybody,” Maslow recalled.[3] Such traumatic early experiences strengthened Maslow’s empathy for others. As a young psychologist, he studied Blackfoot Indians on a reserve in Ontario. He was profoundly impressed with the spirit of respect and generosity that permeated child-rearing in this indigenous culture.

In a classic 1943 article, Maslow proposed that psychological health depended on meeting innate human needs.[4] Generations later, he is still among the most cited psychologists of all time. This staying power is because he could translate complex social and biological information into profound but simple concepts. Modern research supports his hypothesis that the human brain is endowed with innate drives to meet biosocial needs for belongingness, esteem, self-actualization, and self-transcendence.[5] These principles are validated by decades of subsequent studies including Stanley Coopersmith’s foundations of self-esteem, Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage values, and Ann Masten’s brain modules for resilience.[6]

The Model of Leadership and Service developed in 2008 by CF Learning also includes four similar biosocial needs, but additionally identifies needs for safety and adventure. Safety was a survival need in Maslow’s hierarchy. Further, Maslow’s 1964 discussion of peak experiences has parallels with adventure as “exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences.”[7] For an extended discussion of this idea and practice, read my article The Dueling Needs for Safety and Adventure here.

1.  Hoffman, E. (1988). The right to be human: A biography of Abraham Maslow. Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, p. 9.

2.  Hoffman 1988, p. 4.

3.  Hoffman, 1988, p. 4.

4.  Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.

5.  Koltko-Rivera, M. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(2), 302-317.

6.  Brendtro, L., & Mitchell, M. (2015). Deep brain learning: Evidence-based essentials in education, treatment, and youth development. Albion, MI: Starr Commonwealth.

7.  Corsini, R. (1998). Encyclopedia of psychology. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, p. 21.

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Merging Aboriginal Traditions with Peer Mentor Leadership Training

Not only is Peer Resources one of the world’s oldest peer assistance train-the-trainer organizations, but they were the first organization to offer a peer mentor program train-the-trainer workshop based on Aboriginal (First Nations) customs and traditions.

Few people know that many of the elements of successful experiential training date back to historical practices that were part of many North American native groups. The “talking circle,” for example, was unknown to the European settlers who came to North America, but was an ancient practice of the Indians they encountered.

Unfortunately, the encounters between the native and European cultures became dominated by a campaign to eliminate the practices, customs and traditions of native culture. Many of the health, healing, spiritual, and educational customs were lost, forbidden, hidden, or forgotten during this attempt to suppress the native way of life.

During the 1970’s when Peer Resources was exploring whether high school students in British Columbia would want to and be able to help each other using positive peer pressure, many of the peer mentor volunteers were students from First Nations ancestry.

Because our training model was based on a socio-cultural tradition—that is, a model that relied on understanding and building upon how individuals within a culture positively communicated with each other and how they understood the world they lived in—we realized we had much to learn about the differences in communication and perspective between native and non-native youth.

What was most surprising as we conducted our research with elders and members of First Nations groups in British Columbia and other Aboriginal groups in Canada and the United States, was the similarity between their traditions and customs and the practices we were using in our training sessions.

And even more powerful was our own finding that the more we established and integrated First Nations customs into our training sessions, the more successful the training sessions became for non-native participants. We were also privileged to have a highly skilled and experienced educator, mentor and coach, Ron Jorgenson, act as our lead trainer. Ron has continued to lead these training sessions for more than 20 years.

Some of our most skilled peer mentor program leaders, upon refreshing what they learned in our “comprehensive training” course, remarked that taking the First Nation version of the same course was a much better learning experience. Participants described their learning as more personally satisfying and deeper, with a greater appreciation of and respect for cultural diversity. In addition, they saw the training as empowering them to develop their own facilitation style and design and manage what was needed for their own peer program effectiveness. As a result, dozens of peer programs have been successfully established in First Nations communities, and many communities now hold their own train-the-trainer sessions for First Nation peer leaders.

From 2005 to 2012 Peer Resources held five-day workshops every summer in Victoria, British Columbia at the University of Victoria. The workshops integrated Aboriginal principles into both the workshop process and the content and were specifically designed for persons who worked in youth populations (ages 12-25) from diverse backgrounds. The purpose of the workshop was to prepare youth workers, educators, teachers, mentor program leaders, and counsellors to establish state-of-the-art peer-led programs for youth (elementary school age to university-based students) who represent a variety of diverse groups in today’s society.

Persons who had previously taken other peer training courses emphatically stated that these specialized sessions enhanced their learning of how to use the medicine wheel, healing circles, ceremony, and other Aboriginal customs and traditions.

The seminars covered all key topics for effective peer program development including:

  • practical strategies to recruit, select, and supervise peer mentors;
  • twenty roles peer mentors use to prevent problems, mediate disputes and promote healthy growth;
  •  the twelve core skills of a peer mentor training curriculum;
  • how to design a curriculum for advanced skills and issues;
  • a custom-designed set of peer training and peer program development materials and resources;
  • experiential learning techniques that energize training;
  • when to teach and when to facilitate;
  • how to conduct a needs assessment for program longevity;
  • how to use feedback and facilitation skills to train like an expert;
  • how and when to motivate peer mentors;
  • how to gain and maintain program support from unexpected sources;
  • six proven methods to turn resistance into alliance;
  • eight peer program standards that resolve challenging legal issues;
  • examples of successful implementation strategies; and
  • how to use simple strategies to evaluate program progress.

Participants in the five-day workshop were organized into small groups for the peer training and consultation activities. Each participant has an opportunity to partner with another workshop participant to lead a supervised training session. The workshop relied strongly on interactive methods designed to maximize adult learning and to model effective training. Participants were involved in lectures, communication skill exercises, role plays, training leadership opportunities, curriculum development, peer mentoring, and other experiential activities.

Participants were also eligible to apply for national certification as Peer Mentor Trainers (Level I or Level II). This certification system is based on national training standards originally developed by the Peer Counselling Project at the University of Victoria. Participants who attended a complete workshop received a Certificate of Completion.

While we no longer offer these workshops on an annual basis, we do offer them on a specialized, custom basis in communities in North America. Anyone interested in setting up one of these workshops in their community to be led by an experienced First Nations training leader is encouraged to contact Peer Resources by phone or email.

References

Carr, R.A. (2005). Peer helping: Youth working together. Thunder Bay, Ontario: Nishnawbe Aski Nation. (Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://bit.ly/6lzOY).

Carr, R.A. (2001). The theory and practice of peer helping. Victoria, BC: Peer Resources.Carr, R.A.

Carr, R.A., & Saunders, G.A. (1999). The peer counselling starter kit. Victoria, BC: Peer
France, H. (2000). The helping circle: First Nations peer support network. (Retrieved May 1, 2009 from http://bit.ly/jVBrU).
Jorgenson, R. (2004). Kit & culture: Supplemental resources for peer counselling in First Nations communities. Victoria, BC: Peer Resources.
Jorgenson, R. (2004). Youth helping youth: A training plan introducing peer helping into a native community. Victoria, BC: Peer Resources.

MacDonald, S., Denby, C., and Madak, P. (2003). The Northern Aboriginal Peer Support Network Program: Current practices and plans for a generative curriculum. Unpublished manuscript: First Nations Center, University of Northern British Columbia.

Saskatoon Health Region. (November 19, 2008). Aboriginal LiveWell program celebrates success. e-connect: The Saskatoon Health Region Employee Newsletter. (Retrieved May 31, 2009 from http://bit.ly/D6iFm).

Six Nations Police. (2008). Community service: Peer helping. Ohsweken, Ontario: Six Nations Police Service. (Retrieved May 10, 2009 from http://bit.ly/118Nep).

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Guardians of Mentoring

Existential psychotherapist James Bugental (1915-2008), the author of The Search for Authenticity, mentored many well-known psychotherapy practitioners. One of those, Orah Krug, recalled that her mentor likened his role to that of a track and field coach who, running along side the hurdler, helps the athlete maintain form. “My function,” Dr. Bugental said to his mentoring partner, “is that of being my client’s ally, of supporting the client’s effort to be authentically present and self-exploring.”

Mentor in Memorium: Edward Albee (1928-2016)

I met playwright Edward Albee when he was in Los Angeles shortly after Elizabeth Taylor won the Academy Award for best actress in the film version of Albee’s play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” He ordered something from the drug store in Beverly Hills where I was working doing deliveries. I got to deliver his order to him while he was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I had his name on the delivery sheet and I recognized him right away when he answered the door himself.

He was very friendly and he asked me if I also delivered stuff to other Hollywood people and named a couple of names. I said I wasn’t allowed to reveal any of the names of our customers. He launched into some caustic and funny comments about “movie people” particularly Jack Warner (the studio head), Richard Burton (who played opposite Elizabeth Taylor and was also nominated for a best actor Academy Award), and Jack Valenti (the head censor in Hollywood). I remember those names in particular because they were all involved with the movie version.

After this meeting, I started reading everything he wrote. The dialogue in his plays was always sparkling, acerbic, and witty. I had never seen a play before I met him, so I owe my play-going life to meeting him in 1967.

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