Mentoring Comes Full Circle

Carroll Smith, Editor

Carroll Smith, Editor

While watching Late Night with Seth Meyers recently, I learned that Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson had attended the Manning Passing Academy when Wilson was a tenth-grader in high school. In fact, he said that during the camp Peyton Manning had been his coach, mentoring him in the intricacies of what it takes to become a winning quarterback. It appears that Wilson took Manning’s advice to heart, beating the veteran quarterback’s Denver Broncos 43 to 8 in Super Bowl XLVIII.

The outcome of a mentoring scenario in a competitive environment such as professional football probably results in mixed feelings, depending on which team you are pulling for. However, when mentoring takes place among players on the same team, so to speak, everyone benefits. Dr. Eric Webster, LSU AgCenter weed scientist, says his first mentor was his dad, Dub Webster, who served as the Superintendent of the Auburn University’s Tennessee Valley Research Experiment Station near Belle Mina, Ala.

“Dad taught me the importance of agriculture research and what it meant to the growers,” Webster says. “The thing I admired most about my Dad was how dedicated he was to the research station.” His second mentor was Ford Baldwin.

“Ford taught me what was important about being an Extension specialist,” he says. “He had a way to bring everything down to a level to help you decide what was important. The most impressive thing about Ford is that he would go out of his way to give you credit for something. I was able to build confidence with my program thanks to him. I can truly say I would not be where I am today without Ford Baldwin. The best compliment I ever received was after I gave a presentation on herbicide drift at the Southern Weed Science Society meeting in Houston in 2013. Someone, I think it was Andy Kendig, told me it was as close to a Ford Baldwin talk as he had ever heard. I knew then I had arrived.”

Just as Ford had mentored Eric, Eric mentored Mississippi State University weed scientist Jason Bond.

“Dr. Webster was on the faculty at LSU when I was in graduate school there,” Bond says. “He and I worked together when I was with the LSU AgCenter Rice Research Station in Crowley. Eric Webster taught me that a weed scientist could do good research that was also practical and applicable to scenarios encountered by growers. The rice component of my research/Extension program at Stoneville today is similar to Eric’s in that our top priority is providing the best information possible to our primary stakeholders, which are the rice growers in Mississippi.” Although “comes full circle” typically means completes the cycle, when it comes to developing weed control strategies, that’s still a “work in progress” to be passed on by current and future weed scientists.