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Mentor Spotlight

Mentor Spotlight - Wayne Norman

Traditions make up the culture of the river, and one of the most treasured is that of the mentor. While the exact process or definition of a mentorship can be elusive, that time honored tradition of a more experienced crew member helping to guide a less experienced crew member over time lives on today, and is still being passed on to our next generation of river folk!

Today’s Mentor Monday features Jerry Enzler sharing the legacy of his mentor, Wayne Norman!

"“You never can tell, by the look of a frog, just how far it can jump.” Mark Twain said that.

The same thing applies to people and organizations. You never can tell, by the look of a person or an organization, just how far they can jump. But they can go so much farther with mentors. My mentor in my role as founding director and ultimately President and CEO of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and National Rivers Hall of Fame was Wayne Norman.

I was a 25-year-old accountant and teacher when Wayne began to mentor me. Wayne was a volunteer who wanted to create a River Museum. I had been hired as the first full-time employee of a small history organization, but I had no experience in museum creation, fundraising, or project development. Wayne taught me how to organize a project, recruit hundreds of volunteers, and ultimately raise millions of dollars. I learned almost every step of the way from Wayne Norman.

Portrait of Wayne Norman

Wayne had optimism, initiative, and tenacity. One of the most important skills Wayne taught me was how to work with people and invite them to participate to achieve common goals. He was enormously talented in putting forth an idea, recruiting a team of people, expanding the team, and creating something which was new and dynamic. He taught me how important it is to have optimism and energy. If you are not excited about your project, how can you expect anyone else to be excited?

We needed to have a boat, and Wayne led a task force to travel around the Midwest and finally locate the steam dredge William M. Black, built in 1934. We needed a building, and Wayne persuaded riverboat excursion operators Bob and Ruth Kehl to donate a waterfront freight house as our first building with 10,000 square feet for exhibits and collections. We needed funds, and Wayne persuaded Bill Woodward and the Woodward Foundation to kick it off with a $200,000 challenge grant which we were able to turn into $1.1 million to begin our adventure. Once I learned how to do this with Wayne as my mentor, we were able to replicate that model several times over with bigger projects and larger fundraising goals.

John Bickel had the idea of recognizing the men and women of the inland waters of the United States, and it became the National Rivers Hall of Fame. Mark Knoy and others developed the dynamic concept of RiverWorks Discovery and a plan for taking exhibits and programs to communities throughout the country.

Jerry Enzler at the grand opening of NMRMA's Mississippi River Center, 2003

Working with Teri Goodman and others, we were able to raise $188 million to rejuvenate the Mississippi River waterfront at Dubuque, Iowa and create a tremendous expansion to our museum campus. Over 4 million people have now been to the museum, and studies show that 52% of our visitors have changed their appreciation and attitude about the river in important ways.

Wayne taught me that how to cultivate enthusiasts and how to ask them to help move a project forward. He showed me how to organize a capital campaign and execute every step along the way. He taught me that people give to people and people give to causes. Telling the story of the Mississippi River and the rivers of America was an exciting opportunity, and Wayne gave me the chance to be the first director of this fabulous museum.

It was my opportunity to work with Wayne and many others to bring to fruition these dynamic dreams. Through it all, I used the techniques that I learned from Wayne when I was in my 20s, and I spent my career telling the tremendous story of the Mississippi River and the rivers of America.

Now, thanks to Wayne Norman and so many more, we are the most comprehensive river museum in the nation. We have a 14 acre campus and enjoy over 200,000 visitors each year. RiverWorks Discovery reaches an equal amount of people with its traveling exhibits and programs. I am now officially retired, but I am very active with the National Rivers Hall of Fame and supportive of the Museum and RiverWorks Discovery.

You never can tell by the look of a frog, just how far it can jump. But with mentors like Wayne Norman and others, we have jumped to new heights and look forward to more to come."

We would like to help YOU tell the story of your mentor to our community! Who helped make you, you? When was the first time they trusted you? What piece of advice do you come back to, over and over? Why did their style of leadership stick with you? Sharing the journey of your experiences can encourage others to follow your lead—to step up, become a mentor themselves, or reflect on the guidance they’re receiving right now! To find out more or to submit your personal experience for Mentor Monday, contact Andra at andra@riverworksdiscovery.org

Posted by Andra Olney-Larson at 7:00 AM
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