Better to Give (but Receiving Is Often Pretty Great, Too)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I’m not sure what lights Otto’s fire, but if I could bottle it I would sell it—and drink it, too.

The first time I met the dean of our law school, she asked me to locate the best programs in the country at connecting law students to practicing lawyers. Elon Law’s “preceptor program” was one of the best, so as soon as possible, and with permission, we started our own. In the years that followed, what began as a voluntary opportunity for our first-year students has now grown into a required first-year course component that has extended to create mentor matches for interested upper-division students, too. We now have 150+ practicing attorneys and judges giving their time to mentor students with more on the way.

And then there is Otto. Otto was a fill-in preceptor (read: mentor) during the first year of the program. He was named Preceptor of the Year during the second year. For the third year, we named the award after him.

We give Otto a mentee or two each year and then he goes and collects more like baseball cards. I have no idea at this point how many students—and graduates—now consider themselves one of Otto’s “kids.”

Here are the sorts of things students said about Otto in the past:

“From allowing me to use his office space to study for finals, to taking our mentor group out to dinner every couple of weeks, to giving me thoughtful career advice, he has done so much to make my law school experience both enjoyable and comfortable.”

“Most importantly, he represents everything that Pepperdine stands for: a person who overcame the odds and does good things for people on a daily basis. He is truly one of the most unselfish people I know.”

I attended one of Otto’s dinners for his “kids” last weekend, and as expected, there were first-year, second-year, and third-year students in attendance alongside those not even in law school anymore. It was a family gathering: relaxed, lively stories, laughter, and lots of smiles.

Otto would say that it’s a toss-up whether he or the students get more out of these relationships, but it appears to me to be a tie ballgame.

To be candid, I know exactly what lights Otto’s fire and am convinced that it presents itself as a potential source of joy for all of us, and that is pouring oneself out into the lives of others. But on the flip side, being loved is a pretty great thing, too.

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