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A Tribute to a Great Teacher

Do you have a Simone in your life?

An old Japanese proverb says:

better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.

I was supremely blessed to have more than one day with a truly transformational teacher, the late Simone Joyaux, ACFRE. It was the summer of 2000, that I first met Simone at St. Mary’s University, Winona, Minnesota, where I was diligently studying for a masters in philanthropy and development.

She gave evidence of her commitment to and the advancing of the field of philanthropy not only in her teaching but in her actions. Knowledgeable, insightful, thought-provoking, a force of nature, being in her class, listening and learning from someone who not only had the knowledge of her topic but taught with passion — you left the classroom knowing you could and would change the world. As she did.

It was Simone who taught me about building a culture of philanthropy; not just developing a fund-raising plan and leaving it at that. It was Simone who laid the groundwork for the work I do now, helping clients develop strategies that truly build a culture of philanthropy.

And it was Simone who changed the direction of the nonprofit board I lead. She taught about the values we have and the choices we make as individuals and organizations. She taught that what matters in life is helping others win, much more important than just winning for ourselves.

And she taught me that fund development is much more than asking for money. It’s about building an organizational culture and mission that’s relevant and is based on a solid foundation of organizational development.

I remember another side of Simone. A new semester was just starting and found us both at the Minneapolis airport, ready to board a puddle jumper to Winona. The skies were in turmoil, lightening, thunder, foreboding dark clouds, and a roller coaster of a trip.

We were sitting across the aisle from each other and as we took off Simone grabbed — actually clenched my hand and kept clenching it with each jostle. “I don’t like flying on small planes,” she said!

Yes, I could tell — she didn’t let go. This was the same force of nature that told such strong stories with the language to go along with it and taught with the passion of Norse gods! The same force who could take on anything! Yes, she was also compassionate and sensitive.

Simone made you think about why we do what we do and to ask — is this the right thing to do?

Queen Rania of Jordan said:

good teachers teach, great teachers transform.

She was talking about Simone.

So let me ask you. Who was/is the Simone in your life who had a big impact on you?

Would love to hear your story.

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