EDITOR’S NOTE: I penned the submission below for the Walsingham Academy alumni magazine on June 4, 2012. Mr. Gillespie – my Algebra, Algebra II/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus teacher at Walsingham Academy – continues to influences my life with his “DWYGD” acronym. Here’s how “DWYGD” or “Do What You Gotta Do” has impacted my life!
I can still hear Mr. Gillespie’s booming voice echoing in my ears. It’s almost as if I’m sitting in his Algebra class all over again, wearing grey slacks, a navy blue blazer and a green plaid tie with a Jansport backpack resting at my feet. At the time, I didn’t know I was hearing a lesson that would profoundly impact my personal life and professional career. Frankly, at the time, I didn’t know much of anything.
“Do what you gotta do,” Mr. Gillespie would bellow from his perch in front of the classroom. Then, he would shuffle his feet to the overhead projector and scribble D.W.Y.G.D. on the display lens with a black marker. The acronym meant so much to Mr. Gillespie; he actually instructed us to neatly print it atop our test papers for a few extra credit points and to further reinforce a lesson that applied to work, love and friendship. I had the pleasure of taking three classes (Algebra, Algebra II/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus) under Mr. Gillespie’s tutelage, which translated into three entire academic years of neatly printing D.W.Y.G.D. on my math tests, directly across from my name. To say that D.W.Y.G.D. is burned on my brain is to say Mrs. Pearson is a virtuoso with a scalpel and a frog carcass. It’s a no-duh type of statement!
Today, I am the founder and president of Virginia Media Ventures, LLC , a Charlottesville-based marketing and branding agency that is six people strong and literally growing every day. I have the dubious distinction of driving return on investment for clients by leveraging sciences and tools like: social media marketing, digital marketing, website design and development, strategic brand management, brand creation, crisis management, viral content creation, SEO and other interactive advertising strategies. In short, my team makes the internet and digital infrastructures work for our clients.
As a result of our success, I have found that clients expect more and more with each brief and each project. My team welcomes the added pressure because we know it will keep our skill-sets sharp and fortify our position at the forefront of the marketplace. It’s also where we leverage D.W.Y.G.D. When the agency is competing for new business or servicing current accounts, we “do what you gotta do” to drive immediate return on investment for our clients. Client satisfaction is not the goal; it’s the standard at Virginia Media Ventures.
Mr. Gillespie, here is a new acronym for you – T.F.C.M.L. – “Thanks For Changing My Life.” I mean that, sir.
Among many other fond memories of Walsingham, Mrs. Vulcan comes immediately to mind for her grace, compassion and the ability to connect with students through a “Treat me with respect and I will return the favor” approach. Mrs. Vulcan was my A.P. English teacher, homeroom moderator during my senior year and the director of Walsingham’s Forensics Speech and Debate Club. I was a member of this club, along with a few of my close friends. At first, we joined the club to simply add another notch to our collegiate resumes. However, soon thereafter, I started enjoying the extracurricular activity and realized it meshed well with my God-given ability of public speaking and human connection.
Before founding Virginia Media Ventures, I utilized strategies learned from Mrs. Vulcan and certainly from English and Composition teacher Mrs. Tracey throughout my tenure in traditional media. During this time, I worked as a newspaper journalist, a television host and executive producer and also enjoyed a career as a syndicated radio personality whose six-day-per-week, two-hour talk show was broadcasted across the Mid-Atlantic on 15 affiliates in four states. It was an amazing journey.
In today’s digital culture, people choose to communicate in 140 characters or less, or heck, through silly emoticons, including smiley faces, sad faces and downright stupid faces pinged back and forth on cell phones. The art of writing seems to be a dying trade. However, I left Walsingham with a strong communications education largely in part to Mrs. Vulcan and Mrs. Tracey. This foundation helped me evolve into an award-winning journalist (I won three Virginia Press Awards as a newspaper writer, including one first-place V.P.A.) and into one of the youngest editors in the history of the Charlottesville Daily Progress newspaper (I was 23 years old.).
This past May, after Virginia Media Ventures had garnered some statewide media recognition, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the Virginia Private Colleges (www.cicv.org) summer conference, where I lectured on the power of social media and digital marketing and how colleges could leverage these sciences and strategies to raise brand awareness and drive student enrollment. In this 90-minute presentation, with the deans of admission from all of Virginia’s private colleges and universities in attendance, I used tactics first learned at Walsingham Academy. It was exhilarating and rewarding; challenging and nerve-racking. I aced it, and I have Mrs. Vulcan, Mrs. Tracey and Walsingham to thank for it.
My team has also served as a brand strategist for Lynchburg College, a wonderful private institution that contracted Virginia Media Ventures to execute a case study on its brand to help further drive student enrollment. For this client, my team spent three business days conducting a brand and digital infrastructure analysis. Then, I presented the findings in a two-hour lecture to Lynchburg College’s senior faculty and followed it with a question-and-answer session. I was at my best because I was able to leverage and utilize what Mrs. Vulcan, Mrs. Tracey and the Walsingham Academy faculty had drilled into me from the fourth grade through graduation. Once again, I experienced first-hand the versatility and balance of a Walsingham Academy education and how it positively impacts my personal and professional lives on an almost daily basis.
I want to close by emphasizing that these anecdotes only scratch the surface of so many incredibly positive memories from my nine years at Walsingham. I also have many fond memories of Mr. Joyce, Mrs. Lavin, Mrs. Myers, Mrs. Blackstock, Coach Chris Haywood, Mrs. Stewart and Mrs. Dixon of the lower school and many more wonderful teachers who sacrificed so much to mold us. We may not have welcomed the education and guidance at the time, but we now certainly appreciate its true magnitude and impact.
To those students who are still walking the corridors of Walsingham, please know that you can reach your goals and accomplish just about anything in life. Dream big and “do what you gotta do” to get there, just like Mr. Gillespie taught me in math class all those years ago.