“Have you ever seen anyone so happy to be turning 90?” I couldn’t help but inquire while welcoming hundreds of family friends to a celebration this past weekend. It was my dad’s birthday, and I’m sure you’ll agree to reach 90 is quite a milestone. But it’s not my dad’s style to just ‘reach’ it—he has to run with it!
Now, I’m normally not inclined to use the University News blog to report on family activities, but it’s spring break at RIT, so it’s not like there’s a whole lot of other things to blog about. Also, as I shift focus from the weekend and back to my responsibilities at RIT, I can’t help but think about Dad’s influence in how I approach my job.
First thing you need to understand is, in response to our family’s invitation to help celebrate 90 years of Joe Stella, hardly anyone said ‘no.’ I’m sure even those who did decline did so with sincere regret. Everyone loves my dad. His formula is simple: Treat others as you wish to be treated, and hold back nothing in the attempt to make them smile—the sillier the better.
I constantly remind Public Relations students at RIT that, when it comes to their career success, “It’s all about building relationships.” Writing, reporting and overall communication skills are important, yes, but ultimately you must serve a wide range of clients with the ability to make each one feel their concerns are your top priority.
As a younger man, my dad built and sustained a thriving auto repair business. His success was the result of quality craftsmanship and a customer experience based on mutual respect. Often that respect led to genuine friendship. No dents? No problem. Fresh coffee (if you can call it that) brewed each day at 10:30 and 3:00. Customers were always welcome to stop by and share tales of their latest antics—the sillier the better.
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone wins my father’s favor, and he’s not one to hold back on voicing his opinion on these individuals. Still, few can match his charisma or his insatiable desire to be in the embrace of a community of people who adore him.
So, when it comes to expertise in public relations, my father is my mentor. Even today, I watch him in action, and I admire, and I hope that old adage is true, “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.”
Happy birthday, Dad, and thanks for setting such a great example—in more ways than you can ever imagine.