This Women’s History Month, Erica Blake, director of public relations and communications, took some time to reflect on the woman who has made the biggest impact on her life. Read her firsthand thoughts here.
During a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of women, my thoughts travel to the names of those who have paved the way for me and others to achieve success.
But while the history books are full of influential women in areas of politics, business, law, among others, the top of my list is held by one very special person – my college professor, my mentor, my dear friend.
I met Jane Briggs-Bunting in my law of the press class at Oakland University during my sophomore year. It was known to be a tough class, focusing on drilling first amendment case law into budding young journalists where the professor would accept nothing but her students’ absolute best. I admit, at first, I hated the class. But it was required, and I had dreamed of writing for newspapers since I was 12 years old, so I bought my books and found my seat.
When looking back on pivotal points in my life, that first class shines through as among the most important. It was my introduction to a woman who not only personified everything I wanted to pursue in a career but who also would become my mentor, who helped shaped many aspects of my life.
As a shy kid who felt most comfortable in the background, Jane helped me find my voice. As someone who tended to look to others to lead, Jane was key in helping me build confidence.
During a time when my mom lived an ocean away in France, Jane was a constant source of guidance – my stateside mom who helped me tackle all the hiccups in life.
So, as I look back on my journey in my career and in my life, I feel such gratitude to Jane for her stern words of wisdom and guiding hand.
I began my professional career as a journalist, writing for daily newspapers, first in Michigan and then in Toledo, Ohio. And I loved it. I wrote stories about daily life, government mishaps, court room dramas. It was exactly for what I spent my college years preparing.
After spending nearly 17 years as a print journalist, I joined the Mercy Health ministry in 2013 as an internal communications specialist. Leaving journalism was a difficult decision for me, but ultimately the right one. And so, I began a new career and a new purpose.
Although my job changed, the skills and values I learned in that college classroom remained ingrained – integrity above all else, take pride in your work and, most important, be true to yourself.
Now 10 years into my career at Mercy Health, Jane’s voice still whispers in my ear as I tackle a problem or help guide members of my team.
Her goal always was to help make her students successful. She did that through hard work and tough love – There were no easy As in her classes! – And for those life lessons I will always be grateful.
Jane passed away two years ago this month – in March of 2021 – after a battle with cancer. I had moved away, and we had lost touch a bit, but she forever remained one of the most important female influences in my life. It saddens me to know that she will never read this, but I am confident that she knows how much she meant to me, how much she meant to all her students.
And I have no doubt she is proud of who we all have become.
Read more stories celebrating our team members during Women’s History Month.
Also, learn more about the health care services we offer at Mercy Health.