Limelight on Ron Smout Award for Teaching and Mentoring – Larry Viterna

Marty & Larry at Ft Scott, KS

Where to start?! RMASFAA remains such a valued part of my life — and when I say RMASFAA, I mean the people who make it the fantastic organization that it is.

My financial aid profession started in September of 1975 with a “Director of Student Affairs” appointment at the then University of Nebraska School of Technical Agriculture in Curtis. The appointment followed 5 ½ yrs. teaching high school vocational agriculture near Lincoln, NE and a year of teaching at UNSTA. Not exactly the background one would expect!

That is one of the wonderful things about working in our student financial aid profession; we all come from a variety of backgrounds. What we have in common is a love for helping students succeed. And, we have an inert desire to help our colleagues be the best they can be. There is a bit of “teaching” and “mentoring” in each of us. We innovate. We share. We learn. We set examples. We teach.

So, while some of us have been fortunate to be recognized by our colleagues, please remember that each and every one, in one way or another, brings their own special value to this profession. I could not have succeeded without the mentoring of people who had “been there.” People who wanted me to be the “best I could be.” And, if they were doing that for me, I most certainly wanted to “pay it forward.”

Ron Smout was one of the best, quietly setting the example of what it takes to help others be successful. Life had thrown Ron some painful curves — but most didn’t know that. With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, he “taught you” when you did not even know you were being taught. Receiving the first ever Ron Smout Teaching and Mentoring award in 2002 was a complete surprise (many in RMASFAA could have been that recipient!). It is a cherished honor. I hope, at least in a small way, that I have been able to emulate Ron.

Finn-1st T-Ball Game-June 2016
Finn (grandson, age 4 1/2), Larry, & Fletcher (grandson, age 7 1/2)

Today, at 71, I am happily retired and enjoying life with Marty. We have 4 grandchildren and life is good. Facebook keeps us in touch with many who’ve traveled with us over the years. We are involved with local mission work through our church and still teach and mentor when an opportunity presents itself. We are still learning, too! You can never stop doing that.

Goodness! Where to stop is more the question than where to start! I’ll finish like this:

  • “Before you can lead, you must learn to follow.” (Mona Pearl and her RMASFAA leadership talk)
  • “It’s what you know for sure that isn’t necessarily so that will get you into trouble.” (Jim Gordon at my very first neophyte training session)
  • Bloom where you are planted (Wilma Kasnic)
  • “I know the regs don’t say we can — but they don’t say we can’t either. Rejoice in the grey area; it’s what gives us the chance to do as much for a student as we possibly can.” (Larry Viterna to his student loan coordinator)
  • “You would find that in Section …, … , … of the regs.” (Don Aripoli – he could always take you right to the source)
  • “I think you would make a great committee chair/ trainer/ association officer/ editor/ photographer/. . . .” (Someone who sees the potential in YOU!)

Say “yes” to getting involved. Say “yes” to learning all you can. Say “yes” to sharing what you know. Say “Come join us.” “Come have dinner with us.” HAVE FUN! And never forget to say THANK YOU! To all of my wonderful colleagues and friends over the years, and to my wife (who sacrificed some of her goals so I could be involved), THANK YOU!

by Larry Viterna

2 thoughts on “Limelight on Ron Smout Award for Teaching and Mentoring – Larry Viterna

  1. Joel Viterna

    Well done Dad! As kids we knew your “association people” from all over the country and got many a tag-along vacation when you had conferences too. We always knew you were good at what you did and happy you have been recognized for those many contributions over the years.

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