Thank Your Mentor Spotlight: Gregg Behr

One of my mentors is...

Robert Payton

This person had such a big impact on my life because...

I experienced the great privilege of studying alongside Robert Payton in 1995-96, during a graduate fellowship year at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Mr. Payton, as we called him, was a renaissance man from a bygone era. And he had a renaissance-like sensibility, too. His thinking was always interdisciplinary, blending the arts with the sciences, the technological with the humanities, and the aspirational with the practical. He prompted me to think and write and talk differently. He challenged me with hard, moral questions; he grounded me in what was ethical and good. And he encouraged me to pursue my interests to become a public servant (what he called a “public teacher”), whether in government, politics, or civil society. He left me to wrestle with lots of big ideas – even still, after all these years.

Why is mentoring important for everyone?

A mentor, simply put, is someone with whom you maintain an authentic relationship. That person isn’t typically a family member, or even really a friend, but rather someone with whom you can trust your own thinking and do so out loud. For me, Mr. Payton was that person, especially at a transformative age in my life. I will forever value his counsel – even the creative tension – that he offered so freely, so genuinely, and so meaningfully.

A message for my mentor...

While Mr. Payton passed nearly a decade ago, his imprint remains upon me and all of his former students around the globe. To the heavens, I say, “Thank you.