Gotta be Gilmartin

CNN’s feature “The person who changed my life” got me thinking who is that for me. I did not have to think long.
Aside from my parents, my kids and my wife, the answer is clearly Mr. James Gilmartin.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mention this or written about it. Jim, who insists on me calling him by his first name no matter how difficult I find it, and I have talked about this often. Just recently he sent an email in which he wrote, “I sometimes wonder what you would have done with your life had I not made that phone call in the summer of 1967.”
I’ve wondered the same myself.
The phone call he refers to is the one he made asking me if I’d like a part-time job writing sports for the local newspaper, the Sunday Dispatch. I had graduated from high school one month earlier and was enrolled for the fall semester at Wilkes College (now University) to major in fine arts.
Mr. Gilmartin, my high school World Cultures teacher, said he had been writing (anonymously) for the paper for several years and “it paid for my master’s degree.” He told me he knew I knew a lot about sports and he knew I could write. It would be a nice part-time job for me while in college, he suggested.
All I had to do to get started was to show up at the paper on Saturday about 2 in the afternoon. I did, and wound up not leaving until 2 the next morning. After just one day I was hooked.
While I continued as an art major for three years and then switched to psychology, journalism, or as I like to say “newspapering,” got into my soul. The old-timers would tell me I had “ink in my veins” and I knew what they meant. This was clearly the job for me.
I was 17 years old that Saturday afternoon and have been involved in the business ever since, close to 50 years now.
Even when I left full-time newspapering for full-time college teaching in 1990, it was my career in journalism that got me the job. And while for the past 26 years teaching has come first, I never really left the newspaper field.
In many ways, newspapering has defined me. It has challenged me, formed me, opened doors for me, brought thousands of people into my life, and provided me with thousands of opportunities to serve my fellow man.
And all because of that phone call.
Yes, Mr. Gilmartin, you are the person who changed my life. Thank you, sir.

Ed Ackerman