1985

One Man Who Made a Difference

By Captain Dave Price '85, USN

As I completed my 22nd year of commissioned service, I reflected back on the individuals who were central to any success I might have enjoyed since graduating from the Naval Academy with the Class of 1985. Actually, it didn't take much reflection as the inspirations of a few special people are forever imprinted on my memory. Amongst them are my parents and wife, of course, a few close friends and a handful of truly great military leaders. But at the very center of my education as a naval officer while at the Academy stands one man who inspired me with the most basic elements of leadership. Honor and integrity were not just words he carelessly bandied about; they were character traits on which to spend a lifetime pursuing. His name?  Dr. Karel Montor, Professor of Leadership, demanding mentor to generations of midshipmen and, when necessary, nemesis of midshipmen who displayed less than the proper pursuit of officer-like qualities while wandering The Yard.

I was introduced to Professor Montor, as were all of my classmates, during Plebe Summer in July 1981. He proctored the demographic and psychological surveys and, if my memory serves, also gave us a lecture or two on how to do well at the academy (I sure wish I had listened better to that advice!).  As I'm sure those who went before us did, we tended to think he was a straight-laced, hard-nosed old man and probably had little business advising us on expected behavior since he wasn't even a naval officer! Plebe year rushed by and we all became Youngsters and then second classmen. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Montor for the mandatory second-class leadership course, NL203. In retrospect I'd like to think I purposely signed up for his class but probably would not have voluntarily submitted to having a civilian teach me about naval leadership. In any case, I found myself sitting in his classroom up in Luce Hall for what would be the beginning of an inspirational education and friendship, and a lifelong respect for his dedication to instilling values in us as midshipmen; values that would hold us in good stead through thick and thin, war and peace.

I still chuckle at the thought of some of his methods of making points to unwary midshipmen. "Why are you littering my classroom," he admonished a midshipman in an irate tone one day after entering the room and strolling up to stand next to the young man who was seated at his desk. A crumpled piece of paper lay accusingly on the floor, closer to this desk than to any other. The rest of us were expressing noticeable relief at being out of the line of fire but also hints of amusement to see one of our classmates squirm under the professor's stern gaze while he awaited an answer. The desks were all lined up against the wall facing the center of the classroom to facilitate discussion amongst the students, which gave us all a front-row seat to the action (a classroom design I greatly appreciate now in my own seminars). "I didn't put that there," came the almost instant reply from the midshipman, his tone defensive and hurt, with a shadow of resentment on his face for having been put on the spot in front of his peers. He instantly began fidgeting and worrying his lip, knowing full well his answer didn't conform to one of the five basic responses but thinking it OK to try on a civilian professor in the academic classroom environment. Of course, a simple "no excuse, sir," would likely have derailed the professor's line of questioning! "Perhaps not," the professor's retort came back in rehearsed staccato as if he knew exactly what the midshipman's response would be; as if this was a lesson he had sprung on countless hapless victims in past classes. "But you left it there, didn't you, and that is just as bad," he emphasized and drew out the last five words to ensure everyone got his point, obviously memorable as evidenced by my vivid recall over 24 years later.

I remember that every year Dr. Montor gave his used-car lecture in an attempt to educate us on car-buying financial dos and don'ts; his advice being to buy a used car since a new one would depreciate by thousands of dollars the moment it was driven off the lot while you still owed more money on it than it was now worth. Of course, in the exuberance and surefootedness of youth, many of us purchased new vehicles as soon as we could borrow enough money to do so, the most common opportunity being with our first-class car loans. When it came time to choose an elective for my last semester at the Academy, I very purposely signed up for Professor Montor's advanced leadership seminar with the specific goal of spending more time in his presence, hopeful his ethic of "doing right simply because it is right" would rub off and make me a better officer and leader.  Then, following graduation, I volunteered for and was chosen as his assistant while stashed for six months awaiting flight school. Spending so much time with him just validated for me that he walked the walk.

I distinctly remember his quick pace as we walked to the many meetings or events he was involved in around the Academy, but he always stopped to pick up trash whenever he found it in his path. He would also stop to praise or correct midshipmen for their attempts at meeting standards. I also remember that he had two phones in his office, one for official business paid for by the taxpayers, one for personal business paid for by him. There was no gray area for Professor Montor. Right because it's right. I sometimes find myself picking up litter while walking, replaying in my mind those times spent with him or, since I don't always live up to his ideal, finding myself stabbed with a little bit of guilt when I hurriedly pass by litter on my way to what I'm convinced must be a highly important appointment.

On the occasions when I find myself outside during morning colors, I am reminded of his advice not to be one of those who hurries through the nearest doorway to avoid standing at attention and saluting for the duration of the National Anthem, or skulking inside one's car until the moment has passed. To this day, when confronted with difficult decisions I find myself wondering what Professor Montor would do and the same simple answer always comes back: right because it's right. Professor Montor is interred in the columbarium overlooking his beloved Naval Academy. On the few opportunities I've had to visit in the years since his passing, I always walk out to Hospital Point to say hello, pausing to look back across Dorsey Creek, trying to see the Academy as he saw it.  Of course, he saw it as a place where young men and women who chose service to their nation could learn to do right simply because it is right. In that vein, one of the projects I worked on for Professor Montor during the summer and fall of 1985 was a set of video vignettes highlighting un-officer-like behavior. While recently sorting through over twenty years of saved papers I was fortunate enough to find his list of behaviors on which that project was based. They are faithfully reproduced below, as applicable today as they were when Professor Montor first put them to paper on an electric typewriter.right because they are right.

Mistakes Made by Midshipmen which if Made as Officers Would be Detrimental to Their Careers

1. When standing in front of a senior's desk - looking at the papers on that desk.
2. Looking at one's watch or clock on the wall - thus giving the impression that you have more important things to do than be with the person you are.
3. Shaking hands with a limp hand.
4. Chewing gum.
5. Appearing in less than perfect dress.
6. Publicly criticizing your boss.
7. Making unflattering comments about others in the organization.
8. Breaking in on a meeting held by others, in lieu of waiting to be recognized.
9. Either not returning phone calls or not leaving a message that you had returned the call.
10. Sitting down in the presence of a senior before being given the invitation to do so.
11. Not getting up when a senior comes into the room.
12. Not recognizing that the wife of a senior officer is sometimes acting in a semi-official position - trying to enlist the aid of others on behalf of her husband's responsibilities.
13. Running down the service to others you come in contact with.
14. Not getting reports in on time.
15. Not turning in completed staff work - properly written.
16. Not asking for help when you know or even think that you might fall behind schedule.
17. Failing to keep the boss advised of your various activities.
18. Failing to get the boss's permission before going ahead with a project.
19. Not giving your subordinates the same degree of respect you give to your superiors.
20. Becoming drunk at any time.
21. Becoming involved in an altercation whether in or out of the service.
22. Becoming overweight.
23. Being brusk and/or impolite while talking to someone on the phone or answering the phone.
24. Not providing an answer to an RSVP.
25. Failing to attend a meeting as scheduled.
26. Failing to cancel a meeting before not showing up.
27. Failing to send a thank-you note after attending a social event.
28. Telling people what you think they want to hear.
29. Failing to point out to your boss that his tie, etc. is on crooked.
30. Failing to alert others as to your whereabouts.
31. Using foul language.
32. Failing to volunteer to help out when you have the time to do so.
33. Keeping bankers hours all the time.
34. Failing to support the objectives of your boss.
35. Failing to support the objectives of your boss's boss.
36. Making excuses when you have failed to do something.
37. Not recognizing the standards of conduct required of an officer.
38. Doing something wrong because someone else has done the same thing or no one told you not to do it a particular way.
39. Driving in such a way as to endanger others or simply appear to only have your own wishes and thoughts in mind.
40. Mixing your business and personal funds together, (especially to the advantage of your personal funds).
41. Not paying all of your debts on time and/or failing to get extensions from creditors to whom you are late in your payments.
42. Having a wife/husband who shows no interest in the service by publicly saying so.
43. By shipping goods of others under your weight limitations.
44. Inflating travel and per diem costs.
45. Unnecessarily spending money or travel funds in excess of what seems reasonable.
46. Failing to observe the feelings of others.
47. Displaying bigotry with relation to racial, cultural, and sex difference bases.
48. Constantly talking about what is good for your career - giving the impression that you come first before all else in the organization.
49. Failing to help others when you know of their troubles, have the opportunity and have been directly asked to help or have had indicated that you should think about helping.
50. Accepting a social invitation and then canceling the day before - sometimes only remembering to cancel because you have been reminded.
51. Moving government equipment around without checking with the person responsible for the equipment - thus causing lots of confusion.
52. Calling someone on the phone and then forgetting to either hang up or putting the call on hold - thus effectively locking up the person's line who was originally called.
53. Failing to hand an assignment in on time, AND failing to tell the boss that you are going to be late in handing the assignment in.
54. Coming to a meeting late without notifying the boss that you are going to be late - and not calling ahead to say you are going to be late.
55. Failing to consult with others on matters that should be coordinated between several groups.
56. Yawning with an open mouth.
57. Failing to eat slowly and wiping one's mouth before drinking.
58. Losing papers that have been loaned to you or failing to remember to return them.
59. Not keeping a copy of material submitted so that if the original gets lost the work has to be repeated. (This can be a disaster not only in the Fleet but when working on an advanced degree.)
60. Switching who attends a meeting without checking in advance whether it is permissible to do so from a subject and/or security standpoint.
61. Bringing a non-cleared individual to a secret briefing.
62. Using the office spaces and typewriters in areas to which you are not assigned, and without asking permission.
63. Going through a line in a cafeteria, and when it goes slowly eating up the food and then taking seconds but only paying once.
64. Submitting a report to your boss that you prepared a year earlier without indicating to him that you didn't go back over the entire area and re-research it. Submitting the same report to two different teachers without telling both what you are doing.
65. Falling behind in doing an assignment and then not doing it totally right so that you can hand it in on time - without letting your boss know in advance of your problems - thus the report isn't right and there isn't anything the boss can do about it.
66. Doing the minimum to get by.
67. Not becoming proficient in a number of areas, but rather thinking of oneself as expert in just a few areas.
68. Not holding the door open for someone following you.
69. Passing by a piece of paper on an otherwise clean floor - and not picking it up.
70. When you have made an error, such as being late to a meeting or being unprepared - don't be defensive when it is brought to your attention.
71. If you were supposed to be prepared to talk on a particular subject, but knew that that you weren't going to be called on - or had been given an additional assignment (but were still supposed to know all about the first one) don't fail to be prepared - plan on the unexpected - such as during pre-registration when you are authorized to come to class late - you still have to take the quiz, or you are involved in sports and thus won't have to take the PCR exam at the regular time - and then it snows and you do have to take it without having the benefit of the last four hours of pre-exam studying.
72. Telling one of the people to whom you are responsible for completing a project that you didn't have enough time to work on it because you had other assignments.
73. Not leaving your name when you return a phone call - thus no one knows that you tried to return the call - just figures you forgot.
74. Forgetting to pay back a personal loan - on time.
75. Issuing a memo with a week old date on it and asking for your asked for date to be met.
76. Only covering the mouth piece on a phone when talking to someone in your office/room/phone booth about someone on the other end of the line.
77. Not listening to all instructions/advice and not taking notes (i.e. taking your entire loan with one group - rather than splitting it up with two or more banks).
78. Showing films to subordinates without first having previewed the film yourself.
79. Going to someone for advice but not taking paper and pencil with you to make notes - thus indicating that you are not really interested.
80. Sitting in a meeting and while someone is presenting information - looking off into the distance and/or doodling, i.e. appearing not to be intently listening.
81. Making sure your listener - especially if he is your superior - knows that no one in their right mind would ever propose as stupid a suggestion as he just did.
82. Letting a speaker know by facial expression or shaking your head that you disagree with most that he is saying.
83. When listening to another speak - formulating what you want to say as soon as he is finished talking - rather than reflecting on their thoughts and being responsive to what they were saying.
84. Having only enough time to talk to those who are your superiors or who you think can help you.
85. Observing some piece of equipment that is malfunctioning - but neither doing anything or reporting it - since it isn't your responsibility. "You will make beautiful music in your career if you are technically competent, administratively adept, and act with integrity, honesty, and vigor along with helping your boss, peers, and subordinates."

- Professor Karel Montor

 

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