Farrell Chiles as a Role Model and Mentor

Role Model and Mentor: Farrell Chiles

Submitted by: Donna Marie Landucci

When I walked in the door of Bank of America thirty-some odd years ago, I never imagined I would meet the person most instrumental in changing my life.

I had spent my life up to that point being a door mat – never sticking up for myself, never speaking out – I just faded away into the background and watched everyone else live their lives.

I was barely out of high school when I started with BofA. I thought you just had to show up at 8:00 and leave at 5:00 and that was it. I knew nothing about enhancing my skills or marketing myself or doing what it takes to get ahead in the game of business.

Neither of my parents were good role models – so the only role model I had growing up was my grandmother – and what she had to offer was how to be generous and nurturing –I acquired those qualities (which is probably why I spent half my life as a doormat) – but I never had anyone who guided me or taught me what I needed to know to survive in the world – or even in the workplace! However, I was about to meet my first role model and mentor…

When I first met Farrell Chiles, I thought he was somewhat annoying. He sat behind me and it seemed he was constantly expressing his opinion about everything and anything – only I didn’t want to hear it. So I just ignored him until he was promoted and moved to the other side of the office – and out of my hair!!

But my opinion of Farrell was about to change...

It was Farrell’s turn to organize the office football pool. One woman didn’t pay for her square even though Farrell warned that anyone who didn’t pay would lose their square, and if their number came up, they would be out of luck. She never paid and wouldn’t you know it, that square won. And just as Farrell had promised – she wasn’t about to see a penny of it!

I watched in awe as everyone from Farrell’s boss - to his boss’ boss - to the vice president came in to talk to him to see if they could reach a compromise. They wanted him to give her the $. Then they wanted him to split it with her. I was amazed at Farrell’s determination. He wouldn’t budge!! He relentlessly stood up for what he believed was right. I would have caved in when they suggested sharing the pot – if I hadn’t cracked way before then – which was more likely.

Farrell explained that it wasn’t fair to everyone who paid -- not to mention the person who would have to go after people who hadn’t paid - and then lost…  

I wanted to be like Farrell. To not be afraid to stand up for what I believed in or what I felt was the right thing to do. Farrell didn’t hesitate to stand up for himself in something as insignificant as a football pool and I couldn’t even do it for things that were very important in my life. It was time I made a change. I started out slowly, but eventually I learned to stand up for myself - and nowadays – look out! I am no longer a doormat! Instead, I am a strong, determined woman - with an opinion!

I developed a lot of respect for Farrell that day. We became friends and he either saw potential in me or felt sorry for me - or maybe it was because I was the only one on his side with the football pool - but for whatever reason, he became my mentor. He told me about volunteering for the American Institute of Banking and that I could take the classes that I had set up for AIB. He pointed out the benefits of continuing education - because the more classes I took, the more I would learn about business and the easier it would be for me to be successful. He also told me how joining committees or boards could also help advance my career. And he taught me that it doesn’t take much effort to help others by teaching them what you know. Finally, I felt like I had some guidance and direction.

I started out taking the classes that I set up for AIB. I eventually went back to school – and although I never got my Bachelor’s degree, I earned four associate degrees.

During my volunteer work with AIB, I joined a Public Speaking Club which helped me get over my acute shyness – I was terrified at first, but now it doesn’t even phase me to speak in front of a crowd and people who know me now don’t believe I was ever shy!

I put the things I learned from Farrell to good use through the years. I kept taking classes, networking, volunteering and teaching others what I know. And most importantly – standing up for what I believed in.

For several years I also volunteered at my children’s elementary school by joining the site committee, teaching art and writing stories to read to the children. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I had.

Last July as I was taking BART home from San Francisco, a young man in his 20’s approached me. He knew my name – which surprised me - as I didn’t think I had ever seen him before. He explained that he was a student in one of the art classes that I had taught. Although I hadn’t recognized him, I remembered him. He hated art! I spent extra time with him trying to convince him that art was not only wonderful, but necessary. I succeeded! Now, fifteen years later, he told me that his life could have gone in a very different direction if I hadn’t sparked his passion for art – instead, his life ended up taking a more positive path. He thanked me. I got chills. It made all the volunteer work that I had done in the past couple of decades worth every minute – it was definitely on the ‘top ten’ list of my best moments.

I realized that I had never thanked the person who was my role model and mentor for several years. I hadn’t seen Farrell for almost 20 years and wasn’t even sure if he’d remember me – or if I’d even be able to find him. I checked the internet – and there he was! I always knew I’d be reading about him one day.

I called him and before I knew it, he was mentoring me again. He can’t help himself! I don’t think he even realizes he does it. Immediately I felt the unbelievable energy I always got from him – even after all these years. After our conversation, I wasn’t thinking about what I had done in my life but what I still could and should be doing. He still motivated me. I tried to thank him for all he had done for me in the past but he wouldn’t let me. He just kept saying ‘no big deal’.

So, Farrell, maybe you can learn something from me for a change! Accept that you have made a positive change in someone’s life and feel good about it – because for me – it was a big deal! Thank you.