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Mentoring relationship leads to passing of torch decades later
A mentoring relationship 23 years in the making between two alumni of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law is key to the success of the GAR Foundation and the thousands of people touched by the nonprofit organization’s grant projects every year in Northeast Ohio. Christine Amer Mayer ’96 earlier this year took over for her long-term mentor, Rob Briggs ’66, as president of the GAR Foundation.
“I’ve known Christine for a long time,” Briggs said. “She’s more than ready to take on the new challenges and responsibilities it takes to run an organization like this.”
The GAR Foundation, founded by Galen and Ruth Roush, is in its 45th year of strengthening local communities in Summit County and the surrounding region by providing grants for programs and organizations seeking to make a positive impact. This spring, the foundation awarded $900,000 to local nonprofit organizations, including $10,000 to fund community legal aid services.
“We’re trying to put funds in places where they’ll have the most impact. We have some specific strategies in areas, such as a focus on education, and we seek out organizations that are best suited for achieving those strategies,” Amer Mayer said. Each year, more than 40 percent of GAR funds go toward education programs, including Akron public schools and early childhood education programs. “As president, I oversee the day-to-day process of the grant process, but I’m also charged with steering the foundation’s strategy.”
Amer Mayer was able to glean valuable experience from working closely with Briggs as his chief operating officer and legal counsel. Though Briggs has stepped down after 15 years serving as president, he continues to be part of GAR Foundation’s mission.
“I’m going to be there but operating more on a volunteer basis,” he said. Briggs has been part of GAR Foundation for 20 years and was the founding chair for the Fund for Economic Future, a collaborative project that combined the efforts of nearly 100 different organizations. “Now I’ll be part of the distribution committee that reviews grant proposals and decides where grants will be awarded.”
Briggs and Amer Mayer worked together at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP before beginning to work at GAR Foundation full-time. But they first met several years before that.
“I met Rob when I was 16 years old. I was interviewing with him because he was a local alumni interviewer for Duke University,” Amer Mayer said. “I went to his office and met him, the big managing partner of the firm at the time. I was completely intimidated, but he was very warm and welcoming.”
They stayed in touch through her time at Duke University and then law school at Moritz. Amer Mayer started at Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs as a new associate and continued to grow as a lawyer with Briggs’ advice.
“We always had a good rapport, and he was helpful from the very start. He encouraged me to stretch myself,” she said. “He was as busy as a person could be as the managing partner of the firm. But as busy as he was, I could always get on his calendar.”
Establishing connections with a mentor can be essential to a new lawyer’s growth, and that relationship soon can benefit both partners as opportunities to act as a sounding board and source of advice emerge. Amer Mayer and Briggs suggest that young people not be afraid to seek out mentors, even if they’re at a high level, and try to connect with people on a personal level as well as a professional one. For them, what started out with a simple pre-law school interview bloomed into a relationship that’s been valuable to both of them for more than 20 years.
“We looked out for each other,” Amer Mayer said. “Our relationship now is many, many years in the making, but it started with just one meeting.”
This article was written by Catie Coleman.