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For Many, Fathers Taught Life Lessons by Setting an Example

by on June 15, 2014 7:45 AM

Fatherly advice isn’t limited to telling children to buck up or buckle down. For many in State College, the best advice from their father wasn’t advice at all.

It was an example.

Katerina Kostadinova remembers when her father emigrated with her family from Bulgaria. In acute need of a job to feed his kids, Mr. Kostadinova secured an interview as a programmer. On nerve and confidence alone, he landed the job.

He spent the next three months learning to program.

As Kostadinova watched her father build a successful programming career, she learned the value of confidence. Though she’s “never done anything as drastic as that,” it’s influenced how she holds herself and interacts with others.

Kostadinova now works in the Global Programs Office at Penn State. When someone asks how she is, Kostadinova always responds with great joy and enthusiasm, even if she's nervous or unsure.

“That confidence in myself helps me lift my own spirits, and hopefully other people’s as well,” Kostadinova says.

Jamie Weaver of Penn State’s Office of Engineering Diversity says the best advice her father gave her “wasn’t spoken advice.” Instead, watching his dedicated work ethic, his compassion and his honesty gave her a model to emulate.

He began working as a floor sweeper in an engineering office in Bellefonte. Forty years and a number of positions later, he’s risen to general manager.

“It just really shows how important it is to give the best of yourself to the people you’re working with everyday,” Weaver says. “If you’re loyal and put in your hard work, you will be rewarded for it.”

State College resident Frank McGuire says he was inspired to always follow his dreams from watching his father. Though McGuire says his dad never worked for more than five years at any one job, he was always brave enough to take chances and move upwards.

“I think he was always willing to take the risk of saying ‘I’m not happy here,’” McGuire says. “But if you stick to your principles, you’ll end up in a better spot.”

Penn State English Professor Scott Smith says his father always taught him to be critical of the mistakes the elder Smith had made. This helped Smith learn and gave him the freedom to explore his identity “without feeling I had to rebel or emulate.”

Though his father was a farmer and a chemist (and though Smith nearly studied chemistry), he “felt more inspired by language, and I never had to worry about causing disappointment.”

Now with two young sons, Smith hopes to give his sons the same acceptance that helped him find himself. He says he wants to teach them to look at the world like his father, who “saw value in many different things.”

Perhaps the shared lesson from all these experiences is that following your father’s example can help you grow and learn. And that’s pretty good advice.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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