OPINION – In less than two weeks I’ll be celebrating my 28th year behind a radio microphone.
Usually I commemorate this anniversary by comparing a pay stub from my first radio job with my most recent one to see if I’m any closer to becoming upwardly mobile. But this year, I’m inclined to do something a bit different.
As I look back over my broadcast career, I clearly recognize the influence of an individual with whom I crossed paths just before I got into radio.
Dr. Fran Tanner was the head of the Speech and Drama department at the College of Southern Idaho when I enrolled in the fall of 1984. Since I was attending on a speech scholarship, I spent a good deal of time under her guidance. I couldn’t have had a finer mentor.
Tanner introduced me to the finer points of public speaking including never-forgotten lessons about correctly pronouncing words like “often,” “poor,” and “just.” This may seem a trifling thing, but mispronouncing simple words can detract from a speaker’s message and credibility. Tanner worked hard to ensure her students understood the power of proper enunciation and articulation. Getting the little details right can make a huge difference.
Perhaps the greatest impact she had on my life was while she was coaching me as a member of the CSI forensics team. Forensics, in this sense, refers to the art of competitive speech and debate. It can include a variety of speaking techniques, oral interpretation, formal persuasion and values and policy debate.
It was under Tanner’s tutelage that I first learned how to critically analyze issues, how to express myself clearly and fluently, and how to persuade my audience. It’s no exaggeration to state that I’ve used the foundational lessons Tanner taught me during every single day of my radio career.
Her influence has also helped thousands of other students who went on to become lawyers, teachers, executives, and public figures. All can attest that Tanner helped them become better communicators. Ironically, few of us seemed to recognize the power of what she was teaching us at the time. Its value has only become clear as we look back and realize how deeply her lessons have influenced us.
She could be stern and highly demanding of her students, but that is what made her lessons stick with us for life. Tanner expected us to give nothing less than our very best effort. Her critiques were thorough and absolutely on target. No one was allowed to simply coast through her classes.
Despite her diminutive frame, Tanner was a towering presence both in and out of the classroom. She was always professional, always proper; yet many of us stayed in touch with her years after we’d graduated and moved on. She literally wrote the book on Readers Theater and speech and drama instructors across the nation still use her books.
Under her guidance, the performing arts program at CSI grew from a tiny department consisting of Tanner herself, to seven full-time faculty members with numerous adjuncts. The CSI forensics program has garnered numerous regional and national speech and debate awards over the past 30 years. Her influence has expanded far beyond her Southern Idaho community where she taught.
Sadly, the curtain came down on Dr. Fran Tanner’s remarkable life this past week when she passed away at the age of 79.
Thanks to social media, it has been relatively easy to reconnect with former classmates who studied under Tanner. It has been fascinating to see how many of her former students have come forward to express their appreciation for her undeniable impact on their lives.
I wish to add my voice that that chorus.
How many of us live our lives really believing that our influence will be felt long after we are gone? What might we do different if we understood that others would someday look back and see our footprints in the soil of their lives?
Thank you, Dr. Fran Tanner, for all you did to point me in the right direction. Your influence will continue in my life and the lives of the countless others you mentored.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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