I never knew Franklin Spencer as Franklin, but as Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer was my high school guidance counselor at Highland Park High School. When I told my wife (Sharon) that I was writing about the impact Mr. Spencer made upon my life, she said: “But high school guidance counselors don’t really have much influence over our lives.” Mr. Spencer was different.
“This is what I think we should do.” I was on the other side of Mr. Spencer’s desk as he was mapping out my future. “You will go to summer school and take some classes to get ahead. As a senior, you can then take classes at Highland Park Community College.” Taking Second Year Algebra during the summer was not my idea of fun, but I became a willing summer school student.
I didn’t realize that those few minutes in Mr. Spencer’s office would have an immense effect upon my life. I followed his plan completely. As a result, I was able to graduate from college (with studying each summer) in the summer of 1975. This was two years ahead of schedule. If I had graduated in 1977, I would have never met my wife. I would have never taught in Baltimore. South Africa and Portugal would just be places on the map instead of places where we have left our hearts and many friends.
Mr. Spencer also affected my life because he encouraged me to go beyond my own expectations. He helped me to see that I could do well in college and beyond. He didn’t speak down to me, but he spoke as through I could actually make some responsible decisions as a high school student.
I also learned from Mr. Spencer leadership skills that have helped me to this very day. As a senior, I was elected president of the National Honor Society. Mr. Spencer was our sponsor. He didn’t lead the group, but he guided us.
He allowed me to take the initiative on some projects. One project was bringing together all the National Honor Society chapters in the Detroit area. We had the first meeting at our school. Mr. Spencer helped, but several of us students worked together and we saw forty-two schools represented. Mr. Spencer gave me the chance to lead, but he also taught me that a real leader allows others to use their talents and abilities to fulfill projects. As a pastor, I still see the importance of the principle of delegation.