Mercer professor reflects on Maya Angelou | News
A Mercer University professor says Maya Angelou wasn't just an icon to him -- she was a mentor and friend.
Chester Fontenot first met Maya Angelou in his early 30s, through a mutual friend in Chicago, Illinois.
Fontenot describes Angelou as a talented and skilled woman. He also remembers her as being very personable.
"That's what struck me the most about her. That someone at that level, with that kind of fame could also be so personable," Fontenot says.
She was also a writer, dancer, and actor. And Fontenot said she was proud that she was the only professor at Wake Forest University who never attended college and did not have a degree -- though she had about 50 honorary degrees.
"She insisted, and rightly so, on those that didn't know her very well to call her Dr. Angelou, although she did not have a PhD," he said.
Fontenot says Angelou was willing to answer any of his questions, and he viewed her as a mentor.
He recalls some of Angelou's advice, "She told me you have to find your discipline. How the spirit is working with you. How your muse is working with you. Once you establish your discipline don't let anybody break it. She was talking to me about that kind of thing and it helped me mentally to advance in my career and be productive. "
Fontenot says that Angelou inspired many young people, like himself. He believes that her hard work and determination will continue to influence future generations.
"Her impact on American culture can not be overstated. She is such an iconic part of American culture that you really have to create a whole different category of person to talk about Maya Angelou."