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Leadership Stories

A Positive Impact

Submitted by Heather Henkel, Southeast Region to the family of Abby Sallenger

Toward the end of the L101 course, I learned that our office had lost someone special. Abby Sallenger was one of the best coastal hazards scientists and a founding member of the USGS-St. Petersburg office, among many other things. While I didn't work for Abby directly, I've known him since I started at the office in 1997. I remember that even though I was new to the office, Abby took the time to stop and have a conversation with me, and overall made me feel welcome. Although he was a leader in his field and a former Chief Scientist, he never gave the impression he was unapproachable or too busy to say "hello." During PI meetings, he was often a voice of reason and respect, something that made an impression on me. He also was very caring about his staff, another trait that I took note of. I mention all of this to emphasize the fact that Abby made an impression on me, even though I was not someone whom he directly managed. I think there's a lesson in that.

(The obituary below speaks more eloquently about his career, and the wide-reaching affect it had:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/us/asbury-h-sallenger-jr-expert-on-coastal-hazards-dies-at-63.html)

I had planned on giving the Leadership coin to Abby when I returned, using it as a chance to let him know that I felt I was another person who had been positively affected by knowing him. Unfortunately I never got that chance. Abby passed away suddenly during our L101 course. I thought a lot about what to do with the coin, perhaps leaving it in his office or passing it along to someone else. In the end I decided to leave it in the sympathy card I gave to Abby's family. Like this email, I wanted others (most importantly his family) to know that to me, Abby led his life in a way that was something to use as an example as I continue to build my career.

As I mentioned earlier, many others knew Abby much better than I did. But I think one of the important takeaways from this story is that you may not realize the lives you can positively touch and that you shouldn't wait to thank someone for the positive impact they have had in your life....



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