Pittsburgh businessman Greg Spencer, of Oakland, says he may be nearing retirement from Randall Industries, the chemical company he owns. But he says he has no plans to stop mentoring the young people who seek out his guidance and advice.
Spencer spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort as part of our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Below are excerpts of their conversation.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
On why he feels compelled to mentor young people starting out in life:
I came from a humble background. I was blessed to become successful, and it is an effective way of giving back. I actually think that it's my purpose. And when you think about how to identify your purpose, it comes to—what do you enjoy doing? What are you good at? And how do other people observe you in that role?
So, I recently came to that conclusion. This is my purpose, to mentor young men, primarily—although, I have mentored women as well—and I have been pretty successful at it.
How Spencer measures the impact of his relationships with mentees:
The beauty of mentoring is watching someone grow. What I love to observe is, when I'm mentoring with a young person, after spending time and answering questions they have—[seeing] their reaction to it.
[The mentees] are the ones who would define that they are now successful. So, they're corporate executives, tradesman, people that struggle everyday to make a difference in their own lives and their families lives. So, it's a range—and it's how they define success.
I have three mentees graduating this year—one with his Ph.D.; he was homeless when I met him. The other, his mother passed when he was in high school, of cancer. And he graduated Imani Christian Academy—I was on the board at that time—and he's graduating from Duquesne next month. Then the third just recently graduate from [Washington & Jefferson College] and is going on to get his master's.
On the keys to being an effective mentor:
It's listening. If you listen, you'll hear what's on their mind. They'll share with you, and then you can give them a little insight.
I used to tell them, 'There's nothing you've done that I haven't done or been involved in. So, don't worry about telling me something that will embarrass you, (LAUGHS) because it won't embarrass me.'
I could not stop [mentoring]. As long as I'm adding value and—as I mentioned—I felt called to do this. There will always be someone that's looking for advice, and I offer that. So, I don't see me being able to stop.