The newspaper man thanked the young woman for her honesty and her interest. As the day ended, he looked over the finalists and decided he'd give the young woman what she wanted - a chance.
That thoughtful newspaper man was none other than Jim Schurz, and the young woman was me. I was moved then that Jim would give me a chance. All that has followed in my professional life can be traced back to Jim's decision to open a door for me.
I worked at The Daily Mail that summer of 1974, and I must have met the standard for working hard because after I graduated from Journalism School, I was hired and worked at The Daily Mail for five wonderful years. I covered city and county government, and did features. (My favorite was a story that described the best treehouses in Washington County.) It was the best experience of my life.
Upon learning of the passing last week of this newspaper legend, it seemed important to acknowledge that single act of kindness done nearly 40 years ago. I can't think of a better day than Father's Day to publicly acknowledge that his decision that spring day ultimately transformed my life.
It led to a 10-year career as a reporter, and an even longer career as a business communications executive. I met my future husband in Hagerstown and had two wonderful children - one a future public defender, and the other a journalist with NBC in New York.
When Jim opened the door for me, he probably had no idea what it meant to my family. I was the daughter of an electrician, the first to graduate from college. Because Mr. Schurz allowed the flame in me to burn bright, I came to find out what I never knew in all the years I grew up: My ancestors had owned and operated one of the oldest newspapers in the state of Maryland, the St. Mary's Beacon, in the 1800s. Go figure - newspapering was in my blood and it took someone who also had newspaper ancestry to indirectly identify that for me.
It would be an overstatement to say Jim Schurz was my mentor. Mentors are important and everyone should have one. But even smaller, single acts of kindness - like taking a chance on someone who had high aspirations to make something of their professional lives - is equally as impactful. It is further evidence that Jim Schurz was not just a great newspaper man. He was an incredible human being.
Pat King Macht, a former Daily Mail reporter, is the assistant executive officer for public affairs for the California Public Employees' Retirement System. She has been married for 31 years to former Morning Herald reporter Maury Macht, who is deputy city editor of the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee.