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Mentoring Out of Love

Retired USF staffer Wanda Mundy is still connected to students whose lives she touched in her role as an informal mentor.

By Barbara Melendez
     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (March 16, 2016) – On one of Wanda Mundy’s last days at USF before retiring, student Ashley Day stopped by her desk to make her promise she would attend Day’s latest beauty contest that weekend. Always one to go above and beyond her responsibilities as an administrative assistant in Student Affairs, Mundy extended herself in a nurturing way, even when it involved weekends. But that’s what a great many USF employees do as informal mentors.

Mundy credits the candy dish she kept on her desk as the thing that brought them in but ask anyone and find out it had more to do with her personality.

“I used to think of many of them the same way I think of my nephews and nieces,” Mundy said. It turns out that she has ended up with more than a dozen who make up a special group she describes as “my USF sons and daughters, since I didn’t have children of my own,” she said.

Those sons and daughters have kept in touch with Mundy long after graduating from USF and she speaks about each of them with motherly pride.

The USF Sons

Among her "USF sons," there’s David Jordan who first showed up as “a darling little kid who at first appeared to be shy but then developed into ‘Mr. Personality,’” she said with a big smile. After he graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in communication Mundy was invited to his wedding where she was introduced to his mother, father and brothers as his “university mom.” With the master’s degree in adult education he earned in 2001 he is now a science resource teacher in Wimauma, Florida.

Mundy described Brian Tannenbaum as her “Jewish son. He acted tough on the outside, but as I got to know him I found out he was really a teddy bear.

“When he first walked in the door he was very disrespectful, very arrogant. As I got to know him, the next thing I knew, I kind of began to like him!” she exclaimed.

Mundy met the 1991 graduate and political science major’s parents and sister over the years, was invited to his graduation and his wedding. Tannenbaum is now a defense attorney in Miami, with a wife, two daughters and a busy practice. She remembers him as “a man with vision who was important to bringing football to USF.”

There’s Brett Chambers who graduated in 2000, now an anti-money laundering analyst; Eldridge Bush, the 1998 graduate from the College of Education who now lives in Atlanta working as a DUI instructor; and Troy Thomas who received his MBA from USF in 1997 and is now a business analyst with Aetna. "He didn’t let impaired sight stop him.” He included her as one of the first to learn how his sight was restored. He keeps in touch on a regular basis and recently let her know he was moving to Baltimore.

Entrepreneur Lawrence Joseph, a 2009 USF graduate, lives in Arizona, stays in touch and keeps Mundy on his Christmas card list. “I ran into Ralph Moore (College of Business, 1994) at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade last month, with his sweet smile,” she said. “He ran over and gave me a great big hug.”

Darnell Ingram, who now lives in Washington, D.C., graduated with a degree in engineering and went on to Stetson Law School. Matt Aycox, who graduate from FAMU Law Scholl and now lives in Georgia "calls me 'Aunt Wanda.' 

"With so many lawyer sons, I think I am pretty much legally covered," she said with another laugh.

And then there’s Edwin Narain. “I call him my special child,” Mundy says. “I couldn’t get close to him at first but I didn’t give up. He just has to get to know you.”

She fondly remembers how, “He ran for student body president, won the first time around and then lost his re-election bid. He was quite devastated, but I assured him over and over that he would be okay," she said. “I kept in constant communication with him and was glad to see him finally come around and move past it.”

Move past it he did. Narain ran successfully for the Florida legislature and now serves as the state representative for District 61. "I worked on his campaign to his much-deserved victory! I attended his graduation and wedding and he includes me in everything,” Mundy said. “He’s presidential material, all-around smart.”

About Mundy, he says, "Next to my natural parents, Wanda has been my biggest supporter. She stuck by me through the best times and through some of the toughest times in my life. She has always had a kind word and would go to any lengths to ensure my success. She is my own real life guardian angel. I love her very much."

The USF Daughters

Her “USF daughter” Kristie Ali, a criminology major in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, is now working for the University of Tampa and pursuing an MBA and a masters in marketing. Elizabeth Ehiogu majored in Public Health (2012) and now works for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. And there’s Sandy Macenat who also graduated in 2012, another Public Health major also at HUD. "She calls me her Florida mom," Mundy said. To name a few…

“Interestingly, I found the girls didn’t need the same nurturing that boys need,” she said.

But at least one of Mundy’s “daughters” felt nurtured.

Ali said, “College was such a pivotal time in my personal and professional growth and Ms. Wanda was there for it all. I could talk with her about anything and learn from every conversation. She was also such a great friend and the best part of our relationship is the laughter!”

She went on to say, “She taught me everything from office management, to general chats about life. Ms. Wanda will always be in my life. Our encounters are very limited nowadays due to both of us being busy bees, but there is never a day she isn't in my mind. We still keep in contact although it is not as frequent. I truly care for and love her. She knows that I'm always here for her if she ever needs me and vice versa.”

Originally from Kentucky, Mundy began working in USF’s College of Nursing and switched to art education, the Provost’s Office in the 1980s and went on to Student Affairs where she concluded her 35-year stint at the university.

Still calling Tampa home and busier than ever, Mundy finds herself more focused on senior citizens at University Village and her church these days.

Mundy said of the many young people she interacted with over the years. “All were very sweet but the ones I stayed close to were just different from the rest, very respectful and came from what I’d call ‘good stock.’”

Of her sons, she says, “They’re all very different from each other. What they have in common is that they’re compassionate and caring guys. If I had a daughter I’d have wanted her to marry any one of them.”

Of her daughters, she says, “They were such sweet young ladies with promising futures. They all loved my baking, especially, my red velvet cupcakes. But more importantly, they loved the attention I gave them when they entered the room. They all made my day!”

The busy retiree fondly remembers hearing from students who said, “I gotta go see Ms. Mundy,” she said. “I love them all and miss them. I love young people period. They bring so much energy. They got me into the 21st century with Facebook and I’d be lost in this new high-tech world without them!”

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