On the afternoon of Aug.4, MIPA students along with staffers said farewell to one of the Most Valuable Persons on campus, Betsy Pollard Rau. With 30 years at MIPA under her belt—18 of those years as the workshop director, along with one year as assistant director—it is safe to say that Rau represents everything that the MIPA summer program stands for.
Current Assistant Director Chad Sanders said he recalls her personality as exactly the same as when he had her as his eighth grade English teacher 27 years ago.
“She’s nutty, crazy, all over the place, inspirational, knowledgeable,” Sanders said. “She was also my class adviser in high school, so I remember working with her on class projects like float building and class trips.”
The friendships Rau has formed over the years are more than just that, they’re relationships. The relationship she has with co-MIPA Director Cheryl Pell is arguably one of the strongest relationships within the entire camp.
“Betsy’s one of those people where they come into a room and you know she’s there,” Pell said. “I’m sure the first time I met her she made an impression because she just always does.
Pell has known Rau as a close friend for 24 years.
“I guess we’re the newlywed couple,” joked Pell. “I can tell her anything without worrying about her having to judge (me) or anything like that.”
Pell said Rau met her in Barcelona, Spain, and they traveled together on a train to Italy. It was that event, Pell said, that strengthened their relationship.
“When you travel with someone, you get to know them more than you think you already do,” she said. “It was wonderful. She’s just a very generous person.”
Even students—both veterans and newcomers—have been able to build relationships in the short amount of days they have that they feel will leave a lasting impression on them.
MIPA veteran Abby Kehres from Findlay High School said she loves Rau’s “guts” and how she “just goes out there and does ‘it’.”
“She’s awesome,” Kehres said.
Another MIPA veteran, Rachel Podnar from Lakota East High School, described Rau as “fabulous, entertaining and an amazing singer.”
Even MIPA newcomer Chris Ehrmann from Lake Orion High School said he is almost mad that this was only his first year at the MIPA Summer Journalism Workshops. “I really wish I could have the chance to get to know (Rau) over a few years,” he said.
With all the relationships Rau has established over the years, Pell said Rau saying goodbye to the camp can be just as tough, if not tougher, on the staff and students.
“It’s going to be hard because we’ve (directed the camp) together for so long,” said Pell, who also plans to leave after the next few months. “It’s kind of something that you don’t want to happen but you’re glad that it’s happening because it’s time. We both know it’s time to leave.”
Pell’s eyes then began to tear up.
“I called (Rau) in the spring and I said, ‘Betsy, let’s call it off.’ We’ve always said we’re going out together, and now it’s time.”
Sanders also contributed a few parting comments to his former teacher and mentor.
“Thank you for your guidance and your mentorship,” Sanders said. “There have been a lot of times where I’ve needed a hand and you’ve helped me…also for friendship, a lot of laughs and future laughs. It’s been fun.”
Rau herself said she recognizes the impact MIPA has had on her life.
“Some of my best friends in the world I’ve met through MIPA,” she said. “My kids have gone through MIPA. There are just a lot of wonderful relationships that will last.”
With Rau’s final hours at MIPA approaching rapidly, Rau said she’s been able to look back at her experience with MIPA contently.
“It’s been the best 18 years of my life,” Rau said. “I just hope I have another 18 years left to enjoy.” By Taylor Hale / Upstart Staff