Erstling, Lammers enter exclusive club

TEL, ADV grads named as the College’s latest alumni of distinction

By Tessie Olivera

At its first solo commencement ceremony, which starts at 6 p.m. May 1, the College will recognize its newest Alumni of Distinction.

Mark Erstling , TEL 1975, and Melissa Lammers, ADV 1979, plan to receive their recognition at the ceremony.

Erstling serves as senior vice president and chief operating officer at the Association of America’s Public Television Stations (APTS). He is one of only 10 national public broadcasting leaders to serve on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Television Future Fund Advisory Board.

Lammers serves as vice president at Pueblo International, a wholesale food distribution company in Puerto Rico. She was president of Young & Rubicam Puerto Rico, and vice president, director of client services for McCann-Erickson Dominicana in Santo Domingo.

Melissa Lammers

What personal ethic did you keep in mind upon graduating from the College?

It’s not really a motto, but the concepts that have guided me are to try to be really honest with myself. I chose advertising, and for 18 years it was an excellent career for me. I knew what my strengths, my weaknesses and my preferences were to make a decision about what I would do and what I would study. Change, and change requires adaptability. You kind of have to have one eye on the desk in front of you and one eye on the road ahead. You have to be open to changes you may need to make in your career or even beginning a second or third career.

Which courses armed you with the most practical knowledge for advertising?

I thoroughly loved Campaigns in the advertising discipline, which was, of course, the culmination of everything we had learned. In my case, we participated in the national advertising competition. We were finalists in that, so that was terrifically interesting and lots of fun and pretty close to what a new business presentation is in the advertising world. Another class I loved very much was Ethics. In light of what’s been happening in business lately, ethics is something that needs to be readdressed.

Someone needs to retake the banner of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

How did UF foster your global approach to business?

UF prepared me very well for what I’ve done in my professional life. There were a number of international students at the university while I was there. For me, being open to different cultures was something that was inculcated in my family.

What obstacles have you faced on your way to becoming vice president of Pueblo International?

There are always obstacles. I don’t like being artificially held back. Obstacles are there to be understood and overcome, but obstacles that are self-induced, such as an attitude of “we can’t do that because we’ve never done that” rile me. It’s cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Yet, it’s something you see all too frequently in the business world.

How has UF grown since you graduated?

What I read about UF and its stature among U.S. universities is fantastic. I’ve always thought UF was a wonderful university. I can’t imagine being better prepared, and I have not met anyone better prepared than I was for my chosen career through the preparation I received at UF. When I was there, the College did not have the recognition it deserved, and the University also did not have quite the recognition it deserved. That has changed a lot and I’m glad.  

With whom will you reunite and which places will you visit when you return to receive the Alumna of Distinction award?

I have a couple of friends still in Gainesville and some professors I would like to see who are still there – John Sutherland and James Terhune [who retired last year]. After that, I want to look around at the campus and see the new J-school. When I was there, it was still housed in the stadium. And if I had time, I would really like to go down to the Ichetucknee River.

Do you have anything to say to your peers?

When are we getting together?

Mark Erstling

What mindset fostered your success?

Do what you enjoy doing. I’ve had the luck of having a career that I really enjoy with people I like in a service that is valuable and important.

When you look back on your adult working life, you shouldn’t realize you’re doing something you don’t like. That’s the way I’ve always done business. I work in a field I enjoy and return something to the American public. It is gratifying, and probably more so to me than what I’ve given back to it.

You have been involved in so many important projects – which proved the most rewarding?

Each gave me new sets of experiences and opportunities. If I look back on it and say, “Which parts did I like best?” It wasn’t that I didn’t like one over the other. Each job gave me something different, and I learned and grew in different ways. If I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have changed a whole lot.

Was there a particular professor who influenced your work ethic?

There were experiences I had there with people like Mickie Edwardson. I did, as an employee of the station, work with her on a project. I don’t think she ever realized how influential her presence is and how much I learned from that experience and working with her on that project.

It was a minor project, but the experience I had with the faculty, both as a student and an employee of the station, really was significant.

How did attending UF in the 1970s affect your education?

The political climate pulsed with anti-Vietnam war demonstrations and riots on campus. I was a student and a student-journalist, so I was covering a lot of it. The experience was of great national unrest. It was woven into the fabric of the academic experience – just as it should be today. When I was in college, there were whole sets of life experiences.

Be nostalgic. Recall your most fond moment at UF.

What I enjoyed best about my time in college were the real friendships that developed among students and faculty. The one thing about the experience I had in a broadcast curriculum is that we’d be in class together and then we would be in the television studio as a team, working together. When we worked together well, we turned out a good product. In a studio setting, you can’t do alone.

Have you kept in touch with any of your college peers?

There are a few friends that keep in touch. E-mail is a wonderful thing. You won’t hear from someone for several years, and then boom you have a month-long e-mail exchange. Then it goes dormant for eight months, and then boom you have another bunch of exchanges. I figure that [the award] will stimulate some e-mails coming my way.