Gary with his 5th Grade Teacher, April Stone. His wife, Wendi is in the backgroud.
Gary with his 8th-Grade English teacher, the late Bertha M. Kemp and her husband Hilrie.
Inspired to Lead: How Teachers Impacted Gary
Gary Dolgin has been inspired by many teachers in his life, but two of them standout: his fifth grade teacher, from Gorrie Elementary School, April Stone, whose family owns Stone Funeral Home, and his eighth grade teacher, the late Bertha M. Kemp from Wilson Jr. High School, who was a long term member of the 34th Street Church of God. “Other than my mother, grandmother, and aunt, these two special women probably had more of an impact on me during my childhood years,” said Gary.
April Stone was a rookie teacher when she taught Gary at Gorrie Elementary School. Usually the fifth grade class put on your typical children’s play each year. However, when ten year old Gary asked her if he could write a play about John F. Kennedy, Stone encouraged him to go for it. Gary played President Kennedy and typed the script on his mother’s 1955 non-electric typewriter. Whenever he would call to check in with Ms. Stone as an adult, she would ask him, “How’s my little President?”
Bertha M. Kemp taught Gary in eighth grade at Wilson Jr. High School. "The life lessons that Mrs. Kemp taught us were more important that the subject matter of the class. She instilled confidence in her students by giving them recognition, and encouraging independent thinking and hard work. She motivated her students in the simplest way, by giving a smiley sticker and pencils that said, ‘Bertha M. Kemp loves you," said Gary.
By coincidence, Mrs. Kemp was a student of Gary's mother at the University of Tampa at the same time that she was teaching Gary English. Mrs. Kemp told Gary that they were both going to study hard, and that they were both going to get “A’s”. They both studied hard that year, and they both received “A’s”. Gary kept in touch with both teachers over the years. When his twins were born, he rolled the stroller into Mrs. Kemp’s classroom at Wilson Jr. High School. When Gary's father passed away, Mr. and Mrs. Kemp were there for him at the memorial service. They were guests at his 40th birthday party. Mrs. Kemp also invited Gary to speak at her retirement party at MacDill Air Force Base. Gary was asked to eulogize Mrs. Kemp at her funeral.
When April Stone retired she personally went to Gary's office to extend an invitation to him. Gary overheard her speaking with his assistant and realized it was his fifth grade teacher. He ran to the elevator and was thrilled to catch up with Ms. Stone. He surprised her with a congratulatory letter from the Hillsborough County Superintendent at her retirement party. He arranged for a member of the school board to be present at her party as well.
Both teachers encouraged Gary to achieve excellence, and he has done so as a practicing lawyer for 29 years. He is a Board Certified Expert in Marital and Family Law, one of only 28 in Hillsborough County. Only seven percent (7%) of eligible Florida Bar members are Board Certified. Board Certification recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice. Board Certified lawyers are evaluated for professionalism, and tested for expertise. Certification is the Florida Bar’s highest level of evaluation of the competency and experience of attorneys in the twenty six areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida. Only Board Certified Florida Bar members are allowed to identify themselves as a specialist or expert in the area of law in which they are certified.