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Friday, May 17, 2013

Goodbye to a Great Teacher

English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout.
English: Don Mattingly in Dodgers dugout. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Investment U

Boston, May.17, stock picks .- As You never forget the great teachers who affect your life.

My high school Business Law teacher, Mr. Kehoe, could have been a stand-up comedian. Yet despite the continuous laughter in his class, he somehow taught us the difference between assignment and assent.

In fact, I learned so much in his class that I barely had to crack open a book to get an A in the same subject in college.

Mr. Block was another big influence. The hard-charging Little League baseball coach who wanted to win as much if not more than the kids, worked patiently with me to correct the glitches in my swing. And while no one ever confused me with Don Mattingly, I went on to a "respectable" Little League career.

And there was Alan Abelson.
Alan Abelson was a columnist and former editor for Barron's until he passed away last week at the age of 87.

Many excellent business journalists emerged under his tutelage.

I never met Mr. Abelson. I never communicated with him. He probably didn't know I exist. But you wouldn't be reading this if not for him.

Abelson was a witty skeptic who penned the "Up and Down Wall Street" column at the front of every issue of Barron's. He wrote the column for 46 years.

More than 20 years ago, before the stock market became the national pastime and before the Internet, financial information was hard to come by. We had to lean on the big consumer magazines like Barron's, Money, Fortune, etc.

My Muse

As a youngster who had become fascinated with the market, but had zero knowledge, I consumed every piece of financial media that I could get my hands on. Every Saturday, I picked up a copy of Barron's and read it cover to cover. Even when I knew I wouldn't understand certain articles, I tried to digest it as best as I could. Eventually some of the material penetrated my thick skull and began to make sense.

But if it weren't for Abelson, I might not have gotten past the first page.

Each week, I looked forward to Abelson's column - where he'd make fun of bulls with his wry sense of humor and give the bearish case for why the market was overvalued.

Despite the fact that I often disagreed with him, his column was the first thing I read each issue. That was true over two decades ago when I'd read it on the way back from the newsstand. And it was true three months ago after I retrieved the magazine from the mailbox at the end my driveway.

Over the past 10 years or so, more often than not, I didn't have time to read the majority of the publication due to demands from job and family. However, I'd always make sure to read Abelson's two pages at the front.

On the occasions when Abelson was on leave or vacation, I usually didn't make it past the first page. No offense to the other columnists who filled in.

They're very good. But Abelson was my gateway to the rest of the magazine.

Without his acerbic wit and keen insights, I often lost momentum to continue on. It was as if his column was so enjoyable, it set the mood for the rest of the issue, despite the fact that no other journalists had his writing style. He was the primary reason I maintained my subscription all these years.

A Great Loss

Today, there is so much financial information and advice readily available that it's easy to pick and choose the people we want to follow. We don't need to subscribe to a 60-page magazine that is filled with articles we don't care about.

I hope that with so many business journalists, commentators and experts to choose from that you have found someone who's had as positive an affect as Alan Abelson had on me.

The very best teachers (and columnists) make their pupils (and readers) eager for the next lesson (and article). They also make them smarter. Whether it's a writer here at Investment U and The Oxford Club or somewhere else, find people whose columns make you smile, who you learn from and whose articles you look forward to reading.

Had I not started reading Alan Abelson all those years ago, I honestly have no idea what I'd be doing today.

You'll be missed Mr. Abelson. Thank you for changing my life.
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