Alumni Memory: Danny Floh Back, BJ ’02

Memorable Mentorship

J-School graduation, left to right: Danny Floh Back, Courtney Battistone, Peter Johansen, Sara Brunetti, Dawn Drew and Suzanne Westover.

By the end of my 4 years at Carleton, had you asked me to define one person, one moment, or one memory that stood out above the rest this would have been a challenging endeavour. I would have thought long and hard about the long list of friends and classmates I adored, the epic Frosh events I went to and DJed (Mont Cascades anyone?), and the dream job I landed with CJOH as a reporter.

Nearly 2 decades later, now in my 40s, a husband, a parent, a business owner, my perspective has greatly shifted. It wasn’t hard at all to think of what to write about when the Journalism department asked for a submission to share a J-School memory.

In 1998, I was lured to Ottawa through a generous scholarship from Carleton, and along with that privilege I was assigned a mentor from the faculty. The man the school chose for me was Peter Johansen.

If you’ve ever had Peter Johansen as an educator, you surely remember him fondly. Peter was the mold of a model professor: compassionate and friendly, with lots of relevant industry knowledge and worldly wisdom to share. I couldn’t have been luckier to be paired with him for a mentor.

Peter made me feel special right from the beginning, when he extended an intro by email to meet in person. In my freshman year, Peter invited me have lunch with him in the University staff lounge, a restaurant most students likely have no idea even existed, let alone had dined in.

At the time, it did not dawn on me how this invitation would impact me for the rest of my years at Carleton. Here was a professor who wasn’t even my teacher, taking time to ask me about myself and what I wanted to achieve in my life. I’m sure I would have told him I was going to be a TV reporter, and travel the world. And I’m sure he encouraged me to go for it, with a giant grin on his face the whole time.

Our meetings and email exchanges over the proceeding years were not overly frequent, but just enough for me to know that he was there to lend an ear or provide counsel when I was struggling. His calming presence was always there with me, even in the darker days. Ottawa can be a lonely place in February, especially for a kid from Toronto living away from home for the first time.

In 4th year I got to experience Peter as a teacher for my PR class. As expected, he was a great teacher and the class really hit home for me. Our main project was to assemble a PR campaign for a big brothers-type organization based in Ottawa. Ultimately, the class shaped my post-university career, as I took a turn into PR and event co-ordination for non-profits, while simultaneously building my DJ experience. Currently, I own and operate my own DJ company in Toronto, and feel that I draw on my lessons learned from Peter’s class regularly for the ever-important task of promotion.

To this day, Peter and I are still friends on Facebook. When he comments on one of my posts, it’s a reminder he’s still there, cheering me on from afar. It’s also a reminder of how important mentorship is to all of us. Everyday I try my best to be a good one for my own kids, and my DJ team as well. It’s quite likely I never properly acknowledged how much I appreciated him and his mentorship. So Peter, thank you. I hope this reflection does you justice. – Danny Floh Back (BJ ’02)

Alumni Memories are part of Carleton Journalism’s 75th Anniversary.

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Friday, April 9, 2021 in
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