Kearney’s vision of greatness comes to life
When Keith Tribble, the newly named athletics director at the University of Central Florida, received word about the first-ever Minority Mentorship Symposium’s “Conversations with Greatness” at The University of Texas, he had only one question:
“What time do you want me there?”
That’s all Tribble needed to know because he was aware the person driving this unique event was Beverly Kearney, the Longhorns’ women’s track and field and cross country coach, and an individual he has known for nearly 20 years.
And that first meeting, Tribble recalls, told him everything he needed to know about Kearney, who was the first African-American female coach to win a Division I National Championship.
Tribble, a standout offensive guard at the University of Florida in the mid-1970s, was preparing to interview Bev Kearney for the women’s track and field head coaching position at his alma mater.
“Bev asked Bill Arnsparger, my athletic director, which spring sport had the highest grade point average at Florida,” Tribble began. “Bill paused for a moment and Bev jumped right in and said, “You hire me and women’s track and field will have the highest grade point average.’’’
Tribble said he remembers shaking his head at such a statement, noting that traditionally track hadn’t been a sport with the highest GPA.
Kearney did it, of course.
“Most impressive to me wasn’t just that she did it,” Tribble said, “but that she understood what was important. Her focus was on the student part of the student-athlete.”
That’s why on a Sunday morning in early April, Kearney brought together men and women successful in their fields from athletics, music, writing, business and acting, asking each to share their thoughts, their wisdom and offer their guidance to the UT student-athletes.
“When Bev is undertaking something, you know it is important and you want to be a part of it,” said Tribble, who in 2004 was recognized by Black Enterprise as one of the “50 Most Powerful Blacks” in sports. Tribble was chief executive officer of the FedEx Orange Bowl at the time he appeared at the Austin Symposium. Just a few days later he was named AD of the University of Central Florida.
“Each of us here (at the symposium) had a mentor, had someone who helped us when we were younger,” Tribble said. “That’s why it is so important to give back, helping someone else as you were helped.”
In addition to Tribble, the others who highlighted that day were:
Karen Taylor Bass, founder/president of TaylorMade Media, which lists ABC and Coca-Cola as clients and introduced Jill Scott and D’Angelo to the music world.
Mister Mann Frisby, writer/reporter of “Holler Back,” who began his career as a reporter with the Philadelphia Daily News.
Dean Garfield, the executive vice president and chief strategic officer of the Motion Picture Association of America.
Hill Harper, a film, TV and stage actor who stars in the CBS drama series, CSI New York, and was recognized by People Magazine in 2004 as “One of the Sexiest Men Alive.”
Amber Noble, the director of marketing, Island Def Jam Music Group, working with Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Patti LaBelle and the Isley Brothers.
Kenneth Reeves, who played six NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns and is currently vice president for diversity for RadioShack.
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice provost and professor at UT who heads the Office of Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Effectiveness, gave the welcoming address.
He reminded the student-athletes that the hard work and passion that makes each successful in their respective sports does the same for them in the classroom and will do the same when they are in the work place after graduation. He spoke of the wonderful opportunity the symposium provided to each of them.
Chris Plonsky, women’s athletics director at UT, stated simply, “What starts here (at Texas) changes the world.”
Kearney backed that up when she admitted that one of the reasons she left Florida for UT 14 years ago was because she believed Austin and The University of Texas offered the best chance to have this kind of affair.
She called the symposium the kind of opportunity that really was just another part of her role as a teacher.
Kearney said the purpose of the symposium was to bring together a distinguished group of minorities with stellar credentials who have excelled in their chosen profession and who could provide the student-athletes a look at what it takes to make the transition to the corporate world.
“When I asked the people to come, and I am very grateful for the time each of them gave up to do this, I told them that I didn’t want them to speak from a podium,” Kearney began. “I just wanted them to talk to the students, relate what they (the students) are going through at this very time. That’s why the title – ‘Conversations with Greatness.’
“I wanted each of them to speak from the heart.”
And, they did.