UT track coach touts mentor program

Ahsika Sanders

Beverly Kearney doesn’t like to talk about her induction into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, her record seven national championships as women’s track and field coach or the fact that she has coached 12 Olympic runners, seven of whom are medalists.

Kearney would rather have a conversation about giving back and pouring into programs such as the annual Minority Mentorship Symposium she founded in 2007.

Now in its fifth year, the two-day symposium — which more than 1,000 students from UT and surrounding schools attended on Thursday — honored individuals such as John Harris, CEO of Nestle Waters; recording artist and producer Lana “MC Lyte” Moorer; and Cookie Johnson, CEO of Cookie Johnson Jeans and wife of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, among many others.

LeToya Luckett, a speaker at the symposium, told students about balancing a career as an actress, a singer and a boutique owner, while Twyla Garrett, CEO of six companies, shared her rags-to-riches story of growing up in poverty and rising to the top.

Kearney said the idea for a mentor program like the symposium came about early in her coaching career. She said she met many minority students who had never interacted with community members who held the professions they were striving for.

“They had never met anyone that looked like them doing what they wanted to do,” she said. “They had never met an African-American female CEO or a prominent Hispanic doctor.”

She said the lack of interaction hindered minority students from keeping focus when they hit hardships because they felt like they were treading “uncharted waters.”

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said he aspired to be to be an attorney when he was a child, but he had no model.

“When I was coming up, my role model was Perry Mason,” West said, speaking of the fictional television attorney. “I just didn’t have any other role model to look up to for that.”

UT students who attended the symposium will spend Friday volunteering at a youth rally for more than 1,300 middle and high school students ­— a process Kearney referred to as a “generational flow of success.”

“I don’t ever want them to forget that being here and being who they are is a blessing, and sometimes, you got to give back off of that blessing so you generate greater blessings for the future,” she said.

President William Powers Jr., said he is proud of Kearney’s accomplishments on and off the field and is inspired by her philanthropy.

“Nothing makes me more proud than the energy that you put into this event so that distinguished individuals can pass on their wisdom to the next generation,” Powers said.

Kearney’s philanthropic institution, Pursuit of Dreams Foundation, hosts symposiums for men and women of all ages, both locally and nationally. The Foundation works with companies to benefit cancer foundations and research centers, women’s and children’s shelters, and a dozen other nonprofit organizations.

“It’s always been my goal to give more than I receive, and I’ve failed at that because I’m blessed to have received so much,” Kearney said through tears. “But if you know me, you know I’m not a quitter, and I’m going to keep on giving.”