A pair of “Titans” came to St. John’s last Saturday to bring Unity Week 2006 to a close as students, faculty and alumni were treated to presentations by legendary former football coaches Herman Boone and William “Bill” Yoast. The pair’s real-life struggles and triumphs coaching an integrated football team in Virginia in the early 70’s are chronicled in the 2000 hit Disney movie, Remember the Titans.

After having the First Annual Leadership Summit headlined by actor/musician Derrick Ashong last year, Leadership Development and Student Government were able to bring Boone and Yoast to headline this year’s event.

The doors to Carnessecca Arena opened at around 11:30 a.m., as students were greeted with the opening minutes of Remember the Titans. Roughly a half hour later, the film was stopped and Boone and Yoast, along with Mary Pelkowski, director of Leadership Development, Nashia Whittenburg, assistant director of Campus Activities, and student leaders Lori Cassidy and Brandon Darrington, took the floor to begin the seminar in front of a capacity crowd.

After a short foreword, Darrington, a sophomore psychology major and student coordinator of the Living Learning Community, introduced Yoast.

Darrington, afterward, would say that it was a “dream come true” to present Yoast to his peers, a man he said he has admired for years.

Yoast began his speech by acknowledging Naismith basketball and former St. John’s basketball coach, Joe Lapchick, Richard Lapchick and the women’s basketball team. Yoast then went on to explain how they were approached by movie producers to have a movie made about the experiences he and Boone shared while coaching the T.C. Williams Titans to a perfect 13-0 record during the 1971 season.

Yoast concluded by offering some advice for those in attendance: “Be prepared mentally, physically and spiritually for the world and it’s opportunitie,” he said. “Be kind but do not confuse kindness with being soft; confront injustice, because whereever there is prejudice everyone suffers.” He then cautioned the audience to “never let what you can’t do stop you from doing things you can do.”

Yoast referred to himself as “the calm” to Boone’s “storm,” and that was apparent almost immediately after Boone was introduced by a member of Kappa Phi Beta, Lori Cassidy.
“[Introducing Boone] was an amazing experience and an honor,” said Cassidy, a junior education major.

Boone was slowed by some minor technical difficulties, as on three separate occasions Coach Boone’s voice was drowned out by voiceovers from the movie. However, it did nothing to hinder his message.

Boone, sporting a red SJU hat, first had everyone participate in a moment of silence to honor the victims of 9/11. He then stressed to the students in the audience to use their education to increase diversity in the world. To compel the audience even more, Boone left the confines of his podium and spoke within inches of the people in the front row. “You are all going to experience adversity at some point in your life,” said Boone. “What are you going to do about it?”

Boone also stressed the purpose of a team and the fact that being on a team is just as important as being a leader. “A team is a group of people with one vision, objective and heartbeat,” Boone said.

Boone ended by saying that students should use any opportunity they have to speak up about injustice and that the youth of today should “build bridges strong enough to cross over to the land of respect and decency.”

After both speeches, the crowd at Carnessecca gave both Boone and Yoast a standing ovation.

“Here [at St. John’s] I felt and could see the enthusiasm, the energy and diversity at work here,” Yoast said. “Everyone is very sincere.”

“It’s great when we can sit down and talk about breaking down walls and overcoming diversity,” said Mary Pelkowski, the director of Leadership Develpment. “It’s what we do here at St. John’s everyday.”