Beverly Kearney is a chameleon of sorts.
During track season, you’ll likely spot “Coach Bev” on a Monday afternoon in a casual jumpsuit, whizzing around Mike A. Myers Stadium with a hurried determination, perhaps making an intermittent pit stop to critique a relay team’s baton handoff or to tell a long-distance runner to adjust her pace.
At the 85th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays last Wednesday through Saturday, the 20-year reigning women’s track and field head coach led her current athletes to first-places in four events. She also watched her former-turned-Olympian runners return home to claim victories in Invitational races.
But for Kearney, her responsibility as a coach has always reached beyond developing athletes and has extended into the depths of society where potential has often been overlooked.
Several years ago, while searching for a way to incite an “excitement to excel” in local youth, Kearney saw an opportunity in the Texas Relays tradition. Her efforts resulted in a forum, originally focused on encouraging student-athletes, that was coined the Minority Mentorship Symposium.
“It is an amazing affair [and has] grown bigger into anything than I could have ever imagined,” Kearney said with a smile a week ago, commenting on her anticipation of the upcoming event.
Last Friday evening, Kearney’s sixth annual Symposium was hosted in the grand ballroom at the AT&T Executive Education Center. This year’s event, themed “Intimate Conversations with Greatness: Creating a Legacy of Success,” attracted big-name, influential figures from the sports, entertainment, political and business worlds.
Among the “Divine Divas” and “Gents of Distinction” whose inspirational accomplishments were featured at the Symposium included actress Michelle Williams, Madame Secretary Hope Andrade, rapper Bun B and former Texas football player Foswhitt “Fozzy” Whittaker.
“Our theme is creating a legacy of success and the pursuit of excellence. And all of [these] individuals exemplify what excellence is,” Kearney said. “And personally, I feel like that’s what Texas is. Texas has a tradition of excellence, and that’s what we want to present.”
In addition to what has become a star-studded function, a number of smaller events, which have taken root in the spirit of the Symposium since its birth in 2006, were held throughout Austin last Friday.
With themes ranging from promoting education to raising awareness of racism in the public school system, occasions inspired by Kearney’s event included the Pursuit of Excellence Youth Rally in UT’s Gregory Gym, the Jody Conradt Leadership Conference held at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders and the “Moving Past Racial Stigmas to Help Students Succeed” panel conducted at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.
Kearney showed her versatility in January when she swapped out her electric scooter and track-inspired apparel for a cane that was barely noticeable next to an elegant, black and beaded floor-length gown that she wore to the fifth annual BET Honors in Washington, D.C. As the recipient of the education award, she was distinguished at the event alongside a multitude of innovative leaders including Dr. Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder and Spike Lee.
In her acceptance speech, she shed light on her inspiration to teach and exemplified her motivations as a mentor.
“People ask me, ‘How is it that you have succeeded in spite of your obstacles?’ And you know what I tell ‘em? I don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice, because my hero is my history and my history is a legacy of people who have triumphed over tragedy, who have succeeded in spite of the oppression. How can I fail? Because they taught me failure is not an option.”
It is this burning enthusiasm, kept lit by the constant reminder of her race’s historic struggle for equality, that inspires Kearney to ignite a passion for success and to help students realize their potential through the annual Minority Mentorship Symposium.
Printed on Monday, April 2, 2012 as: Minority symposium highlights Kearney's leadership