The​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Chicago​ ​Aims​ ​of​ ​Athletics​ ​2017 w/ Jenny​ ​Fortner and Michael Hayes

The​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Chicago​ ​Aims​ ​of​ ​Athletics​ ​2017 w/ Jenny​ ​Fortner and Michael Hayes


ERIN MCDERMOTT: So
welcome, everyone. I just want to start
off by letting you all know that this is kind of the
crazy life of a university president sometimes. Unfortunately, President
Zimmer couldn’t make it tonight, last
minute, unexpectedly. So we are still– as we do in athletics,
we just keep rolling. So it’s all good. He was disappointed
he couldn’t come. I’m sure you’re disappointed
not to hear from him. Hopefully, for those of
you coming back next year, he’ll be with us
next year– but just a snafu in the schedule
that couldn’t be worked out last minute that he
had to attend to. So I do want to thank– Michele Rasmussen
is here with us. She is our dean of
students in the university and our leader of Campus &
Student Life and the person who oversees athletics directly. And she is with us here tonight. So I wanted to say thank
you for her coming out. In order to give some
opening comments tonight, we did have a pinch
runner, I guess, come in and a designated runner. And Michael Hayes has joined us. He is an assistant vice
president for Campus & Student Life and vice president
for Student Life. He was hired in 2016. Mike is a leader in
Campus & Student Life and oversees the Center of
Leadership and involvement, Center of Identity
and Inclusion, and the Office of
International Affairs. He came to us from Washington
University in St. Louis. [BOOING] But he saw the light. And he came north. So he’s with us now. He also worked in campus
life while he was there. And he’s also been at the
University of Maryland and Cornell University– so want
to welcome Mike Hayes to come up and open up our event. [APPLAUSE] MICHAEL HAYES: The school never
to be spoken above a whisper, Washington University– so hey. I’m thrilled to be here
and offer greetings on a couple of thoughts from the
folks on Campus & Student Life. As Erin said, I’m nearing
ending my second year. And I’m so excited
to continue to learn about this amazing place,
quirky as it is sometimes, but amazing nonetheless. This is my second Aims event. I was there last year. And this is a really,
really cool event. And as Erin said, in the
event that you didn’t know, I happened to come
from that school down I-55 that
wears red and green. I am happy to say and
report to you that I think maroon is a far better color. And so I tell you that upfront. [APPLAUSE] It looks better with
my hair, to be honest. Let’s start there. So first of all, I just
want to say congratulations, first of all, to our autumn
teams for their great start. You’ve had a great
start to the fall. And here’s what
we know of today. And here’s some thoughts
that I thought I– what excited me
because I am probably one of the administrators
that comes to a lot of games. I come to a lot of your events– that we have the
number one ranked team in Division
III women’s soccer right now, which is awesome. [APPLAUSE] Our men’s soccer team is
ranked 14th as of today– and so 13th ranked Division
3 women’s volleyball team, which is awesome. [APPLAUSE] And our women’s cross-country
team is ranked sixth. And so that’s just really great. You all should be
very quite proud. And those of us in
Campus & Student Life were very, very excited for you. We’re also very excited
about a couple of things. One is that you chose
to pursue your academics and your athletic passions
at the University of Chicago and specifically
within D3 athletics, which I believe and– is the purest and best
model for, I believe, intercollegiate athletics. And so thank you for choosing
to pursue those pursuits here with us. We’re also glad that you share
your academic and athletic talent with this larger
campus community. We’re better for
having you here. And we just need a little
more of your campus community friends to come out
and support you. And you have my assurance
and our assurance of Campus & Student
Life that we are going to continue to work on
that because you need to have your fellow student support. And that’s important to us. You also know
that– and you know we notice– your commitment
and discipline both as students and athletes is
incredibly important and does not go unnoticed. Those of us in
the administration specifically within
Campus & Student Life understand the significance
of and appreciate you not only for your athletic
efforts, but your academic ones as well. We also, and it’s likely
not expressed enough, appreciate how each of you
represent your chosen sports, the Department of
Athletics & Recreation, and the university in
such a positive manner. Each of us has a great
responsibility, all of us have a great
responsibility, to uphold the integrity and standards of
excellence of this university. And you as athletes do
this particularly well. So thank you. You are also guided
by some amazing role models in your coaches,
your athletic director, and her staff. And it’s a pleasure to
work with these colleagues every single day. Please join me in
showing our appreciation for their commitment to
you and to the university. [APPLAUSE] And again, I just want to
say congratulations on your– on the field or court as well as
your classroom accomplishments. And I want to thank each
and every one of you for all that you do
for this community. Have a great remainder
of the fall quarter. And go Maroons. [APPLAUSE AND CHEERING] KELSEY MOORE: Fellow University
of Chicago athletes, coaches, and administrators,
good evening. My name is Kelsey Moore. And I am president of the
Women’s Athletic Association. I’m here tonight to introduce
our director of athletics and our fearless
leader, Erin McDermott. Prior to joining the
University of Chicago, she served as deputy
director of athletics at Princeton
University, where she oversaw the internal operations
for 38 intercollegiate sports. Additionally, she has served
on several national committees, including the National
Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Along with these
accolades, she herself was a senior captain of
the women’s basketball team and winner of the school’s
Senior Scholar-Athlete Award. She earned her Bachelor
of Business Administration and International Business
from Hofstra University and her master’s degree
in sport management at the University of
Massachusetts Amherst. As she enters her fifth
year here at the University of Chicago, the
Maroons have captured nine UAA Championships,
four NCAA individual events championships, and four top
20 finishes in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings
among 450 Division III institutions. And we have added
women’s lacrosse as the school’s
20th varsity sport and entered into the school’s
first department-wide apparel agreement with Adidas. Suffice it to say, we are lucky
to have someone who loves us enough to dye her hair maroon
and can hear her chanting “Ma-what” Anywhere you go. Erin, you are our leader,
advocate, and constant support. Thank you for
supporting us in all of our academic and
athletic endeavors. Please join me in
welcoming Erin McDermott. [APPLAUSE] ERIN MCDERMOTT:
Thank you, Kelsey. And thank you all. Kelsey had an introduction
planned for President Zimmer. So she had to take me instead. [LAUGHTER] But thank you for doing
that so last-minute. I just want to say a few words. And then our keynote
speaker will come up. And I know we have a great
presentation ahead for our Aims of Athletics 2017 event. One of our football
captains, Andrew Beytagh, reminded me recently that
it’s important to understand the history and traditions of
the places in which you choose to become a part. You all share connection
with the Maroons who came before you. You will forever be
part of something greater than yourselves. And now you bear responsibility
to carry that legacy forward. I’d like to briefly highlight
some of that history and legacy, beginning with our
two pillars of that foundation. Amos Alonzo Stagg, a
revolutionary figure in the sport of
football and namesake of the Big Ten Football
Championship trophy, led the athletic department
and served as the head football coach for 40 years. His declaration still rings true
that winning isn’t worthwhile unless one has something
finer and nobler behind it. Gertrude Dudley was
the first person to oversee women’s
athletics here. She believed, and we
still do, that athletics develop self-control,
unselfishness, a sense of honor,
self-sacrifice, fairness, modesty, decision, courage,
and a sense of responsibility. Of course, we all
know Jay Berwanger, who won the first Heisman Trophy
in 1935, which is displayed in the Ratner lobby. Mary Jean Mulvaney
was one of the first, if not the first, women to
lead a combined intercollegiate athletics department overseeing
both men’s and women’s teams in 1976. Edwin Hubble, a
basketball player, invented the Hubble
telescope, which was recently described on CBS’s 60 Minutes as
the single most transformative instrument that we’ve ever built
in understanding what we now know about outer space. Including Edwin Hubble, we
boast 11 Rhodes Scholars. And I hear we have four
current candidates still in the running for
this year’s selection. So good luck to those of you. Numerous Maroon teams have
won conference championships. And individuals have earned
national championships. The University of
Chicago was and is a place of great influence,
including within athletics. As part of the academy,
athletics by definition must be educational
above all, which is why we aim for you to become
the best version of yourself through working collaboratively
to reach performance goals, embracing diversity of
thought and culture, persevering through
failure with resiliency, and competing with integrity. We are all responsible
for carrying the legacy of the Maroons forward. We owe it to those
who came before us. We must inspire and
support each other. We are united in Maroon pride. And we are #MaroonMade. Be authentically you. Don’t play small. Play big. Play big in everything
that you do. You are all awesome in
your own unique way. Gain confidence in
being and doing what makes you extraordinary. Ma-what? AUDIENCE: Maroons! ERIN MCDERMOTT: Ma-what? AUDIENCE: Maroons! ERIN MCDERMOTT: Come on. Ma-what? AUDIENCE: Maroons! ERIN MCDERMOTT: All right. [APPLAUSE] And now it is my honor to
introduce our keynote speaker, Jenny Fortner. Jenny hails from the
suburbs of Chicago. She played basketball
here at the university. She majored in psychology. And she was a member of
the Maroon Key Society. She is now a managing
director at Goldman Sachs here in Chicago. She is serving as the chair of
the board of Special Olympics in Illinois. And she is currently
the co-chair of the Special Olympics 50th
anniversary here in Chicago this July 2018. She is a supporter for
us in every possible way and even altered her
work travel schedule to be here with us tonight. The best part of Jenny, I
think, is her huge heart and her contagious smile. As her coach, Sue
Zawacki, said, Jenny is just a rock-solid person. You won’t find a lot
of people like Jenny. Please welcome one of
our own, Jenny Fortner. [APPLAUSE] JENNY FORTNER: It’s
a full house up here. Thank you so, so much, Erin. Distinguished faculty, staff,
coaches, and most importantly, my fellow Maroon
athletes, as Erin said, my name’s Jenny Fortner. And I’m a very proud
graduate of the college. I’m a former GWAA president
and a retired women’s varsity basketball player. And I have to tell you, I
was so incredibly humbled when Erin asked me
to be here today and to give the Aims
of Athletics speech. There are so many
incredible alum who could be standing here
today with all of you. So I do this with
great humbleness. And I’m just so excited to
see each and every one of you here tonight. I am also here with Special
Olympics athlete Clair Grothe and her coach,
Craig [INAUDIBLE],, who you’ll hear from
in a little bit. Today I’d like to spend
just about 20 minutes or so talking with you about
some important experiences and topics. And then I’m going to turn it
over to our Special Olympics athlete. And then I’ll come
back for about five minutes or so to sum things up. But really, what I’d like
to talk to you about today are, number one, the life
lessons that sports here at the University of Chicago
taught me personally; number two, how
I’ve seen firsthand how sports can break down
all kinds of barriers; and number three,
what this means for you as student athletes
at the University of Chicago. I think in order to
talk through number one, I thought I’d just share
a little bit of my story. As Erin mentioned, I grew up in
the south suburbs of Chicago. I think there’s a
few of you here. I went to Mother McAuley. I know that there’s at least one
of you here in the front row. Thank you very much. And my dream when I
was in grade school was to play college athletics. I looked at several
schools for basketball. But the first time I
ever really truly felt I belonged was my prospy
visit here at the U of C. Maybe some of you can
resonate with this. But for me, it
was the first time that I really felt I found
like-minded people who worked hard, played hard. Really, academics was
important to them. But they wanted to have
that full experience of being an athlete as well. And so right after
my prospy visit– it wasn’t too long– I did look at a
few other schools, perhaps one south of 55. And I like to think I made the
very best decision I possibly could, and that was attending
the University of Chicago. And when I came to campus in
[JOKINGLY CLEARING THROAT] 1994, it was after
the prospy visit. I was walking around campus. I remember it like
it was yesterday. And maybe Coach Fitz
remembers this, too. But they were proudly
handing shirts out on campus that said
“Top 500 party schools.” And yet we were number 500. A, I didn’t understand why
they were proud about that. And B, it made me very nervous. Perhaps all of the
really fun people that I met during my
prospy visit graduated or I couldn’t quite– wasn’t
quite sure where they all went. But I found out soon after
that this was not the case. And I ended up having
the most fun I possibly could have had both
on and off the court and made friends
that I still consider the closest friends in the
world to this very, very day. Truly, the experience
that I had here was unprecedented
and changed my life for the better in
so, so many ways. And so in preparation
for this, I kind of went back through some old
journals, some old drawers. And I thought what I’d do is
share a little bit of what I found with you. First of all, scarily enough,
I did find the WashU scouting report from 1998 if any
of the basketball players would like to see
what that look like. I was told by a few that
it looks scarily the same. I found my WAA
blanket day, which is one of the happiest, most
proud days still to this day, when I received my blanket. And you talk about tradition. And that’s such a special
time for all of us when that happens. And I found just some
notes that I would share with you very humbly. This is back in 1994. “Well, I made it to college. It is now the very beginning of
my fourth week here at U of C.” It’s probably not too similar– October 16. “And I love it. As I sit here and look
at this spectacular view I have from my
room,”– that was back when the shoreland was still
here, for those that remember– “I just know that I can do it. I can make my dreams
come true here. And I just feel as if I
can accomplish anything. I have this great feeling
of inner peace and calm, but also an inner
voice and feeling of inspiration telling me to go
and reach for my dreams here. I know that things will not
always be as beautiful here, as sunny,” as we’re experiencing
today, “as they are today. And I also know that I have
some really big challenges ahead of me this year and
the years to come. But I also know as I
look out there today that I will meet those
challenges face to face. I will not step back. But instead, I will
pass through them.” And I share that with you
because maybe many of you who are first-years
are feeling that way. Maybe some of you have had
to overcome some challenges. For me, about a year in, I
faced some pretty significant challenges in that my dad’s
business didn’t work out. He had his own company. And about a year in– and I am
the oldest of four children– that didn’t work out. And I remember one time actually
being behind in tuition. Thank goodness
for financial aid. Thank goodness for scholarships,
which is why we will always pay it forward. But I remember I had a
practice one day on my own until I could get that–
the tuition figured out. And I just always remember
sports being my outlet. It’s bigger than yourself. You had said that, Erin. It’s bigger than all of us. And I always found my
team, having those goals, working through,
reaching inside yourself, and being something
better and bigger because of who you’re playing for– that all resonated. And that got me through
those tougher times. My uncle at the
time was my coach growing up in high
school and grade school. And he traded
futures and options. And right after that
freshman year, he said– I was a psychology major. But he said, well, why
don’t you try out trading? I think you might like it. And I remember thinking, I
know nothing about trading. I always thought I’d
never do business. And I remember then
thinking, well, I’ve tried these other things. Basketball’s given me
a lot of confidence. WAA gave me confidence. My coaches and teachers and
family gave me confidence. And so I said, let’s
give it a shot. And so through
trading, I realized that I could do things
to help the world. I could help my brothers
and sisters through school. I could do other
things that I didn’t know were possible in the
business world and beyond. And I feel that having that
connection to sports really helped me in that world. And so I just thought I’d
share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned
in my last 19 years being on Wall Street of how
business and sports and being out there, being on the court
and off the court– really I learned from my time here. One, you win some. And you lose some. It’s true on the trading floor. It’s true in business. And it’s definitely
true on the court. But you always try again. Trades or business or
things can go wrong. You make mistakes on the court. But you always pick yourself up. Nowhere do you learn
more resiliency than what you’re learning
on the court right now. Teamwork– you don’t
know all the answers. You don’t know them when you’re
playing on the basketball court. You don’t know them in
business even after 19 years. And you learn that you find
the best in your teammates. You ask them questions. They help you out. And nowhere better
do you learn that than being in a team sport. Humbleness– you
definitely learn that here as you’re
in your classes competing, as you’re out on
the field competing as well. And definitely, I think that’s
one of the best characteristics that one can bring from this
university into the world. Work ethic– no one works harder
than a Maroon in the classroom or out on the fields. Breaking down
barriers– which we’re going to talk about in a
moment with our athlete. Time management– I
think possibly this is one of the best
things that I learned. I thought time
management was tough when I was sitting in your seats. And now managing a career,
three children, ages 13, 10, and eight, Special
Olympics, nonprofit work, and finding time for my
old teammates and friends– this is what prepared
me for today. 19 years working on Wall
Street, and I will tell you that besides my
faith and my family, playing sports at the
University of Chicago is one of the biggest single
contributors to my success today. And I am just so thankful
for having those experiences on and off the court. Lastly, I will tell you if
you haven’t done this yet, thank your coaches. Learning feedback and how to
take feedback at this age– that is going to set you up
for your future in whatever you decide to do. And your coaches have the
best intentions at heart. They may deliver it in
interesting ways at times. And trust me, I’ve been
on my fair side of that, both in the work
space and beyond. But if you can learn how to
take feedback and make yourself better each and every day, your
boundaries will be endless. Teammates– and you
said it earlier, Erin. Being selfless is probably
the biggest thing. It is so much
bigger than yourself when you’re part of a team. And that’s what will
take you the furthest. So as I started at Goldman,
I missed the camaraderie that I had in WAA and in what
you’re sitting here today. And WAA is what
gave me the courage to actually start a
women’s network at Goldman as a second-year analyst. It has become a full
diversity network today. And I will just
tell you to embrace what you’re learning
on the court because you have no idea
when and how you might use it in the future. Playing basketball here
definitely taught me a lot about the sport. But it’s taught me so, so
much more about life lessons that I use to this day– I think lessons I use even
more now than I did then. I learned a ton of these
at University of Chicago. But one of the
biggest lessons that I would like to share
with you occurred during my sophomore year. And it was because of WAA. It was there that we
began volunteering with Special Olympics. For those of you
that don’t know, Special Olympics
is an organization that serves in Illinois
22,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities
and 20,000 young athletes ages two to eight with
intellectual disabilities. We sponsored a team. Coach Rush is out
there somewhere. We sponsored a
team, [INAUDIBLE].. And I immediately fell in love. It reminded me of the joy
of sport, why we play. It reminded me of teamwork,
truly helping each other out. Inspiration– what
these athletes overcome each and every day. Bravery– one of the athletes
I met had 30-plus surgeries and was still competing. Sportsmanship–
to me, it was what sports was really all about. At the track, when we
were there the first time, I saw an athlete, a Special
Olympics athlete, fall. Immediately before
finishing the race, three other athletes who
could have went on to win stopped dead in their tracks,
picked the athlete up, and they all ran together. That’s what sportsmanship is. After the U of C, I volunteered
for Special Olympics here and there. While I was at Goldman,
things got very busy. And I ended up traveling to
New York for about six months. I happened to be
there during 9/11. I was about five blocks away
from the World Trade Center when the first tower fell. I was running in my heels– took me a long time to
wear heels after that. I ran barefoot. I had a colleague
who grabbed my hand. And we outran the smoke. But I will tell you, much like
it shaped all of your lives and has touched so
many of us, it forever changed my life in many ways. But when you live through
something like that and you overcome
something like that, something deeply
changes inside you. Everything else goes away. And you see what’s
truly important. By the way, my
teammates from U of C were the first to reach
out to me that day and make sure that I was OK. What changes is you
see what’s important. And for me, I saw
that when I came back, while yes, I could
have this career, I wanted to make sure that it
was a career that was there to help others. And that’s when
I promised that I would get more involved
in the community and volunteer as
much as I could. And that’s when I became a board
member of Special Olympics. The Lord works in
mysterious ways. And several years after
that, I was blessed with identical twin nephews. Both my brothers
attended U of C– they played football
and baseball here– and my husband, now husband. At the time, he was my brother’s
friend playing football. It took him six years to
ask me out, by the way. [LAUGHTER] You can quote me on that. But as I came back from
9/11, a lot changed. And my brother ended up
having identical twin boys who had special needs. And I’m proud to say
today they are athletes, Special Olympic athletes. And seeing Tom,
Tommy, my brother, high-five his boys
the first time they competed, tears
went down my face because he said it’s the first
time that his boys were seen in the light of what they could
do, what they were capable of, and not what they
are not capable of. I saw my kids
fist-bump their cousins and saw their abilities
and not their disabilities. That’s what sports does. It breaks down barriers. It shows people what
they are able to do, not what they’re
incapable of doing. And so over the course
of 15 years on the board, I’ve seen countless
episodes of this. I’ve seen how sports
can break down barriers. And I think that there is never
more important time than right now with what we’re seeing
in our community in Chicago and our community
around the world to break down these barriers to
bring our communities together. By changing community
perceptions of the capability of different groups through
sport, children and adults, regardless of gender,
regardless of ability, regardless of background–
they can come together in a positive context sometimes
for the very first time ever. Maybe some of you
have experienced this. And you can see each
other in new ways– how they can accomplish
things they had previously thought impossible. This helps reduce stigma
and discrimination. And it changes the
attitude of gatekeepers who have the power
to permit or deny children and adults the right
to partake in these activities. By changing children’s
and adults’ perceptions of themselves and
their abilities, sports empowers people to
recognize their own potential and advocate for
changes in society to enable them to realize what
they are fully capable of. I just had two quick
stories I wanted to share with you before
turning it over to Clair, and that is I recently
had the opportunity to go to Washington, DC
for Capitol Hill Day. And the person next
to me, Zamira– she was the one who spoke to
the senators and the congressmen and congresswomen. What I didn’t know about
Zamira until she told her story was the following. Zamira was non-verbal
until age seven or eight. Her mother had been told
to institutionalize her. She had been to five
different Chicago public schools in the course of
her first eight years. In third grade, she was
actually beaten bloody and bullied in the classroom. Her mom never gave up on her. At age eighth grade, Zamira– her mom– she saved up and
moved her out to the suburbs to a place called Waubonsee. Maybe some of you
are from there. And she joined what’s
called a unified school. A unified school
is a school where athletes with and
without disabilities play alongside each
other to change the mindset of the community. It was there that
Zamira blossomed. She was called– now
called the “rebound queen.” She found a talent
that she had in art. And she is now a
copyrighted artist. She is a paid employee
at Brookfield Zoo. And she is one of our
lead global messengers, sharing her story out there
with the world at age 21. This is someone who
people wrote off. This is someone who has
so many talents to share and has been such a huge
inspiration in my life. If we can just give people a
chance to show their abilities, there are so many
things that we’re capable of doing together. One other quick note– Sarah Boys. Sarah was a dear friend. She passed away a
couple weeks ago. Sarah was the very first
person that I ever met on the Special Olympics board. She was a board member
of mine for three years. She had intellectual
disabilities. But she also, sadly, passed
away of cystic fibrosis after beating all the
odds and living to age 38. Every day I met
Sarah, she came out with a smile no matter how
sick, no matter how tired. She found a way
to beat the odds. Her bravery out on the
field– she was an equestrian. She was a track runner. She was a polar plunger. For those who haven’t
done that before, it’s when you dive
into the water in freezing cold temperatures. She did it all. And she did it all with a smile. And I share that
because some days, it can feel tough, like you
have a lot on your plate. But when you see these
athletes and what they’re doing every day to
overcome their obstacles, it’s truly inspiring. And so in Sarah’s
honor, I just would like to encourage all of you
to think about those blessings, think about what you are
doing here each and every day, and be sure to live
to the fullest of all of your potentials. And before I sum it
up at the end here, I would like to ask Clair
Grothe, our athlete, to come up and join me to share
her story with all of you. Clair? [APPLAUSE] CLAIR GROTHE: Good evening. My name is Clair Grothe. And I am a Special Olympics
athlete and global messenger. My team is the Wolves. We play volleyball, basketball,
floor hockey, flag football, soccer, and snowshoeing. I have been involved in Special
Olympics for eight years. I know that many of you here
have been or are athletes. But even if you’re
not an athlete, you likely have been
on some sort of team. Before joining Special
Olympics in high school, I have never really
been on a team. When I went to John
Hersey High School, I was offered a chance to join
a Special Olympics team there. Having the opportunity to
get involved with sports team to be an athlete
has changed my life. As you all know, being part of a
team gives you instant friends. And while everyone on your
team isn’t your best friend, you do get to know them. And you all develop
a common purpose. That is to work together,
to get better, and compete. We all know teams can be made
up of very different people. My Special Olympics team, the
Wolf, is made of the alumni from three different
high schools– Hersey, Glenbrook North,
and Glenbrook South. We have guys and girls. We have younger and older. We have athletes from many
different races and religions. We have highly skilled
and we have beginners. The funny thing is we
don’t even notice it because we are too busy having
fun playing sports together. Sports and athletes are
kind of sneaky that way. They make us not care
about our differences. They have a way of letting
us– encouraging us and making us work together, have fun
together, and compete together. The difference of individuals
just don’t matter. The things normally seen
as “barriers” are broken. We practice, play, and celebrate
together because of sports. We are on the same team. We all play on the same field. We are on the same league. Look in the stands of any Little
League, high school, college, or professional game. What do you see? All sorts of people
celebrating together. This is also true in
Special Olympics sports. Aside from athletes
and sport breaking down the barriers with a team
or a score or a town, Special Olympics
allow for barriers to be broken well beyond that. At any Special Olympic event,
beside team [INAUDIBLE] and coaches, the supporting
families and friends will see many volunteers,
even hundreds of them. Volunteers are the backbone
of the Special Olympics. We cannot do without them. And the vast majority of
volunteers come back and again. This community [INAUDIBLE]
is another barrier broken. Over 30 years ago, schools
start taking on the– own Special Olympics team– come partner club. Partners clubs are
mainstream students who volunteer to walk
with their classmates that are on the school’s
Special Olympics team today [INAUDIBLE]. This is great pride– in
wearing the same uniform colors as [INAUDIBLE]
school athletes team. Partners clubs continue today. It’s pretty special
for a Special Olympian to walk down the school
hallway and get high-fives for the medals they just won. The relationships in
schools are another way to have barriers broken. For several years now, high
school, college, and pro sports teams have increased
their involvements with Special Olympics. Last week, for example,
[INAUDIBLE] High School football team [INAUDIBLE]
Special Olympians flag football team [INAUDIBLE] a practice. And they lead them on
the field at the home football [INAUDIBLE] Football players from both
Glenbrook North and Hersey had helped the drills and
practice for the school Special Olympics flag football teams. Northwestern University recently
host the [INAUDIBLE] Special Olympics soccer team
to a joint practice. Northwestern has also had a
Special Olympics basketball team play at halftime
at their own games– their home games. My team, the Wolves,
have played a many game at halftime of a Chicago Bulls
game at the United Center. My Special Olympic
teams have had this opportunity [INAUDIBLE]
the years thanks to the Bulls. This winter, the
new Windy City Bulls are hosting scrimmage
games and a skills clinic at the [INAUDIBLE] Center
for many Special Olympics basketball teams. This year, the
Chicago Bears hosted a flag football [INAUDIBLE]
for multiple Special Olympics teams. [INAUDIBLE] that host
the Special Olympics athletes for training camps. Now, some people do think,
oh, isn’t that nice of people to give handicapped
kids a chance? Many of you think that the
first time they experience a Special Olympics event. But like I said before,
when someone volunteers, they are usually hooked. They are hook on the [INAUDIBLE]
spirits of the athletes. They are hook on
the great effort. They hook on the competitive
athletes, the assignment, and the sportsmanship. And when a volunteer
returns, another barrier has been broken. This increase in partnerships
from the high school level to the professional
level certainly are examples of how
sports and athletics lead the way in breaking
barriers in our society. Finally, Special Olympics
have spent the last year emphasizing unified sports. This is when a sports
team is a combination of Special Olympics and
non-Special Olympics athletes. And they compete together
against other unified teams. Think of that– regular and
Special Olympics athletes competing side by side
on the same team– talk about having
barriers broken. Sports and athletics
have amazing way of bringing people together,
of breaking barriers down. Fans, friends, family,
communities, cities, and, as we can see in the
Olympics and Special Olympics, even countries come
together through sports. By playing and
competing in sports, barriers are broken down. Thank you for allowing
me to speak today. I hope to see you volunteer
or coaching, sharing a Special Olympics event soon. Have a nice night. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] JENNY FORTNER: So just
in conclusion, you may be thinking, well, how
does this relate back to where you’re at in your journey as
a first year, second year, third year, and fourth year? And I would just say
I look back on my life and think about where all of
you are sitting right now. And you’re just at such an
important part of your journey. You can use what you’re
doing for the greater good if you so choose. You can choose to include on
and off the playing fields. I think it can be
really easy sometimes to take your time
here for granted, maybe not your first year
as you’re getting started. But as you roll into the
second and third year and you’re studying for exams
and it’s really great outside, it can be easy to take
that time for granted. But I would just encourage
you the next time when you start feeling
that way and when you’re running the
last lap or you’re in preseason sprints
or off-season workouts, think about these
Special Olympians and what they are
overcoming every single day to play the sports they love
and to level the playing field both on and off the court. Sometimes, I see over
the years how sports can become a chore for people. Don’t let it. Remember why you are here. Find the joy. Find your confidence. Find your perspective. Do it whatever it takes
to find those things and bring them back. The alums are here to help. Your coaches are here to help. I’ve never seen a more dedicated
staff of coaches and leaders as you have in this
room here tonight. Use them. Use your teammates. I would just share with
you in that journal when I was kind of looking
back on some things throughout my
collegiate career, there were definitely times I doubted
myself or lost perspective. You kind of forget about that. You block that out. And for me, Special Olympics
was one of those things. And it continues to be
one of those things that really helped bring things
back into focus for me. So find whatever it is that
brings what’s important back into focus and
perspective for you. If you get a chance, jot a
few of these things down. You’ll be so glad you did when
you’re old and 40, like me. It really helps to kind of put
things back and remind them where you’re heading
in the future. So as Erin mentioned, you have
the potential in this coming year to do some amazing things. And in a few years, you
will be the ones hiring. It’s hard to believe. In just a few short years,
you’ll be out there. And you’re going to
be the ones hiring. So question for you– will you be the ones willing to
reach out of your comfort zone, like you did here so many
different times on the playing fields, to give someone a chance
maybe that looks different than you or thinks
differently than you and give them a
chance to be a part of your staff and your squad? Are you doing that today? Those are the
things that we need to remember– that we
take down and break down the barriers that
are on the court and we bring them off
the court as well. I know you will do
that because you’re University of Chicago Maroons. And that’s what we do. And I also really
hope that some of you will consider being a part of
Special Olympics in a volunteer fashion if it– if you
feel moved to do so. This is an incredible
time to do it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime
chance in that we are embarking on the 50th anniversary. A lot of people don’t realize
that Special Olympics started at Soldier Field July 20,
1968, with Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Justice Anne
Burke, two amazing women. There were 1,000 athletes. Back then, athletes, mainly
Special Olympics athletes, were institutionalized. And these women felt that
they deserved to be seen and that their potential
needed to be developed. Fast-forward 50
years later, there’s five million athletes now
globally participating in Special Olympics. But we have so much
more work to do. There’s 220 million
intellectually disabled people across the globe. And sadly, just
a couple of weeks ago, I heard a horrific story
of a young boy in Africa who was literally
roped to a tree who had special needs
because they didn’t know what he was capable of. If we can each
reach in each other and see what we’re capable of
and pull together, break down those barriers, I know that
there’s so much more potential. So come out on July
20 of next year. You’ll see the next 50
years in the making, which is Clair leading the
effort and Clair here taking us to the new levels. We’re going to have an
eternal flame of hope that’s resurrected at Soldier
Field, for those that are familiar, right outside
McFetridge at the stadium. It’ll be lit that evening. We’re going to have a global
day of inclusion on July 21. DePaul has already said they’d
get 200 volunteers out there. I’m convinced we can
beat DePaul on that. And we’re going
to have a concert to signify people coming
together in an inclusive way and think about the world
for the next 50 years and where we can go from here. And I guess I will just
leave you with this. As you continue on
your journeys here at University of Chicago
as student athletes– it’s the Special Olympics oath. And I would like to ask Clair
to come up and help read it with me. TOGETHER: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let
me be brave in the attempt. JENNY FORTNER: I
wish you all a season ahead of reaching beyond
your goals and dreams and being brave in the attempt
to become the best that you are each capable of becoming. I thank you so, so very
much for your time today and for this
incredible opportunity to be here with all of you. And I wish the Maroons a
great season of success ahead. Go maroons. [APPLAUSE] ERIN MCDERMOTT: Wow. Wow. I have really
nothing I can add– amazing messages
I think just gets to the core of why we
do what we do, finding the sheer joy in those moments. And when things are hard
and when things are rough, it just makes those shear
moments of joy all the sweeter. So I just want to thank,
again, Jenny for joining us, Clair for joining us, and
her coaches here, as well, for joining us– a really special
message and event. I hope some of you
can potentially contribute to the
games this summer or at least find
opportunities where you can get involved in
whatever your passions may be. As Jenny said, it
is so important that we continue to
feed our own, kind of nourish our own souls and
what really speaks to us. So I think you heard a lot of
just the ideals of really where sport can do for society, as
we all know– breaking down barriers, unifying
community, just being, again, a source of joy and
excitement for everyone that is there and involved
and connected. So with that, I hope you
all feel inspired, go out into this wet night, and
have smiles on your faces. And thank you for your
time and attention. And go Maroons. [APPLAUSE]

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