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Benedictine College’s Sister Linda Herndon was not in the spotlight at the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce dinner in November, but she was highly honored there, thanks to the keynote speaker.
“A million little things had to go right for me to be standing here standing here in front of you today,” Davyeon Ross told the crowd at the KC Chamber Annual Dinner. “Benedictine College had to bring me in. My family and my village had to encourage me. And Sister Linda had to push me to reach my fullest potential.”
Ross, who serves on the board of directors for Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, is the co-founder of DD sports, known for its innovative Shot Tracker software, which touts Magic Johnson and David Stern as investors and Klay Thompson as a spokesperson.
Before he got a scholarship to play basketball at Benedictine, he was a high school student in Trinidad and Tobago who led the nation in basketball field goal percentage.
“While I was blessed with athletic ability and this goofy smile, in our house and in the dictionary, academics always comes before athletics,” he said. “Where I grew up, being academically inclined or athletically gifted was great. But it was not enough to guaranteed me what I needed most: an opportunity.”
And for people like him to have an opportunity, Ross one thing was key: community.
“What can people do? The same thing that this community did for me. Open doors and provide opportunity.”
The first community that’s important is the family, he said. In his case, “Mom and Dad demonstrated work ethic, dedication, demanded excellence. Both of them would pray over me as I slept in the early morning, not realizing that I heard those prayers of protection and love. Love. We got to get back to love, y’all.”
He saw that same commitment to community, faith and scholarship when he went to college, he said.
“Allow me to introduce you to a special lady whose love and support has left a mark, he said: “Sister Linda.”
Sister Linda taught his 8 a.m. computer science class at Benedictine College. Now only was she “sharp as a tack,” he said, but “Sister Linda loved basketball. And she was the loudest one in the arena. … After every game, Sister Linda would cut out my clippings. All I had to do is look for the clippings, and that was my seat for the day in Sister Linda’s class.”
At the same time, though, Sister Linda demanded academic excellence. “But she had zero tolerance for shenanigans. This may not be a surprise to some of you, but I majored in shenanigans before I met her,” Ross said. “Unimpressed by my boyish charm, mastery of the queen’s English, and Caribbean accent, she challenged me and saw in me what I had not seen in myself. We became fast friends.”
He describes how after one road game when the team returned to Atchison at 3 a.m., he skipped his 8 a.m. class. “I thought, ‘You know what? Your boy got buckets last night. Sister Linda is cool. She loves me. I’ll be all good.’ Wrong! I strolled into basketball practice, obviously very well rested. Sister Linda had already made a call to Coach. She told Coach that I missed class that morning. Man, I had to run sprints for the entire hour.”
Most of all, he said, Sister Linda “expected excellence from me. She refused to let me fail. Now that I remember it, those clippings that she cut were always in the front row. Sister Linda wanted to keep me close. I thought she was teaching me computer science. But she was preparing me for life. It reinforced the foundation my parents laid from my childhood.”
Ross quoted the Parable of Talents from the Gospel of Luke. “From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required,” he said.
His parting advice: “Include people. Nurture them. Refuse to let them fail, in spite of themselves.”