Olympic heptathlete and long jumper Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be the featured speaker during the Feb. 20 John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute Distinguished Lecture Series at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.
The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. and JBS Public Leadership Institute Executive Director Robert Brescia said tickets will cost $10 and be free to students. Tickets will be available at the Wagner Noel box office.
Brescia said he hasn’t given the presentation an official title yet, but is calling it “An Evening with Jackie Joyner-Kersee” for now.
A native of East St. Louis, Ill., Joyner-Kersee speaks about athletics, business success, living with the limitations of medical issues, nutrition, women’s issues and youth advocacy. She has been afflicted with asthma throughout her life, Brescia said.
Following her retirement, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center Foundation, aimed at encouraging youth in her hometown to play sports. Additionally, in 2007, Joyner-Kersee helped establish Athletes for Hope along with such sports heroes as Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali and Mia Hamm.
Athletes for Hope’s website said its mission is to educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, increase public awareness of those efforts and to inspire others to do the same.
Joyner-Kersee was called “The Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century” by Sports Illustrated magazine. At the end of her career in the heptathlon and long jump, she had won three Olympic gold medals, one silver and two bronze, her biography said.
She was the first woman in history to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon and today she still holds the world heptathlon record of 7,291 points. She still holds Olympic and national records in the long jump and her 1994 performance in the long jump remains the second longest in history, her biography said.
Joyner-Kersee also was a world-class 100 and 200 meter runner, an All-American basketball player at UCLA and played professional basketball briefly, it said.
Brescia said he was interested in bringing Joyner-Kersee to the Permian Basin in part because of her reputation as being an engaged and accommodating speaker, going the extra mile to talk to students and “just being a regular person when she’s on site.”
This year, Brescia said JBS Public Leadership Institute is highlighting women’s leadership issues “and we’re going to start with her.”
He added that she was a breakthrough athlete and a joy to watch.
“To see the distinctions she was bringing home for the United States was just incredible,” Brescia said.
Joyner-Kersee has an autobiography called “A Kind of Grace” and has penned “A Woman’s Place is Everywhere.”
Brescia said the proceeds will enable JBS Public Leadership Institute to recoup a lot of the cost associated with obtaining speakers and the venue. He added that it’s not without precedent to charge for lectures and that other UT campuses do it.
Whether there is a cost for tickets for future lectures will depend on the lecture, Brescia said.
“I think the fine people of the Permian Basin will come to the table to try and help the lecture program as much as possible,” Brescia said.
Later in the year, on Oct. 4, members of the Texas Supreme Court will be in Odessa for a court day. Brescia said they will operate like they do in Austin. That night, he said, there will be a JBS lecture at the Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.
- What: John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute Distinguished Lecture Series presents Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
- When: 7 p.m. Feb. 20.
- Where: Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center, 1310 N. Farm to Market Road 1788 in Midland.
- Tickets: cost is $10 and free to students.