by Geoff Larcom, Published October 18, 2011
YPSILANTI - George Gervin, who has followed his stellar basketball careers at Eastern Michigan University and in the NBA with extensive community involvement helping the youth of San Antonio, has been named speaker for this year's fall commencement at Eastern.
"We are delighted to have George Gervin, 'The Iceman,' as our fall commencement speaker," said Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin. "George's story is one of a young man who didn't value education early in life but used his NBA basketball success and fame to give other young men and women a chance to get an education. He has many life lessons and insights to offer our graduates from a man who is now committed to education, family and helping students."
Gervin was a nine-time NBA All-Star and was named one of the Top 50 Greatest Players in the history of the NBA. Nicknamed "Iceman" for his cool demeanor on the court, Gervin was known for his scoring.
Gervin, 59, who was born in Detroit, led Eastern to the Final Four of the NCAA College Division National Championship in 1971-72 and earned All-American honors that year as a sophomore as he thrilled crowds in Bowen Field House. He finished his college career with 1,044 points and 562 rebounds.
After leaving EMU in 1972, he began his pro basketball career with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association. He played for the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls in the NBA.
Gervin received an honorary baccalaureate degree from Eastern in 2008 during a special halftime presentation at a basketball game. His jersey was retired in 1986 and he was elected to the EMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
Gervin remains a highly admired figure in San Antonio, noting on his website that his experience as an underprivileged child in Michigan inspired him to get involved. He is active in the San Antonio community, with seven organizations designed specifically for underprivileged kids, including the George Gervin Youth Center (http://www.gervin-school.org/), which has been reaching out to the community since 1991.
The non-profit organization provides vocational training, remedial education, mentoring, tutoring, job placement and supportive services for more than 1,400 of San Antonio's at-risk and disadvantaged youth and their families.
Gervin says the center is his way of giving something back to the citizens of San Antonio.
"I personally stand as an example of how obstacles can be overcome and dreams achieved when you have people who believe in you and care enough," Gervin says on his website. "We care about the young people we serve. Many of these young people represent a lot of hard work that paid off. Currently I am looking to expand the vision ... The vehicle I will use is education, because school was something I didn't take very seriously, as basketball was the focus of my life during my formative years ...
"I recognize how blessed I have been to have had a wonderful amateur and professional career in an area that I loved with all my heart. But, I regret I didn't pay more attention to my education. I truly didn't understand the value of a solid educational background...
"I stand committed to promoting education to every young person I meet and serve under the George Gervin Youth Center, Inc. umbrella."
Fall commencement will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, December 18 at Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center on Hewitt Road.