Siena will recognize legendary New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter with an honorary degree during the College’s 2012 Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 13.
The Yankees Captain will become a member of Siena’s Class of 2012 when he receives a Doctor of Humane Letters degree in recognition of his leadership, accomplishments on the baseball field and dedication to improving the lives of young people through his Turn 2 Foundation.
“We all know that Derek Jeter is a tremendous athlete, but this is an opportunity for the Siena community to honor and share in his commitment to young men and women,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Linda Richardson, Ph.D. “Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation encourages our youth to remain in school and to stay healthy. Siena will support our joint mission of academic excellence by providing two full grants to academically-qualified students who have participated in one of the many Turn 2 Foundation Signature Programs.”
While Jeter and the Yankees will be in action against the Seattle Mariners on graduation day, his presence will be felt during the Commencement ceremony through a personalized video message that will be played on the video board in the Times Union Center. His sister, Sharlee Jeter, President of the Turn 2 Foundation, will accept the honorary degree on his behalf.
"To be awarded an honorary degree is a very humbling experience for me. I am proud to have a great institution, Siena College, recognize me for what I've accomplished on and off the field,” said Derek Jeter. “The partnership between Siena and my Turn 2 Foundation is a testament that what I have done off the field to encourage young people to pursue their educational dreams is worthwhile. I will cherish this degree as highly as any honor I have received or will receive over the years."
Derek Jeter established the Turn 2 Foundation to promote healthy lifestyles among children and teenagers. The Foundation was created with the goal of motivating young people to "turn to" healthy lifestyles and "turn away" from drugs and alcohol. Since its inception in 1996, during Jeter’s rookie season, the Turn 2 Foundation has awarded more than $16 million in grants to create and support signature programs and activities that motivate young people to choose healthy lifestyles. Through these ventures, the Foundation strives to create outlets for children to achieve academic excellence, develop leadership skills and remain drug and alcohol free.
Jeter is a life-long Yankees fan who was born in New Jersey and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. When he started playing high school baseball, his talents helped him earn a spot on the Kalamazoo Central varsity team as a freshman. Jeter also spent three years playing varsity basketball. Jeter was a close friend of Siena College alumnus Geoff Walker ’97. While they were high school rivals, Jeter and Walker were teammates on their city’s AAU basketball team. Walker remains close with the entire Jeter family.
“We grew up in a family-centric community. Our families expressed the importance of being positive young men in our respective communities. We were students first and athletes second,” Walker said. “I remember when Derek was drafted. I had already committed to playing basketball at Siena. I called his house, said congratulations and specifically said, ‘Hey man, hurry up and get to the bigs.’ At 17 years old, I didn't know he’d get there at such a lightning pace and have such a successful career.”
Walker is now Vice President of US Wholesale Sales for Tarina Tarantino Designs, an American accessories and lifestyle brand headquartered in Los Angeles, California. Walker also founded Brand2Gether, LLC, a consulting company that works with non-profit organizations, including Siena College and the Turn 2 Foundation, to mentor students and support families concerned with improving the physical and mental health of young people.
“We know all about Derek’s on-field successes, but his legacy will have its greatest impact through students in the Turn 2 Foundation,” Walker said. “Siena College values educating young adults in an environment that supports future leaders. Derek and his family also place high importance on education and nurturing the health and well being of our youth. The core characteristics of the “Jeter's Leaders” Program are rooted in what the Franciscan Tradition stands for. These students will be a valuable addition to not only Siena College, but to the entire Capital Region community. I'm very excited to see them flourish at Siena.”
Along with honoring Jeter with a degree, Siena College has developed a scholarship program with the Turn 2 Foundation’s “Jeter's Leaders” Program. “Jeter’s Leaders” is a youth leadership program designed to empower, recognize and enhance the skills of high school students who promote healthy lifestyles, achieve academically and are committed to improving their community through social change activism.
The “Jeter’s Leaders” Program identifies youth who succeed academically and possess leadership characteristics in an effort to ensure that they receive the necessary experiences and trainings to serve as ambassadors for Derek Jeter in their communities, in addition to ensuring that they successfully finish high school and attend college. Throughout the year, “Jeter's Leaders” are involved in projects that offer opportunities for them to learn more about themselves and their communities. They are expected to model positive behavior and deliver positive messages to their peers and younger students in Turn 2 programs focusing on staying in school, remaining drug and alcohol free and giving back to the community.
Derek Jeter is a 12-time All-Star and a five-time World Series champion. He is the only player to earn MVP honors in both the All-Star Game and World Series in the same year (2000). Jeter has won five GolGloved Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards. He was also named American League Rookie of the Year in 1996. Last season, Jeter cemented his legacy as one of professional baseball’s all-time greats when he became the first New York Yankee and just the 23rd player in the history of Major League Baseball to join the 3,000-hit club.
Educational leader Joe Pastore and journalist/author/sportswoman Virgina Kraft Payson will also be receiving honorary degrees at this year's Commencement ceremony. For more information, please visit our Commencement website.