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Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and 1983 Southeastern graduate, beams with pride as she celebrates with students, fellow alumni and friends following the retirement of her jersey at Southeastern.
Robin addresses the crowd after her jersey was unfurled
As she gazed at the rafters of Southeastern’s University Center, one could see the joy in her eyes as Robin Roberts one of Southeastern’s most recognizable alumnae watched as her jersey was unfurled in ceremonies in early February.
Roberts, anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, returned to her Southeastern roots to see her jersey, No. 21, officially retired in a ceremony held on Lady Lions Alumnae Day.
“It’s good to be home,” Roberts said, as she was presented with a framed jersey. “This is truly my sports moment, and to share it with my Southeastern family means everything.”
In her remarks, she recalled as a senior in high school how she was returning home to Pass Christian, Miss., with her coach and feeling somewhat uncomfortable after visiting another Louisiana university. Passing through Hammond on I-12, she saw the sign “Southeastern Louisiana University Next Right,” and urged her coach to take a detour and visit Southeastern.
“We took that exit and I fell in love right away, and I’m so glad,” she said. “The foundation that was laid here for me has been everything that I have built upon the quality education first and foremost, the faculty who stressed the importance of being a student first and then an athlete, and this tremendous, tremendous community of Hammond, Louisiana. I am so proud to say that I am a Southeastern Louisiana University Lady Lion.”
“We welcome the opportunity to recognize Robin, who has served as such a great ambassador for Southeastern,” said President John L. Crain. “Her personal and professional achievements make her a true role model for young women everywhere and an inspiration to us all. We are proud to welcome her back to Southeastern and honor her with the retirement of her Lady Lion jersey.
Athletics Director Bart Bellairs said he has never known of another person who speaks so highly of their school as Roberts does of Southeastern.
A 1983 graduate in mass communications who played as a power forward and center, Roberts is only the second Lady Lion to see her jersey retired, the other being Queen Brumfield in 2003. Nearly 50 Lady Lion basketball alumnae assembled in the University Center for the ceremony and were individually introduced. In addition, former Lady Lions coaches the late Linda Puckett, Ace Bryant, and Frank Schneider were all recognized along with current coach Lori Davis Jones.
Interacting with her fellow alumnae, Roberts said, “I feel like I’m in my 20s again. It’s so nice to go back in time. All of us, we have a common bond, a love for Southeastern.”
In a press conference following the ceremony, Roberts was asked for her advice to the young women of today.
“To be a student first and then an athlete,” she responded. “I think that’s very important, even though there are more opportunities now for women in athletics beyond college. I didn’t have that opportunity, so it made me excel in the classroom. I tell them to stay in the moment, to enjoy this moment and don’t be in such a hurry, but enjoy what they are doing right now.
“I tell them to dream big and focus small,” she added. “The things they are learning now are going to help them later in life. There are little things about sports that I apply to my everyday life. I know that the level of success that people say I have reached in my career is because I played sports. I think I would have been successful in anything I pursued because of my athletic background.”
Roberts starred for the Lady Lions from 1979-83. She currently ranks among the program’s career leaders in points (1,446, 6th), rebounds (1,034, 5th), games played (114, 4th), field goals made (507, 5th), free throws made (432, 4th) and free throw percentage (72.0). A member of the university’s Athletics Hall of Fame, in 2006 she was named one of the NCAA’s “100 Most Influential Student-Athletes” in conjunction with the NCAA Centennial Celebration.
Roberts got her start in broadcasting while still at Southeastern, working at the university radio station KSLU and at WHMD/WFPR in Hammond, where she was sports director. Later she held various broadcasting jobs in Atlanta, Nashville, Biloxi and Hattiesburg, Miss. From 1990-2005, she was a contributor to ESPN, where her assignments included hosting SportsCenter and contributing to NFL PrimeTime.
Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007. Her public battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country, including the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.
In 2005, Roberts found her personal and professional lives collide when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast a part of the country she called home for most of her life. Following the storm, she traveled to the hurricane zone and reported on the devastation. She also launched “GMA Gets It Done,” a year-long effort to rebuild Roberts’ hometown of Pass Christian, Miss.