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Classroom mentorship gives life lessons to students

Posted on: February 24, 2017

It is not easy to get Adonis “Sporty” Jeralds to talk about himself. It is incredibly easy to get others to talk about him as a humble teacher and leader who has made an impact on their lives.

“I learned more life lessons in his class than the rest of my other classes combined, I think,” said alumna Lindsay Burke. Jeralds, a clinical instructor at the University of South Carolina College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, sees imparting those life lessons along with the nuts and bolts of the industry he knows so well as the crux of his role.

“I love mentoring people,” Jeralds said. “That’s been a big part of my joy in this business.” The beneficiaries of Jeralds’ willingness to serve as a mentor are scattered across the globe, but eager to talk about the man who helped them along the way.

Jeralds began his career in public assembly facilities management in Virginia in 1983, and by 1990 had risen to become the manager of the Charlotte Coliseum, overseeing a building with a $12 million budget and more than 600 employees. Kendra C. Johnson was one of those employees. After working under Jeralds and reading his first book, The Champion in You, Johnson walked into Jeralds’ office one day for a conversation which would change her life.

"I hadn't said it out loud to anybody ever," she said. "I said 'You know what, I'm thinking about going to Hollywood.' And then I waited, fully expecting for him to say 'Okay, be quiet. Stop acting crazy and go back to your office because I know you have work to do that you have not done.' Instead of that, he said 'When are you leaving?'" Johnson was heading west two months later, and found success as an actress.

Jeralds worked at the Charlotte Coliseum for 15 years, mentoring countless others and coordinating the NCAA basketball Final Four, the NBA All-Star Game, and visits from Mother Teresa and the Rolling Stones. He is a certified facilities executive, one of only 300 in the world.

The man knows his business, and shares that knowledge with his sport and entertainment management students at USC. Still, the life lessons are often what really stand out for them.

“He has changed my life for sure,” said alumna Lauren McAlexander. “I wish I could take his class every year.”

Jeralds’ classes often begin with him asking if any of the students have good news to share, and celebrating the good news as a group, whether it’s big or small. Jeralds took a class period before Thanksgiving to give his students time to write thank you notes to important people in their lives, and write the names of those people on a banner known as “Sporty’s Wall of Fame.”

Alumnus Jeffery Brewington said Jeralds was a teacher “who really gave me that push that I needed.”

Jeralds’ students also hear from guest speakers, and their professor never lets ego stand in the way of turning over his class to someone else. A recent evening class featured USC basketball coach Dawn Staley and Susan O’Malley (an HRSM professor who was the first female NBA franchise president). “This will be my best class of the year,” Jeralds said as he opened the floor for students to ask questions of the two women. Staley called Jeralds simply “awesome.”

Jeralds is the author of three successful books. He holds a Distinguished Alumnus award from his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has been invited to speak all over the world. Still, the successes that mean most to him are those in the lives of his students.

"It's very important who you share your dreams with,” Johnson said, remembering the day she shared hers with Jeralds. “He had an opportunity right there to crush my dreams or support them."

He supported them. That’s what Sporty Jeralds does.