2002 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Stephen B. Fortson ’83
In 1979 Stephen Fortson came to Carolina on a football scholarship. He lettered twice, and started as a defensive lineman in almost every game for two years. Those of us who go through college minus the enormous commitment necessary to accomplish what Stephen did on the field never truly feel what it’s like to be pressured for success from two separate entities.
Stephen’s parents wouldn’t let him lose sight of why he was in school. He graduated on time, and he left with a deep appreciation for what’s required to take care of business in the classroom while reaching memorable achievements outside of academics as well. He went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees, and then he set about giving back.
He returned to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, where he is an associate professor of counselor education in Wright State University’s College of Education and Human Services. He is chair of the Department of Human Services. And he is the faculty advisor for the marriage and family program. Stephen is coordinator of the African American Male Mentoring Program, which the university’s first black president, the late Harley Flack, asked him to create. Stephen has initiated a scholarship system, matched students with faculty advisors, and taught a class about how to be successful in college. He pulled from his experiences at Carolina, of course.
He also serves as one of the university’s faculty athletic representatives. This means he is in charge of protecting the welfare of student athletes and making sure they comply with school rules. He also has to follow their academic performance, which means keeping track of almost 250 students in virtually every sport except, ironically, football.
The list continues: Stephen also serves on the Athletic Council and the Minority Opportunity and Access Committee. Yet he does not feel overextended. This is what he wanted to do. “I knew when I was studying at UNC,” he said, “that I wanted to be in a position to make a difference in the lives of student athletes. I’m very glad one of my main roles at Wright State is overseeing athletes.”
In his spare time, he maintains a private practice in clinical counseling. It is just one more way, he believes, to return to his community what the often surprisingly complementary worlds of academics and athletics bestowed on him.