The Orlando Sentinel today named Richard Lapchick its Central Floridian of the Year, honoring an internationally recognized expert in sport who has dedicated his life to working to achieve racial equality.
Twenty years ago, Lapchick founded UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management program, which is one of the most highly regarded around the country and has impacted countless lives through its exceptional, rigorous curriculum and emphasis on social change.
Lapchick, an eminent scholar and endowed chair, stepped down last month from his role as director of the DeVos program, which is part of the College of Business. He is teaching his final UCF class this fall. He will continue for the next two years as director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), which is part of the DeVos program, and as president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, which is a nonprofit organization affiliated with and hosted at UCF.
“Too many children have learned how to hate, and too many of them are waging war on one another,” Lapchick said during the Sentinel’s Central Floridian of the Year breakfast ceremony. “If our children have learned how to hate, we can teach them how to love again. If they are waging war on one another, we have the full capacity to give them the tools they need to make peace.”
Last year, Lapchick was named the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year by the Muhammad Ali Center. Lapchick and Ali were close friends for nearly four decades prior to Ali’s passing in 2016.
“He’s consciously helping others or uplifting others,” Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s widow, told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think that’s why he and Muhammad were so drawn to each other. They were alike in many ways. Muhammad was maybe more bombastic or more lively, but they have very similar hearts, all about service to others.”
Sports leagues and teams and others have increasingly sought Lapchick’s expertise on racial and gender issues during the past year and a half. He also wants to share his social justice and anti-racist messages with new audiences through representation by the Harry Walker Speakers Agency, a firm that also represents former U.S. presidents and many star athletes and entertainers.
When Lapchick reflects on the success of the DeVos program, “it’s the students and the graduates I’m most proud of, and the values they’ve taken into the workplace,” he says.
He mentioned Brian Wright ’06MBA ’07MS, now the general manager of the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs, as well as several alumni who have advanced to run or start their own nonprofit organizations. The Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 also demonstrated how DeVos graduates can use sport to help a community recover from tragedy. One started a 4.9K Rainbow Run to raise money for the onePulse Foundation and Zebra Coalition — the run attracted more than 3,000 runners and raised $350,000 this year.
“He’s become an inspiration and a source of strength for me,” Pulse owner Barbara Poma told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s important to him that the conversations we started here, around Pulse and around LGBTQ issues, go farther. It happened here, but it resonates around the whole nation and the world.”
Since 2006, DeVos students and faculty, through the Hope for Stanley Foundation, have spent 58 weeks in New Orleans rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Lapchick was named an honorary citizen of New Orleans by the City Council in 2007. He has received 10 honorary degrees.
Two of this year’s five finalists are UCF alums, including social work and nonprofit management grad Eric Camarillo ’16 ’19MNM, who founded SALT Outreach — a nonprofit dedicated to serving Central Florida’s homeless population. Marucci Guzmán ’08, who is head of three organizations: Latino Leadership, which serves the Central Florida Latino community; Clínica Mi Salud, a clinic that provides mental health and medical services to non-English speakers; and a center for families of autistic children, was also nominated.