Vivian Stringer: Standing Tall

On Thursday, November 6, two days after the election, Rutgers basketball coach Vivian Stringer addressed a sell-out crowd at the Princeton Chamber lunch. As a board member of the chamber, I don’t write U.S. 1 Newspaper articles about chamber events, but I had interviewed Stringer for a book signing (U.S. 1, May 7 );=6&key;=Stringer

Having read her wonderful biography, “Standing Tall,” I recognized her “tough talk.” As in previous years she has some new players with big egos and reputations who are trying to resist her grueling conditioning requirements, “and they continue to read their reputation.” No matter how talented the player, she keeps them on the bench until they pass her fitness test.

Also in the book, she is frank about the prejudice she encountered as a child, a student, a coach, and a mother. So I was eager to hear her response to the inevitable question, “How did you feel about the election.” Taken aback, choked up, she could hardly speak at first, and then admitted that her reaction — tears — was a total surprise. “I cried a lot. I have seen so much. I cried with Colin Powell. I cried with Jesse Jackson. I thank God I was able to see it. He reconnected every living body. He exemplified the Christian principle — when they got rough, he turned his head and offered nothing but love.”

Her sons, she said, can look at the president elect and know that they, too, could someday be president. Then she confronted her mostly white audience. “Most of you in this room might not think about that. I’m proud of America. Proud of all people. It is good to see someone judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”

The motivation behind Stringer’s luncheon appearance was to announce that, for the women’s tournament, Sovereign Bank Arena would host the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight. Stringer also tried to make a case for how New Jersey could profit from the Big East being moved to New Jersey. Two at my table, Joe Demetor and Anthony Eagleton from Nelligan Sports Marketing — they market the Rutgers teams, had some insights on that. Though the Meadowlands might seem a perfect venue for the Big East, it would be difficult to match the ticket sales in Connecticut, which happens to be the epicenter of enthusiasm for women’s basketball.

Also at my table were three Susans — Susan Bowen from Mercer County Community College (with her from MCCC were Walter Brooks and Jacob Eapen), Susan “Fabulous” of Fabulous Fare (dessert and fancy food caterers), and Susan Gargano of Dominion Ventures, a private equity firm that invests in “non traditional stable assets,” i.e. trailer parks.

For an hour after the luncheon was over Stringer signed her book. With me in line were Melissa Tenzer of Careers USA and Richard Ober, who knows Stringer’s pastor, Rev. “Buster” Soaries of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens. Ober tells how he was the corporate counsel at United Jersey Bank when UJB loaned the money to build that church. After the papers were signed, Soaries asked an unusual question, “Now what can I do for you?” Hmm. Well, the bank was having trouble recruiting for a back office in an out-of-the-way spot with no transportation. On the spot Soaries promised to set up van services and find employees, and he followed through on the promise, providing dozens of hard-to-get, valuable workers for that location.

Among the others I met: Lorraine Allen of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, William Rhoads of CrossRoads Counseling & Communications, Ann Cannon and Wendy Sturgeon of Allies Inc. (Ann is also a Mercer County freeholder), Arlene Goldberg of Churchill Corporate Services, Bill Belmont of FastSigns, Alexis Nelson of Wyndham Princeton, Lisa Snyder of NJAWBO (NJAWBO has now joined the chamber), John Smith of Capable Communications, Bob Bruschi and his daughter (Bob used to be Princeton Borough’s administrator before he moved across the pond), and Ilonka Seamon of Real Possibilities.

Everyone at the lunch came home with Stringer’s book, courtesy of generous sponsors. (It’s a great read, and would be an inspirational gift.) Nearly everyone stood in line to get her autograph. An hour after the dishes were cleared, she was still signing.

On Friday, November 7, at noon, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who worked in the Obama campaign, will give an election wrapup at Princeton University’s Carl Fields Center on Olden Avenue…

4 thoughts on “Vivian Stringer: Standing Tall

  1. It was a wonderful event! We guaranteed 210 and had to turn away people after 225 showed up and we could not accommodate them. A sell out!Lawrence H. Krampf, CEO, Princeton Communications Group

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