Speaker to share tragic tale of driving drunk

During spring break of his senior year in college, Mark Sterner killed three of his best friends. On Oct. 23, he will visit SUNY Oswego to tell young people not to repeat his mistake.

Sterner’s talk, at 7 p.m. in the Sheldon Hall ballroom, is called “DUI: A Powerful Lesson.” His presentation on the potentially tragic effects of drunken driving is admission-free and open to the public, sponsored by the college’s CHAMPS/Life Skills program.

In March 1994, just a few months before he was scheduled to become the first in his family to earn a college degree, Sterner and some of his best friends and fraternity brothers were on spring break in Florida. They took turns driving home at the end of their partying, and on one fateful night, they decided Sterner was the least drunk among them, he recalled.

The car Sterner drove crashed, killing three of the four friends riding with him. He woke up in a hospital room to learn what happened, ended up with three felony manslaughter convictions for driving impaired and served three years in a Florida prison. More than anything, he said, he wanted to prevent others from making the same mistake.

The families of Sterner’s deceased friends have encouraged his efforts to prevent impaired driving and supported his reduced prison sentence so that he could share his story, Sterner said.

“Would my friends be married now?” Sterner wondered. “Would they have kids? I don’t know. I’ll wonder ‘what if’ for the rest of my life.”

Because he doesn’t want others to have to ask themselves the same questions, Sterner said he shares his message with high school and college students across the country. To date, he has spoken to more than one million students, and Campus Activities Magazine has twice named him its speaker of the year.

Sterner’s appearance at Oswego, through the educational agency Campuspeak, is part of OkSoberfest alcohol-awareness activities at the college, many of them sponsored by the SUNY Oswego LifeStyles Center.

His presentation on campus came about largely through the efforts of Lacey Kimpland, a senior guard on the Laker women’s basketball team and graduate of Fulton’s G. Ray Bodley High School. Kimpland said she heard rave reviews from other campuses who booked Sterner as a speaker.

SUNY Oswego’s CHAMPS/Life Skills program, which sponsors the talk, provides academic and advisement support to help student-athletes based on individual needs while concentrating on the overall development of a whole, well-rounded person.

Persons with disabilities seeking accommodations to attend this event should call 312-2406 in advance.

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(Posted: Oct 06, 2006)