Dedicated in December 2016, Jerome Kersey Court inside Willett Hall is just one mark the famed former Lancer and NBA star left on his alma mater.
The most recent evidence of Kersey’s impact on Longwood is not as visible but just as indelible as his name on the hardwood. A $2,500 scholarship contributed by the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, Kersey’s former team, will forever be remembered by one Longwood student for the academic opportunity it made possible for her.
The Blazers made the gift in memory of Kersey, who played on the team from 1984-95 and then worked for the organization as a community ambassador until his unexpected death in 2015. The scholarship was designated for a student who embodies traits that Kersey was known for, specifically working hard, being kind to others and giving back to the community.
The honor went to Tatianna Griffin ’18, a sociology and anthropology major from Waldorf, Maryland. A member of the Longwood cheerleading team who aims to become a forensic anthropologist, she paired the scholarship with funding from the Longwood Institute of Archaeology and Cormier Honors College, and a gift from an anonymous donor to attend a prestigious summer program in forensic anthropology at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“To be the recipient of the Kersey scholarship blew my mind,” Griffin said. “I couldn’t afford this experience on my own, and neither could my department. When coach [Megan] Miller first told me about it, I wanted to cry. To think that I could partake in something like these courses at Mercyhurst thanks to this scholarship—it’s amazing.”
Griffin was hand-picked by Longwood professor of anthropology Dr. Brian Bates to be the recipient of the funding, allowing her to become Longwood’s first student to enroll in the Mercyhurst program. The collaboration between the university’s athletics department and anthropology department allowed Griffin to gain real-world experience in various aspects of death scene archaeology, human osteology and how to analyze bone trauma in suspected violent deaths. During the program, which took place in June, Griffin learned about documentation and recovery methods for outdoor crime scenes in a number of contexts, including surface scatters and buried bodies.
“It really means a lot to be supported by people and a community that helps motivate me to achieve my aspirations,” said Griffin.
The Kersey scholarship that helped Griffin enroll in the program is the second academic gift donated in Kersey’s name this year. The first was a $25,000 gift from former Lancer Kevin Brandon ’82, which established the Jerome Kersey Men’s Basketball Scholarship.
Kersey spent 17 seasons in the NBA, playing more than 1,100 games. Throughout his 11 seasons in Portland, Kersey became not only a fan favorite but also a pillar of the community. He was involved in numerous local Portland charities during his playing career and continued that involvement long after his retirement in 2001, when he returned to serve as a Trail Blazers community ambassador.