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NCAA to honor Minneapolis leaders as Living Legends

During Final Four Legacy Celebration, 7 to be recognized for inclusion efforts

During the NCAA Men’s Final Four week, the NCAA office of inclusion and human resources will honor seven leaders as its 2019 Living Legends for their significant contributions in the Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, communities and for furthering inclusion within athletics.

The NCAA hosts a Legacy Celebration during the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours as an opportunity to honor former student-athletes, coaches, administrators and community leaders who have had significant achievements on and off the court of competition and who have positively influenced intercollegiate athletics or sports in general. Past events have included public and private receptions, film documentary presentations, town hall discussions and award presentations.

The NCAA event also provides a platform to promote diversity and inclusion as an imperative in intercollegiate athletics in cities that host NCAA tournament games and Final Fours. The Twin Cities residents will be honored at a private event before the Final Four.

“It is an honor to be able to celebrate the lives of these seven men who have served the Twin Cities community as activists, educators, change agents, role models and incredible athletes,” said Darryl A. Peal, NCAA managing director of external engagement and community partnerships.

“These honorees represent multiple generations of excellence and commitment as men who have invested in and sacrificed for their communities, their professions and their families. Their lives and their work are worthy of celebration.”

NCAA inclusion and human resources provides resources, programming and initiatives that support environments of excellence for NCAA student-athletes. The division, which includes external engagement and community partnerships, is committed to the work that furthers diversity, inclusion and gender equity among student-athletes, coaches and administrators at NCAA colleges and universities and in related communities.

The 2019 Living Legends are as follows:

Marvin Anderson

Anderson serves as the executive director of ReConnectRondo and is one of the founding fathers of the Rondo Days Festival, which is a celebration of the best and brightest of Minnesota’s African-American stories, achievements and culture. Anderson, who was a special assistant for the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, is also a co-founder and first president of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. In the 1930s, Rondo Avenue was at the heart of St. Paul’s largest black neighborhood. African-Americans whose families had lived in Minnesota for decades made up the vibrant and vital community. Highway construction in the 1950s and 1960s shattered the tight-knit community and resulted in the displacement of thousands of African-Americans.

In 1982, Anderson and others decided to restore the sense of community, stability and neighborhood values of the old Rondo area. Rondo Avenue Inc. became an organization dedicated to sharing the contributions of African-Americans and the rich cultural history of the community to the city of St. Paul and the state of Minnesota. It also brought people together to celebrate positive growth and diversity in the area. Anderson’s hard work and dedication also resulted in the formation of the ReConnectRondo organization, which is dedicated to creating a land bridge to reconnect the communities in the Rondo neighborhood on either side of Interstate 94.

Melvin Carter

Carter is a fourth-generation St. Paul resident, St. Paul public school graduate, former St. Paul council member, father and the first African-American to be elected mayor of the Minnesota city. He and his wife, Sakeena, continue to live in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul with several of their children.

Carter’s story began a century ago, when his great-grandparents came to Minnesota fleeing racial violence in the Southwest and looking for the promise of a better life. He is the son of a police officer and a teacher (who later became a county commissioner), both of whom instilled in him the value of community and public service. Carter’s passion for civic engagement began in 2000, and since then, he has continued to fight for people’s rights and be an advocate of public service. Carter, who also is an amateur pianist, was elected the mayor of St. Paul in November 2017.

Larry Fitzgerald Sr.

For more than 40 years, Fitzgerald has covered sports — college, high school and professional — on many media platforms, which include print, the internet, radio and television. Fitzgerald has served as a sports editor and columnist for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder for 33 years. His current column is called “Fitz Beat.” Additional highlights include being the first sports reporter in Minnesota to feature star Minnesota Vikings players weekly on radio an hour before the game in front of a live audience; hosting and producing the “Dennis Green Radio Show”; and covering 33 Super Bowls, including the 2009 game in which his oldest son, Larry Jr., played. It is believed that Fitzgerald Sr. is the first sportswriter to cover his son as a media representative in a Super Bowl. When Fitzgerald is not covering sports, he can be found keynoting banquets, fundraising for breast cancer-HIV research and urban education, and mentoring athletes on life and sports in the Minneapolis area.

Devean George

George grew up in North Minneapolis, played at NCAA Division III Augsburg and went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA, winning three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Off the court, George devoted his time and energy to numerous Minneapolis charitable organizations focused on families, education and children. For six years, he was a sponsor of the Minnesota-based program Why Can’t I Go?, which provided underprivileged students with travel-based educational opportunities. Twice each season, George would fly 10 participants and their chaperones to Los Angeles and provide them with hotel accommodations, tickets to a Lakers game and a visit to Disneyland. George served as a role model to these children and inspired them to continue to excel in life.

George continued his charitable involvement upon arriving in Dallas as a member of the Mavericks basketball team. He gave his time and funds to Buckner International, an organization that provides material and personal support to children who find themselves in settings such as orphanages, impoverished households, and violent or abusive environments. In addition to his work with Buckner International, George also informally adopted five families that were involved with the organization.

Larry McKenzie 

A coach, author and educator, McKenzie was the first coach to win four straight state titles in the 100-year history of Minnesota state boys basketball. McKenzie is a longtime community and youth advocate, with 20-plus years of experience working with urban youth. His commitment to the community has been evidenced by serving on the Metropolitan Council Minority Issues Advisory Committee and as a board member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Minneapolis, the North Community YMCA, the Northside Development Council, and numerous other nonprofit organizations in the area. In 2014, McKenzie became the first African-American coach selected to the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

Tony Patterson

Patterson is co-head football coach at Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. Patterson, a former wide receiver for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, pushes his players to focus on success both on and off the field.  He also serves as a role model and father figure to the players on his team. Since his introduction to the Cooper High football program, Patterson and his coaching staff have witnessed positive and significant changes with the athletes. Under Patterson’s leadership, the players are experiencing more success in the classroom and graduating with a focused goal of going to college. Patterson and his staff have guided the athletes to be their best on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Under Patterson’s coaching, many of the Cooper High senior athletes have earned college football scholarships.  

James Robinson

Robinson was the first African-American in the state of Minnesota to referee in the high school boys state basketball tournament and for many years was one of the few black referees who regularly worked boys basketball games in the area. During his tenure as referee, Robinson was considered one of the top officials in Minnesota. He regularly worked NCAA games in Divisions II and III and also worked Big Ten Conference games for 16 years. In 1982, Robinson served as president of the Minneapolis Officials Association and was a member of the Minnesota State High School League’s board of directors from 1988 to 1992. Robinson has been inducted into the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Honor and the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame. He also created and managed the Loft Teen Center, which serves and provides employment for area youth.