There are 33 members of the Board of Trustees at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee. Included in that group is one Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Class of 1985, who earned a degree in political science.
Board of Trustee meetings can be lengthy and boring and can cover a number of topics. In the fall of 2007, the meeting was in its second day when members took a break after a long discussion about public safety at the school. Rivers remained seated and pulled out some of his coaching notes for training camp which would be sta
rting in a few weeks.
Stephanie Russell, the school's executive director for mission and identity, who was attending the meeting, tapping him on the shoulder. Previously, she had heard Rivers talk about Marquette's student work-study program in Africa and his desire to go there with his family.
She had a question for him: had he ever heard of the word ubuntu? Rivers shook his head. Russell explained that Bishop Desmond Tutu had used the word in a speech at the Marquette campus a few years earlier and it had made a big impression on her. She went on to explain that ubuntu roughly means "I am because we are" or "I am because of you." An African variation of "all for one and one for all."
"It can be a lot deeper than that, she added. "It can be a way of life."
"Oh my God!" Rivers said. "That's my team. I've got to get my team to see that."