"Progress is a nice word, but change is its motivator, and change has its enemies." — Robert F. Kennedy, 1964
On the second floor of the Business Administration II building, down a labyrinthine hallway, is an office tucked away behind a series of doors, in a fashion reminiscent of a game show.
The office belongs to Dr. Richard Lapchick, professor and endowed chair of the DeVos Sports Business Management Graduate Program. Adorning the walls are photos of Lapchick with former president Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali in recognition of his work with sports to bring about social change.
Whether Lapchick is conscious of it or not, his office is hard to find, and based on past experience, this may not be a bad thing.
At 10:45 p.m. in February 1978, there was a knock on Lapchick's Virginia Wesleyan College office door. He expected to see campus security, which usually checked on him when he was staying after hours.
"When I opened the door, instead, it was two men wearing stocking masks who proceeded to cause liver damage, kidney damage, a hernia, a concussion [and] carved [derogatory racial slur] in my stomach with a pair of office scissors," Lapchick said.
The attack was in response to Lapchick's anti-apartheid boycott of South African participation in the Davis Cup.
"He's a courageous man of moral and ethical stature. Unlike many of us, he is unafraid to live his ethical values. I think that's quite impressive," said John Schell, vice president and chief of staff.
Lapchick's moral compass was guided by his father, Joe Lapchick, who played for the Original Celtics and coached the New York Knicks when they signed the first African-American player in NBA history in 1950.
"He had this sense of what's right and wrong long before I was ever born," Lapchick said.
The young Lapchick originally wanted to follow his father's lead not in social justice, but in shooting hoops. After a trip to basketball camp in New York, where Lapchick played along side five other white players and one black player, he changed his mind.
"One of the white guys was hurling the n-word at the black guy, day in and day out until I finally challenged him. He knocks me out cold. The black guy was then known as Lou Alcindor, [later known as] Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a lifelong friendship began," Lapchick said.
In the DeVos program it is said, "there is something about sport." Lapchick says this means a lot of things, but in this particular case it means he would have never met and befriended Abdul-Jabbar if not for basketball.
Former New England Patriot and current chief operating officer for The National Consortium for Academics and Sport, Keith Lee, laughed when asked whether racism is still an issue in the United States.
"Young people have to understand the history of civil rights and women's suffrage and the whole history and understand the homophobic activities in this country because some of that stuff hasn't changed and if we don't understand how it was, it's going to stay as it is," Lee said.
Lee has been a colleague and friend of Lapchick's for more than 30 years and describes him as a man of great empathy who deeply believes in human rights for everyone.
"He began [with] the advocacy of equal treatment for African Americans, [and] although that was what he was originally most well-known for, he has also been an advocate for inclusiveness of all marginalized groups," Schell said.
Lapchick also works with DeVos students to rebuild homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, speaks out against human trafficking and has created a program to educate former athletes.
"You're not going to change all these social-justice issues, but you can change some people's lives and so that's what motivates me to want to keep doing what I'm doing, and this DeVos program is a fantastic outlet," Lapchick said.