By Kaeli Van CottSTAFF WRITER
On Thursday, Mark Sterner spoke at the Student Center Theater to a crowd filled with Greek organizations about the worst night of his life: the night he drove drunk and killed three of his friends.
Mark Sterner presented “DUI: A Powerful Lesson,” a speech he has made to more than two million people, as a part of Alcohol Awareness Week, led by the Office of Student Leadership and Activities.
He began with humor, asking the crowd questions like, “How many people have done stupid things when they were drunk?” and “How many people woke up wondering ‘how did I get home last night?’”
Sterner then showed a grainy home video taken during his spring break with four of his best friends, his Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity brothers. The shaky camera zoomed in and out on his friends as they took shots and drove 100 mph to a bar. This was the last footage he had of his friends before his life was dramatically changed.
Sterner and his friends Aaron, Pete, Jim and Darren, all decided to let the least drunk of their friends drive home during their last night in Sanibel, Fla. during their spring break. While driving home, their car skid across the road and hit a tree, ejecting them from the car. Aaron, Pete and Jim were all killed in the accident and Darren survived with some injuries. It was three months before their college graduation from Johnson & Wales University.
While Darren returned to college, Sterner received three charges of manslaughter for the death of his friends. His blood alcohol level was .17 percent, which was far over the legal limit of .08 in Florida. “Instead of being the first person to graduate college, I’m the first person of my family to go to prison,” Sterner said. He served three years in a Florida prison with other violent offenders, including murderers and rapists.
He now speaks to over 100 schools a year about his life-changing experience, and hopes that the impact of his story will affect students’ decisions. “I didn’t want it to be a quick, sad story for my friends,” Sterner said, “I wanted it to mean something.”
After his speech, Sterner stayed in the theater to welcome any questions or comments from students.
Junior Nikeya English spoke with Sterner and noted the importance of his story. “It’s an eye opener, not even just for alcohol awareness,” English said. “Don’t forget to tell people how much you love them.”