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    PEELER: Yow Statue Debuts in Coaches' Corner
     

    Aug. 24, 2010

    BY Tim Peeler

    RALEIGH, N.C. - When words failed, the statue of legendary women's basketball coach Kay Yow spoke for itself: a strong presence sitting humbly in a garden created just for her.

    The specially commissioned bust, a project of the NC State Student Government, was unveiled Tuesday afternoon on the walkway between Reynolds Coliseum and the Talley Student Center before a crowd that included many of the late coach's family, her numerous friends on campus and a handful of people who did not personally know her.

    Among the latter were new NC State chancellor Randy Woodson and student government athletics director Jeffrey Johnson, two of the speakers at the event. But everyone in the assembled crowd of nearly 250 knew of her legacy and exactly what she meant to the sport of women's college basketball, at the school where she coached for 34 years, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, nationally and globally.

    The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member is an icon on NC State's campus, the longest serving basketball coach in school history and someone who connected with students on campus. Those are among the reasons she was the first person honored in the Coaches' Corner, a nicely landscaped garden between the two exterior staircases on Reynolds' west side.

    The project began as a suggestion from a student in an exit poll taken after a student body presidential election, just after Yow's death of cancer on Jan. 24, 2009. Last August, Johnson began a campaign that raised nearly $50,000 to pay for the project.

    Members of the student government solicited funds from alumni, fans and others in the community. They also sold T-shirts in the Brickyard.

    A group of 25-30 students planted all the shrubs and bushes in the garden last spring - appropriately enough on the same morning as the second-annual Kay Yow Spring Football Game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

    "It's a testament to what Coach Yow meant to so many people," Johnson said. "It was a resounding effort by the student body. They have backed this project whole-heartedly from the beginning.

    "This is truly a special moment to dedicate this."

    At the request of Yow's younger brother Ronnie, Greensboro sculptor Jim Barnhill created the bust during a six-month span earlier this year. It is now displayed on a pedestal made of light pink granite, in honor of Yow's long-standing battle against breast cancer.

    "Kay Yow meant so much to NC State," said Chancellor Randy Woodson. "She is a great example of what a coach means to the students that she mentored throughout their career. There are so many students at this university that have benefitted from her teaching. It is a great tribute to recognize her in this garden forever.

    "One of the things I was particularly impressed by Coach Yow is how much she instilled in the student-athlete the belief that they needed to graduate, that they were here for an education and a belief that they needed to give back to the community. That is something we are proud to have as part of the NC State family forever."

    Yow's younger sister, Debbie Yow, recently was named the school's athletics director and spoke on behalf of the family at the emotional event.

    "For Kay, two families mattered; The Yow family and the Wolfpack family," she said. "The combination of these families completed her life, professionally and personally. She was truly loved by both. Today, all of you are sharing your affections for Kay and we are celebrating the mark she left behind on so many lives.

    "The Bible says that `to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord for those who trust in Him.' (II Corinthians 5:8) I know that she is alive and listening today, in perfect health, happy, with no cancer, knowing that she is loved by many."

    But the Coaches' Corner was not intended to honor only one NC State basketball coach. It will eventually honor the other people who brought so much glory to the school, including Everett Case, Norman Sloan and Jim Valvano. However, no decision has been made about who or when the next bust will be unveiled.

    "It's obviously something that will have to be continued," said Johnson, who returns for his second year as the student government athletics director. "Everybody wants to know who is next. That hasn't been determined yet. There is a great legacy of coaches here who have lived up to a similar legacy of Coach Yow.

    "Now that we have this one dedicated, we might take a week off and then start talking about who we will honor next."

    You may contact Tim Peeler at tim_peeler@ncsu.edu.

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