Chris Herren Gives Schaff Lecture
Chris Herren, a former basketball standout who waged a prolific battle with substance abuse during his college and NBA careers, visited Mercersburg February 10 to deliver this year’s Schaff Lecture on Ethics and Morals in the Burgin Center for the Arts’ Simon Theatre.
Herren’s talk was part of the school’s annual endowed lecture series, and was the first fully in-person event in the lecture series since the winter of 2020.
Herren scored more than 2,000 points as a high-school basketball player in Fall River, MA, and was named to the prestigious McDonald’s All-America Team as a senior in 1994. He started his college career at Boston College, but following a number of failed drug tests transferred to Fresno State University, where he played for Hall of Fame coach Jerry Tarkanian and twice earned all-conference honors; he also stepped away from basketball while at Fresno State to seek treatment for a substance-use disorder.
Herren was drafted by the NBA’s Denver Nuggets in 1999 and later played for his hometown Boston Celtics along with pro teams in Italy, Poland, Turkey, China, Germany and Iran. He struggled with addiction to painkillers and heroin, but with the unwavering help of his family and friends, Herren has been sober since August 2008.
Herren is now a sought-after speaker on issues of drug abuse and recovery. He has spoken in front of more than a million students and community members about his journey, and co-authored the 2011 memoir Basketball Junkie. His story was featured in the Emmy Award-nominated ESPN Films documentary Unguarded, which is part of the network’s famed 30 for 30 series.
“I wish I‘d had a coach or teacher pull me aside at age 17 and ask me why I was willing to risk everything by getting drunk and high on weekends,” Herren told the students and community members in the audience. “Of the 14 of us on my high-school basketball team who'd go out and drink from red Solo cups and play beer pong, seven of us became heroin addicts... The scariest thing about addiction is that you don‘t see it coming.”
Herren is the founder of the nonprofit Herren Project, which empowers schools and communities to make healthy choices while also guiding families through recovery, and of Herren Wellness, a residential health and wellness program that helps guests lead healthy, substance-free lives.
The Schaff Family Endowment, which supports the lecture, was funded by and is in honor of Schaff brothers Phillip ’38, Charles ’41, and David ’42. The endowment supports annual speakers “on topics related to fundamental human values—those principles which direct a person’s decisions and actions because they clarify what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong.’”
Upcoming endowed-speaker events at Mercersburg include the Joseph Hilliard Beauregard ’18 Memorial Generosity of Spirit School Meeting Tuesday, February 15 (physician, professor, and entrepreneur Calvin Sun), the Class of ’69 Global Engagement Lecture Thursday, April 21 (entrepreneur and inventor Kavita Shukla), and the Jacobs Residency Lecture Monday, May 2 (author and consultant Daniel Lerner).
For more information on this story, please contact Lee Owen (firstname.lastname@example.org) in Mercersburg’s Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications.