Activist, Educator, Feminist, Entrepreneur
For more than 25 years, Don McPherson has used the power and appeal of sport to address complex social justice issues. He has created innovative programs, supported community service providers and has provided educational seminars and lectures throughout North America.
As an athlete, McPherson was a unanimous All-America quarterback at Syracuse University and is a veteran of the NFL and Canadian Football League. As captain of the undefeated 1987 Syracuse football team, McPherson set 22 school records, led the nation in passing and won more than 18 national “player of the year” awards, including the Maxwell Award as the nation’s best player, the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the inaugural Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was second in the Heisman Trophy voting. In 2008 McPherson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
McPherson has delivered school and community based programs addressing issues such as drunk driving, alcohol and substance abuse, bullying, youth leadership and mentoring. Upon retiring from pro football in 1994, he joined Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society as national director of Athletes in Service to America. In 2002 he founded the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University, for which he served as executive director until 2007.
In 1995 McPherson turned his focus to the issue of “men’s violence against women,” as director of Sport in Society’s Mentors in Violence Prevention Program, taking over for the program’s founder, Jackson Katz. McPherson emerged as a national leader and advocate for the prevention of sexual and domestic violence. He has conducted workshops and lectures for more than 200 college campuses, community organizations and national sports and violence prevention organizations. His programs and lectures have reached more than 1 million people.
Don has twice testified before the United States Congress and has worked closely with the U.S. Departments of Education and Defense on issues of sexual violence in education and the military, respectively. He has provided commentary on numerous news programs and was featured in O Magazine and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Don also created and hosted “Training for Life” on MSG Varsity, a life skills TV show that examined a myriad of social issues and sports. In 2012, Training for Life's episode on "Sports Parenting" was nominated for an Emmy Award.
McPherson has worked as a college football analyst for ESPN, BET and NBC and is currently the studio analyst for Sportsnet New York’s coverage of Big East Football. In 2000, while a board member of the Nassau County Sports Commission, McPherson created the John Mackey Award, which recognizes college football’s outstanding tight end.
Don McPherson has received several honors in recognition of his service, including the Frederick Douglas Men of Strength Award, given by Men Can Stop Rape, Champions for Change, presented by Lifetime Television, The Creative Vision for Women’s Justice, presented by the Pace University Women’s Justice Center, and a Leadership Award from the National Center for Victims of Crime. Most recently Don received the George Arents Award, Syracuse University's highest alumni honor and “Letter Winner of Distinction”, the highest honor bestowed a former student-athlete.
Don McPherson has served as a board member, consultant and advisor for several national organizations including the Ms Foundation for Women and the National Football Foundation. Recently, McPherson joined the board of directions of the US National Committee for UN Women.