Guest speaker stuns students at Greek Life event
On October 11, 2016, College Panhellenic Council held an event for Greek Life students at Bennett Auditorium to present the dangers of drunk driving.
Speaker Mark Sterner began his story with some light hearted questions to the audience and accounts of his college days, especially a particular night of spring break during which his fraternity brothers planned to drink and go out dancing at Sanibel, Florida.
Videos were shown of the group of 5 fraternity brothers, all under the age of 23, enjoying their last night of spring break.
At one point in the video, the car was shown reaching 100 mph.
Sterner then silenced the entire room by returning from behind the curtain in an orange prison jumpsuit and asking “How many in this room have killed your three best friends when you were drunk and driving them in a car?”
“The five of us had planned to take a turn being a designated driver each night, but this was the sixth night and no one wanted to take another turn”, Sterner explained. “I was decided to be the least drunk, so I drove us home.”
Sterner and his friends crashed their vehicle less than two miles from their destination after having made it safely to the bars all night. At the scene of the accident, three of Mark’s friends were pronounced dead on arrival.
Aaron, 22, Pete, 22, Jim, 23 died upon impact that night while Mark and Darren, both 21 were injured and moved to Lee Memorial Trauma Center. Mark’s blood alcohol content at the accident was recorded as .17; his friends’ all exceeded .22.
“The hospital called my mom at around 3 a.m., and she came down to Florida from Pennsylvania as fast as she could. They told her they weren’t sure I would be alive when she got here,” said Sterner.
Once he regained consciousness, Sterner was read his rights by the Sanibel Police and photographed for a mugshot. He was informed that he could serve up to 45 years in prison for 3 counts of DUI manslaughter.
Sterner recalled this as the only time had seen his father cry.
“Prison was a terrible experience, but I would spend any amount of time there if I could bring my friends back.”
The families of those who were killed in the accident did not press charges against Sterner, and he served 3 years in a maximum security prison due to DUI manslaughter being considered a violent crime by the state of Florida.
Sterner now travels to universities all over the United States to share his experience and tell students why it is important for them never to get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol.
Students representing all different Greek organizations on campus responded with standing ovation to Sterner’s account. Many students reported a new awareness of the fatal impact of drunk driving.
“Instead of simply lecturing,” said sophomore psychology major Amanda Blanchard, “Mark demonstrated to us the hazards of drinking and driving by telling his tragic story that left us all speechless. I can’t think of a better way to bring awareness to our Greek community.”