TROY—Former Oklahoma State University football Martel Van Zant, who gained national attention after being featured on ESPN, will delivered the 13th annual Helen Keller Lecture on April 8 at Troy University.
The lecture, which will be held at 10 a.m. in the Claudia Crosby Theater, is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations. The lecture is sponsored by Troy University, and co-sponsored by the Alabama Department of Education, the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Janice Capilouto Center for the Deaf/Easter Seals and the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. The event is free and open to the public.
Van Zant, who is deaf, will share his life story through his interpreter Allie Lee. A 22-year-old Texas native, Van Zant was born without ear drums after his mother contracted chicken pox during her pregnancy. An active child and a talented athlete, Van Zant never let his deafness slow him down. He went on to become a standout cornerback at Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, and chose to play his collegiate football at Oklahoma State, turning down scholarship offers from Texas A&M, Colorado, Southern Methodist, Texas Christian and Arizona.
Van Zant played in eight games as a freshman at Oklahoma State and eventually worked his way into the starting line-up near the end of his sophomore season. During his junior year with the Cowboys in 2006, he started every game and finished fourth on the squad in tackles. Injury cut short his senior season, but Van Zant hopes to continue his football career in the NFL.
Entertainment for the event will be provided by Josh McInnish, a 14-year-old student at Ashford High School. McInnish, legally blind since birth, plays the piano and bells as is a member of the percussion section of the Ashford High School Band.
Born with a condition known as Peter’s Anomoly, McInnish has undergone numerous surgeries throughout his life, receiving donor corneas in an effort to improve his sight. Three years ago, he became a candidate for a new procedure using artificial corneas and was at the time, the youngest person to undergo this procedure. His surgery and his story were featured on the ABC program, “Miracle Workers.”
In addition to the lecture, the University will host an art show, featuring artwork created by children from Troy City and Pike County school systems from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, April 7. The artwork will be on display in the Trojan Center foyer.