Learning to Fly
How optometrist Stephen Garrett (OD ’80) forged his identity playing basketball for the Warriors and why he gives back.
How optometrist Stephen Garrett (OD ’80) forged his identity playing basketball for the Warriors and why he gives back.By Robin Morden Office of Advancement
When Stephen Garrett (OD ’80) recalls his days playing basketball, one memory stands out.
“The first time I'd ever been on an airplane was with the Warriors,” says Stephen. “We were playing in a tournament in Winnipeg and we flew there and it was a huge thrill for me.”
He is quick to admit that it might not sound like much to others, but, for Stephen, it illustrates a larger point. Playing basketball for Waterloo was about more than just the games. It was about new experiences and life lessons. It was a window to the world.
“I really credit the basketball program with making me who I am today,” says Stephen.
Part of what made the experience so transformative was legendary Warriors coach, Don McCrae, and his many words of wisdom. From Don, Stephen learned an absolutely invaluable lesson: always anticipate the future—and then be ready to act.
“Whether it was predicting where a basketball would come off a rim or jumping into a passing lane to make a steal, it was really about preparing yourself for what might happen next,” says Stephen. “That’s something that has remained with me to today and applies to everything in my life.”
Today Stephen is an optometrist with a thriving practice, but despite a busy schedule he still keeps in touch with his Warrior teammates. In fact, Stephen and a number of teammates from the 80s made a collective gift to the Men’s basketball program to establish the Original KW Titans Men’s Basketball Team Award. The award provides an athletic financial award to one student-athlete from the men’s basketball team each year, recognizing their dedication to the school, their team, and their community through volunteer or other service opportunities.
Stephen gives in other ways, too. He also created the Dr. Stephen Garrett Men’s Basketball Athletic Excellence Awards, which are provided annually to student-athletes who are members of the men’s varsity basketball team. He also made a generous planned gift to the men’s basketball program.
Stephen Garrett, Alumnus
Hopefully I plant a seed that at some point, when they’re in this position, they’ll consider doing something for other students.
Why does he give? Stephen wants to ensure today’s players benefit from the same formative experience he enjoyed as a Warrior. At the same time, he wants to make the basketball program more competitive. He hopes his scholarships, and other support, will help with recruitment, further enhancing Warriors Men’s Basketball as an appealing destination for Canada’s top student-athletes.
He has always enjoyed meeting the talented student-athletes who receive his scholarship, and, when he does, he often shares a key message.
“I tell them this is my way of giving back, but one day it will be their turn,” says Stephen. “Hopefully I plant a seed that at some point, when they’re in this position, they’ll consider doing something for other students.”
By helping these young student-athletes anticipate the future, he echoes his old coach and passes on one of the lessons that shaped his life.