The Latin word for “truth” is inscribed on the school crests of colleges and universities all across the nation. At Harvard, for example, the university’s seal reads “veritas,” which, when translated, means “truth.” Yale takes it one step further with “lux et veritas,” or “light and truth.” These words are regarded by some as the cornerstones of education, and their meanings are debated in ivy-covered buildings for countless hours and across generations.
When examining the St. John’s University seal, however, the Latin words “scientia, humanitas, religio” are inscribed, meaning “science, humanity and religion.”
That may be because, for alumni and longtime fans of St. John’s basketball, there is only one “veritas” – and “The Truth” walked across the stage to the delight of family, friends and many St. John’s fans, on Sunday, May 16, at the University’s 140th Commencement Exercises.
Walter “The Truth” Berry, the 1986 national college basketball player of the year and the author of one of the most prolific careers in St. John’s and NCAA hardwood history, received his baccalaureate degree last Sunday, completing a long and rewarding journey that began more than 27 years ago.
“His graduation shows the great determination and desire that Walter has always possessed,” said Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca, who coached Berry at St. John’s from 1984-86. “We all congratulate him. He makes us all proud.”
Berry participated in the University’s online distance-learning program to complete his B.A. in liberal studies through the College of Professional Studies. These programs are available to those students not who do not reside in close proximity to one of St. John’s University’s campuses.
This year’s men’s basketball senior class of Anthony Mason Jr. (Communications) and John Taubeneck (Marketing) also walked on Sunday, following “The Truth” and 49 other St. John’s student-athletes across the stage.
“Walter’s online distance-learning program was challenging, he had to put a lot of work into it,” said Associate Dean Andrew Bhola of CPS. “He truly had to be dedicated and diligent to fulfill the requirements and walk across the stage at Commencement.”
Berry played just two seasons with St. John's but his impact was tremendous. He transferred to St. John's from San Jacinto Junior College where he was named the National Junior College Player of the Year, averaging 28.9 points and 14 rebounds.
He emerged as one of the top newcomers in the nation in his first season at St. John's, helping lead the team to the Final Four. He earned second team All-BIG EAST honors and first team All-Metropolitan honors that season. He averaged 17.0 points per game which was second on the team behind Chris Mullin, and went on to shatter the school single-season scoring record as a senior, scoring 828 points.
As a senior, Berry was the recipient of the John R. Wooden Award, given by the Los Angeles Athletic Club to the nation's top collegiate player. He was also awarded the Adolph R. Rupp Trophy, given to the player of the year in college basketball by the Associated Press. Berry's greatest honor was being selected the Kodak Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
He was the UPI Player of the Year, The Sporting News Player of the Year, Basketball Weekly Player of the Year, CBS/Chevrolet Player of the Year and the BIG EAST Player of the Year. He earned these honors by averaging 23.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
Berry was named to the AP and UPI first-team All-America squads. He became only the fourth player in St. John's history to reach the 1,000-point mark in two seasons. Berry was drafted by Portland as the No. 14 pick in the first round of the 1986 NBA Draft, but played most of his professional career in Europe, starring in Greece from 1987-2004 and becoming one of the best compensated players in Euro league history. Berry also went on to run a successful real estate business in the area surrounding Atlanta, Ga.