The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Yvenson Bernard Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

September 12, 2014


Yvenson J. Bernard was born in 1984 in Boynton Beach, Florida. Bernard's parents, Yves and Josette, were Haitian immigrants who worked as janitors and dry cleaners to support their family, which included Yvenson and his younger brother Giovani. An active child, Yvenson excelled as a baseball and football player from a young age. Sadly, the Bernard family was hit by tragedy in 1999 when Josette passed away, the victim of thyroid cancer. Josette's death also severely damaged the family's financial circumstances, which served as further motivation for Yvenson to succeed as an athlete and secure a professional contract.

Following an accomplished career in football and baseball at Boca Raton High School, Bernard accepted a scholarship offer from Oregon State University, joining the OSU football team in 2003. After redshirting his first year and playing sparingly in 2004, Bernard quickly became OSU's featured running back, carrying the ball 299 times his sophomore year after only six carries as a redshirt freshman.

A team captain his junior and senior seasons, Bernard finished his collegiate playing days in second place on the school's career lists for carries and yards rushing, and third all-time in touchdowns. He received first team all conference accolades from the Pacific 10 following his junior year and, a year later, was named MVP of the Emerald Bowl, the final game of his injury-plagued senior season. Oregon State achieved some of its greatest modern successes in football during Bernard's tenure, winning ten games in 2006 - including thrilling victories over USC, Oregon, Hawaii and Missouri - and nine games in 2007.

Bernard graduated from OSU in 2008, earning a degree in Merchandising Management. From there he pursued his dream of a professional playing career, but damage done to his knee as a collegiate diminished the interests of NFL franchises. An undrafted free agent, Bernard spent four seasons in the Canadian Football League before retiring in 2012.

In the midst of his years in Canada, Bernard's name rose in prominence once again, the result of his leadership in response to the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Bernard enlisted the support of the OSU community and others to gather over 24,000 pounds of clothes, shoes and hygiene products, supplies which were transported to Haiti two weeks after the disaster. Since then, Bernard has founded a non-profit organization, Sonje Haiti, that is dedicated to further relief and outreach in the Caribbean nation. Yvenson is also an active supporter of his brother's Run Gio Foundation; a decorated running back at the University of North Carolina, Giovani Bernard moved on to a starting role at the position for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals.

In 2014 Yvenson Bernard returned to OSU, accepting a position as coaching intern with the Oregon State football program. With the departure of coach Mike Riley in 2014, Bernard moved to a position as a discovery officer with the OSU Foundation.