In April 2014, Servati endured an EF-3 tornado in the basement of a Tuscaloosa home. The swimmer shielded another University of Alabama student from a collapsing retaining wall–sacrificing his own life for another. He was later taken to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
“John Servati was an extraordinary young man who worked every day, in both word and deed, to make the world around him a better place,” Alabama Director of Athletics Bill Battle said. “This honor is richly deserved and speaks not only to his final act of courage, but to the legacy of service that he left behind.”
The NCAA Award of Valor is given to a coach or administrator currently associated with intercollegiate athletics, or to a current or former varsity letter-winner at an NCAA institution who, when confronted with a situation involving personal danger, averted or minimized potential disaster by courageous action or noteworthy bravery. The award is not presented annually, but in the event of an outstanding act of valor.
“There’s no doubt that John is the embodiment of what this award represents,” UA Head Swimming and Diving Coach Dennis Pursley said. “A strong student and swimmer, an excellent teammate and a tremendous young man, he died as he lived, in service to others. He is greatly missed by everyone whose life he touched.”
“Because John Servati led a life of purpose, he made a positive difference in the lives of everyone he met,” UA President Dr. Judy Bonner said. “Whether it was a quick smile or a word of encouragement or the ultimate act of love and sacrifice, he always gave his very best to every situation. His light will continue to shine in the hearts of the University family.”
The Tupelo, Mississippi, native is remembered by his family, friends and teammates as an everyday hero – demonstrated in the pool with several trips to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championships and in the class room as a three time SEC academic honor roll selection but mostly in his day-to-day life where he worked tirelessly to make the world around him a better place, including volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club of America and other service organizations.
“John was a hero every day - constantly doing great things,” UA Swimming and Diving Senior Captain Phillip Deaton said. “This is a great tribute not just to the last moments of his life, but the way he lived.”
The son of Janet Gaston and Al Servati, John Servati will be honored with a video tribute at the Honors Celebration in January.