University Relations and Communications

Speaker provides living proof of choices and consequences

February 2, 2009



Darla Tyler-McSherry, Student Health Service, 657-2564
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


Former college volleyball standout to speak at MSU Billings on Tuesday


Sara Panzau photo

MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — It’s one thing to talk about the tragic consequences of making poor choices. It’s quite another to show what it means.


Sarah Panzau will do just that Tuesday, Feb. 3 at a presentation about her painful recovery from a drunken-driving accident more than five years ago. Panzau will tell her story, “Living Proof” at 8 p.m. at the Montana State University Billings Petro Theatre. The event is free and open to anyone.

The event is sponsored by MSU Billings HEROES (Health Educators Reaching Out to Empower Success), Anheuser-Busch and Intermountain Distributing.


Panzau certainly didn’t set out to be a national motivational speaker. She was a two-time member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) women’s volleyball All-America team when her life went out of control — literally.


As a 21-year-old student-athlete with a bright future, Panzau tells a story of making bad judgments. She began using drugs and alcohol and it culminated in late August 2003, when she decided drive home after several hours of partying. She lost control of the car and it overturned four times. Not wearing her seat belt, Panzau was propelled through the rear window and her left arm was torn from her body. The accident report said Panzau's blood-alcohol level was nearly four times the legal limit.


Authorities initially thought Panzau was dead, but she was able to cling to life. She was hospitalized for several months and underwent 30 surgeries. Recovery was emotionally and physically painful.


Panzau now spends the majority of the year reaching out to students and others with her messages about underage drinking, drunken driving and making smart choices.


“My life has totally changed and I have started public speaking to teens and young adults about drinking and driving, making good decisions, what is important in life, and the importance of parents and family,” she writes in one of her online profiles. “It is a presentation of courage, determination, and the celebration, that emphasizes making the right choices in life.”


For more information about Panzau’s speaking engagement or to find out more about the HEROES program at MSU Billings, contact Darla Tyler-McSherry, Student Wellness coordinator at the MSU Billings Student Health Services, at 657-2564.