Friday, February 7, 2014
During a career that spanned four decades William Penn impacted the lives of countless Summerville High School athletes and students.
Penn knew from an early age he wanted to pursue a career in education.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” he said. “I always wanted to work with kids and help kids. Throughout the years I always loved that and feel fortunate I had the opportunity to do it.”
He studied physical education and health at Selma University and South Carolina State, where he received a full ride from the Bulldog baseball program. Eventually, he received his Masters in administration from The Citadel.
His 38-year career as an educator began at Alston Middle School. In August of 1975, he took a position at Summerville High School where he would serve as a coach and administrator until his retirement in 2010.
“I can’t say enough nice things about William Penn,” Summerville Athletic Director John McKissick said. “He is a top-notch fellow. The athletes all loved him and worked hard for him. He wasn’t big on shouting. He preferred a lower-key approach, but the kids always related to him and did what he asked. He also worked well with all the other coaches and the teachers. “We really miss him now that he’s retired.”
For several years Penn served as an assistant coach for the Green Wave varsity football team. Most of those years he was the receivers coach but he also coached the defensive line for a couple of years.
Penn helped Summerville claim six state football championships and had a positive influence on a long list of players that includes the likes of former NFL athletes Keith Jennings and Stanford Jennings, and Summerville businessman Perry Cuda.
During his SHS coaching career Penn also helped head coach Pinky Guerard lead three Green Wave teams to a state baseball championship and coached JV basketball.
Even after he gave up coaching to focus more on his administrative duties, Penn’s background as an athlete and coach helped him relate to the students. When he was in high school he was on the football, basketball and track teams. His high school didn’t have a baseball team, but he played some semi-pro baseball and that led to the scholarship at S.C. State.
While in college, Penn received an offer to turn pro but turned it down.
“I guess that wasn’t too smart,” Penn said. “I thought I was going to go through college, finish up and then get another offer but I didn’t get that offer.”
However, looking back he has no regrets.
“I enjoyed my job,” he said. “It was great being around the kids and getting to work with all the coaches and teachers. I always told the kids that grades come first. Not everyone gets a pro deal but if you work hard in the classroom and get good grades then you will be all right. Graduation was always special for me because it’s nice to see kids excel and move on to bigger things.”
As an educator, he worked with numerous coaching, teaching and administrative organizations to better education and athletics not only in Summerville but also in the state and region.
On the weekends, he often opened up the Alston Middle School gym so kids in the neighborhood could play pick-up games.
Now he spends most of his time with his wife, fishing, and with his six grandchildren who are starting to get into sports.