Growing up in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, as his father did, athletic director and women’s basketball Coach Tom Shirley Jr. understands well the sense of duty and love of family and community that sustained his dad for the 80 years of his life. “Dad may have moved us out to the ‘suburbs’ when we were growing up, but he never left his roots,” says Shirley. Thomas Shirley Sr. passed away in 2004, leaving his children, Tom Jr., Gary, Scott, and Kathleen, his wife of 55 years, Kitty, and 10 grandchildren to reflect upon his life.
Shirley Sr.’s story is one of remarkable achievement and spirit. Leaving school when he was a junior at Roxborough High School, he answered his country’s call at the outbreak of World War II. Joining the Navy, he was anxious to play his part as a member of the armed forces.
The idea of establishing the scholarship began as a tribute to Coach Shirley’s years of service to the University. “But I knew in my heart it should be about my dad,” Shirley offers, “To honor him, a man who never finished high school yet worked every day of his life to make a better life for his children.”