William Shirley: More Than Just a History Teacher


Gage Ruark

William Shirley stands at his white board as he presents the notes for the day’s class.

Gage Ruark, Activities Editor

Allen Community College is known for its sports, academics and even its extracurricular activities; however, many people don’t know about the staff. One staff member that stands out is William Shirley.

Shirley was born in LaPlata, Missouri, where he spent his younger years before moving to Paola to attend high school. During his high school years, Shirley was active in football, track and also played in the band. After meeting his high school sweetheart and graduating from Paola High in 1955, Shirley joined the military.

While in the military, Shirley served as a drill instructor; but that was just one of the many jobs he would have in his 22 years of service. Shirley said he’d never forget when he was assigned to be one of the bodyguards for James Meredith, the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi.

“When I was growing up, segregation was a big deal,” said Shirley. “I remember being in high school and the students of color weren’t allowed to attend our school dances, so to be able to be a part in this milestone for segregation was something I’ll never forget.”

Shirley would retire from the military after serving for a little more than two decades, marking the beginning of his teaching career.

A graduate from Pittsburg State University, Shirley was a history and economics major and also enjoyed sociology classes. After graduating and moving to Iola in 1978, Shirley received a call from Iola Middle School, where he was hired as a history teacher. After being a history teacher, he then became principal before retiring from teaching.

Or so he thought.

After retiring, he received a call from the elementary school in Chanute and was asked if he would accept a job as a principal. Without hesitation, Shirley accepted the job and came out of retirement.

It wasn’t until 2004 when Shirley made his way to the college, where he now serves as a part time history professor. Teaching only two classes, history from 1865 to present day and current events, Shirley is very satisfied with where he is now.

“I love being here at Allen,” said Shirley. “I enjoy spending time around the young kids and I think that’s something most teachers don’t appreciate. Attending the sporting events and theatre performances are some of my favorite things to do as well.”

Being in education for 40 years, Shirley is also active in more than just schooling. He has also held some positions in politics as well, these being City Commissioner and even the Mayor at one time. Shirley is also very active in his church and community. A man with many stories, Shirley is one staff member who is appreciated by the masses, on and off campus.