Thomas R. Shirley, Sr. Scholarship

tomshirleykristenCoach Shirley, his daughter, Kristen ’06, M’08, and his father in a 2002 photo

Growing up in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, as did his father, Athletic Director and Women’s Basketball Coach Tom Shirley understands well the sense of duty and love of family and community that sustained his dad, Tom Shirley Sr., 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.

Stationed on a PT boat in the South Pacific theater for three years, Shirley Sr. experienced the “hell” that is war. Finally, having met his obligations, the U.S.S. Indianapolis was his ticket home. Fortunately for him, this serviceman was assigned to one more mission and, as a result, he missed that boat. The Indianapolis was sunk by the Japanese and 3,000 lives were lost. “Like other returning servicemen, my dad never discussed his experiences in World War II,” said Shirley, “but it molded his character — to keep going, be strong, get the job done.” That was by author Tom Brokaw in his book by the same name published in 1998 — the bestseller that honored a brave generation that changed history.

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; 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,” Shirley offers.

Contributions to the scholarship have come from friends, associates, former team members and members of the Shirley family (his mom made the first gift) in small denominations and in large checks. They flowed in and continue to do so as the fund now stands at over $200,000. The scholarship is need-based and residents of Roxborough, Manayunk or East Falls are the preferred recipients.

“I had a very strong relationship with my dad and the scholarship is a legacy for him and our family,” notes Shirley. “It is gratifying to think a student will benefit from a scholarship bearing his name.”

To support the Thomas R. Shirley, Sr. Scholarship, make a gift with your credit card through a secure online transaction or make your check payable to Philadelphia University and mail to:

Thomas R. Shirley, Sr. Scholarship
Office of Development and Alumni Relations
Philadelphia University
4201 Henry Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19144