Coach4aday blog posts are written by John Rancke and I. We write daily about leadership, food, people, music, our granddaughters, Lumberton NC, and things that pique our curiosity.
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Losing your mentor
Yesterday was a sad day for me and many other people. Dr. Raymond B Pennington passed away in Lumberton NC. He was a friend and mentor to me. I have known him since 1977.
Ray and I in the Summer 2007 after he spoke to UNC Pembroke Coaches at a staff retreat.
One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends I came to that conclusion by observing Ray. He was one of those leaders who seemed to know everyone and had so many friends. People like Bucky Reep, Howard Dean, Tim Brayboy, Bill Mason, Erskine Bowles, Dick Pisano, Gordon Dove, Scott Colclough, Sharon Hunt, Marla Locklear, David Weinstein, Bob Caton, John and Kelly Haskins, Robin Cummings, Carl Fisher, Donnie Douglas, Dave and Amy Vandenberg, Johnny Smith, Joe Gallagher, Wendell Staton, Earl Smith, and entire families like the Gane’s and Bullard’s. Trust me I have missed many others. I just know I was blessed to be one of his friends.
He also was a mentor to many and that was evident the night at the Southeastern Ag Center when the City of Lumberton honored him with Ray Pennington night. He wanted to pose for a picture with what he called his boys.
(l-r) Dan Kenney, Wendell Staton, Ray Pennington, John Haskins, and Dick Christy the night City of Lumberton NC dedicated Athletic Complex in his honor.
Raybo as his friends and family call him hired me in 1977 as Assistant Basketball Coach at UNC Pembroke which at that time was known as Pembroke State. In the last 41 years he did so much for me and many others.
He hired me two more times after 1977. In 1985 I got the chance to be Head Basketball Coach at the college level because of Ray. He hired me at Pembroke for that position. In 1992 I left Pembroke to become the Head Coach at Winthrop University (SC). During the time I was at Winthrop Ray would call me and ask did I want to come back at replace him as Director of Athletics. He wanted to retire. I was flattered but told him no. I didn’t believe I had the skills to be an administrator.
In 1998 my contract at Winthrop was not renewed and Ray was the first to call me when the news broke. He asked me to come visit with him soon. When you don’t have a job and have some one that believes in you it becomes a powerful moment. Ray was that person for me.
In that visit Ray gave me one of his famous talks that ended with one of his patented stares. He was trying to convince me to leave coaching and become an administrator. He told me that I would make a great Director of Athletics. I will be honest I didn’t think so but Ray’s belief in me was unwavering.
He said he was going to retire and I should apply for his position. With Ray’s support I made the decision to apply. It was one of the best professional choices I ever made. The fact is I would have never considered it if it wasn’t for Ray being my mentor. I served as Director of Athletics for almost 15 years and then 5 plus years as Chief of Staff. Those twenty years were so rewarding and to that I owe a lot to Ray’s faith in me.
Ray retired from UNC Pembroke in 2001 but stayed involved by serving on the UNCP Board of Trustees from 2009-2013. During his time at UNC Pembroke he was a great baseball coach, Director of Athletics, Professor, along with being a pillar in our community.
He served as Mayor of Lumberton NC for two decades. He has been inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at his alma mater East Carolina University and UNC Pembroke.
(l-r) Ray Pennington and former ECU Athletic Director Jeff Compher at Lumberton ECU Pirate Club function being recognized as a member of the ECU Hall of Fame.
Ray moved into the Wesley Pines in Lumberton NC about three years ago. I cherished the visits he would make back to campus to catch a game and see his many friends. I also enjoyed going to see him at Wesley Pines with John Haskins, Joshua Malcolm, Dick Christy and others.
Photos of Ray attending events at UNC Pembroke and visits to Wesley Pines.
Ray Pennington has been part of all the career opportunities I have had and I am indebted to him for his friendship and loyalty. He has done so much for the City of Lumberton and UNC Pembroke. He helped UNCP get into the only two athletic conferences they ever belonged to. Carolinas Conference in 1976 and Peach Belt in 1992.
He will have many legacies including the Pennington Athletic Complex in Lumberton NC-UNCP Baseball Locker Room named in his honor-Pennington Athletic Scholarship at UNCP but the most important legacy will be how he made me and others feel. He was great at that.
I will miss him and so will many others!