William Purden ’51
My father and mother were naturalized immigrants from Scotland. Dad came over in the mid-’20s. Two years later, mom followed and they married. Their first home was in Ohio, where dad worked for Goodyear tires. Shortly after my birth, they moved to Harvey, Illinois.
Dad was a pro soccer player and they joined many old friends in Harvey. I had two sisters and neither of them went to college.
I entered the Marine Corps after graduating early from high school. Several of my high school friends attended Cornell, so after I was discharged I visited the campus and looked up Campbell McConnell ’50 and Joe Fox ’49. I am a firm believer in liberal arts education. It gives you a rounded look at the world. I never would have taken art or music classes, but I did at Cornell and I benefited from it because I love to listen to music. It provided me with a degree that permitted me to go into what I wanted to do, and that was to coach. I had a major in education and a major in English, so I was prepared to teach.
When I arrived on campus I was coming off surgery from a marine corps training accident and couldn’t play football. So Scotty [Paul Scott ’29] made me his assistant, being that I was older than the average freshman. That was the beginning of my coaching career. I did go on to play football the next two years.
The GI bill took me through Cornell. I graduated from Cornell in three years by going to two summer schools. I had married my girlfriend from Harvey, and we lived in the married student barracks. Scotty helped me get my first job at a small school in southeast Iowa. I coached six years in Iowa, eight years in my home high school in Harvey, 11 years at the college level (five at the University of Wyoming and six at Valparaiso), and finished up with 12 years of employment with a large suburban Chicago high school as the athletic director. I retired at 60 and lived in Arizona for 20 years.