East HS Dedicates Gymnasium in Honor of Long-time District Employee
Jack "Shug" Byrne left an indelible mark on the West Chester Area School District, having spent more than 40 years as a teacher, coach, and athletic director. He's been described as a friend, idol, and mentor whose leadership and vision helped firmly establish WCASD athletics in the community and as a well-recognized competitor in the Ches-Mont League, District I, and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. With that in mind, it is fitting that the district dedicated the gymnasium at East High School in Byrne's honor.
Alumni, community members, district staff, and Byrne's family were in attendance for the dedication ceremony which took place on January 25, 2018, before the boys varsity basketball game between East and Henderson. Superintendent Dr. Jim Scanlon, East Principal Dr. Kevin Fagan, and WCASD Athletic Directors Sue Cornelius (East), Ken McCormick (Henderson), and Chris Lunardi (Rustin) all took a brief moment to address the crowd and reflect upon their relationships with Byrne.
"I knew Jack since I was a student at East High School (’79)," said Cornelius. "When you reminisce about East, Jack is one of the names that is mentioned most often. He taught us to always give our best effort and to learn from every experience whether good or bad.”
His career began in 1964 as an educator and coach at Henderson High School. A decade later, Byrne became the first football coach at East High School, building a successful football program. In 1987 he was named athletic director and faced challenging times as the Ches-Mont League moved from 12 schools to four. Under Byrne's leadership, the Ches-Mont league remained competitive, as schools were continually vying for district and state championships. East captured four state titles during Byrne's tenure as athletic director. He retired in 2003, but remained active in the district, serving as interim athletic director at East, Henderson, and Rustin. When Rustin High School opened its doors in 2006, Byrne developed the school's athletic program.
"I got to know Jack when I started out in the Rustin Athletic Department," said Lunardi. "His wisdom, kindness, and unwavering support helped me through some tough times during the early years at Rustin. I will forever cherish the ten years I got to share with him."
Ken McCormick said Byrne was given the nickname "Shug" by his physical education teacher when he was a young student in Philadelphia.
"Jack's teacher used to call all of the boys "Shug." The name stuck with him." said McCormick.
"Everyone in their life can think back to the person who guided them along the pathways of life," added McCormick. "Jack was the one for me. Instead of my education being guided by “no child left behind” or “race to the top” I was guided by Shug Byrne and his true belief in me to succeed in life.
Dr. Kevin Fagan said naming the gym in Byrne's honor is a testament to the legacy he leaves behind.
"We are proud to call Jack a Viking," said Fagan.
Byrne was inducted into several local Hall of Fames – Ches-Mont League, Killinger and Chester County. He passed away March 8, 2017.