Cleary de Serra humiliated by gym honor

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18-11-2021 to 18-12-2021

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A teacher, AD has been the “face of the school” for generations of students, alumni

By Jason A. Mignanelli
The Almanac of the Tube City
23 December 2021
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News, Sports

Bill Cleary, retired athletic director and teacher at Serra Catholic High School, poses with a new sign in the gym. Cleary’s 41-year career at the Haler Heights School includes coaching the women’s basketball team to a state championship and 18 section titles. (Photo courtesy of Serra Catholic High School via Facebook)


For the first time in the school’s 60-year history, Serra Catholic High School has named an area of ​​its campus in honor of a former teacher.

On December 11, in a ceremony attended by past and present teachers and professors, the Haler Heights School of McKeesport opened the William J. Cleary Gymnasium.

Cleary not only taught at Serra Catholic for 41 years, but also served as Director of Athletics for 38 of those years.

“The idea that the gym is named after me is just overwhelming and it’s incredibly humiliating,” Cleary said recently. “I find myself paying more attention to places that are named after people now. Someday someone will ask, “Who was that type of Coach Cleary anyway?” “

Less than a month ago, Robert Childs, the school’s current athletic director and assistant vice-principal, called on Cleary to sit on the sidelines as the Catholic football team Serra beat Beaver Falls 35-12 to win the WPIAL 2A Championship match at Heinz Field.

“It was his staff,” Childs said. “Bill hired Coach (Jose) Regus and his team to coach our team and put the program back in place.”

Cleary was on the sidelines the last time Serra Catholic won the WPIAL Championships, in 2007, when the Eagles beat Springdale 10-6.

It was good, but this time it was really special, Cleary said.

“Mr. Childs asked me to give the players their gold medals after the game, and it was just a great feeling,” he said. “I was really proud of everyone. guys deserved it.

In addition to being a sports director and teaching several subjects including health and physical education, Cleary was also the head coach of the women’s basketball team, compiling a full record of 657 wins and 196 losses. .

Cleary is currently one of only four WPIAL female coaches to have accumulated at least 600 victories. Last season, under Cleary, the Lady Eagles enjoyed their very first undefeated season.

His coaching record included four WPIAL titles, one state championship and 18 section titles. Cleary’s teams have also qualified for the playoffs 33 times with 10 appearances in the WPIAL Finals.

“Throughout his 41 years, Bill has represented our school exceptionally well,” said Timothy Chirdon, current principal of Serra Catholic and Cleary’s associate for 20 years. “He was always willing and able to add new programs and under his guidance our athletic program excelled in several sports.”

One talent that impressed his colleagues was Cleary’s ability to remember names – not just current students, but alumni.

“He has been teaching health and physical education for many years and throughout the year he would potentially have interactions with every child in school,” Childs said. “Some teachers may only see 60 or 80 different students depending on the schedule, but Mr. Cleary may have had an impact on all of them.”

Childs, who followed Cleary through his final year at Serra to become athletic director, said he saw the impact Cleary had on the school and the students.

“Bill always had a saying, when the going was tough, or we had to improvise or improve something, he would say, ‘this is for the kids,’” Childs said. “Some people just say ‘this is for the kids,’ but when Bill said it, he really meant it.”

The gymnasium was officially opened on December 11 this year ahead of the first college basketball game. The faculty broke the news to Cleary during a school picnic earlier in the year.

“He was truly honored,” Childs said. I think he really enjoyed it and I know it was just a really special time for him.

Childs said that in many ways Cleary was the “face of the school”.

“As administrators, faculty, students and staff came and went, Mr. Cleary was the one constant,” he said. “Her interactions with faculty, students and alumni were always pleasant and caring. These traits, as well as his generous donation of his time, will be remembered. “

This makes the name of the school gymnasium after Cleary the most appropriate, Childs said.

“I haven’t really thought about its longevity, but it really is a lesson in humility,” Cleary said. “And again, it’s really overwhelming to think that my name is here forever. I’m just really grateful for everything.


Jason A. Mignanelli is a freelance writer from North Hills in Pittsburgh and a student at Duquesne University. He can be reached at [email protected]

Originally published December 23, 2021.

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