Eric Penick ’71 came of age at Gilmour as a star athlete. He was as talented at football as he was at sprinting.
Sports were Eric Penick’s ticket. First to the University of Notre Dame, then to the NFL. But they were never his identity.
“Football was a vehicle, track was a vehicle, to Notre Dame, to the NFL, and to who I wanted to become in life. But they were never who I am.”
Penick shined as an All-American on Gilmour’s football team and set state records in the 100-yard, 220-yard and 440-yard races in track. He attended Notre Dame on a football scholarship and went on to play for the Denver Broncos. But he identifies more strongly with the work he does now as a chaplain ministering to incarcerated youth.
“I want them to learn to live their lives better,” he says of the young prisoners he teaches in a class about choices. “I want to help them look at things differently. You have to think about consequences, what the results of your actions could be. I learned that at Gilmour Academy, at Notre Dame, before that from my mother.”
To this day, Penick looks upon Gilmour through gilded eyes. It was, in many ways, where he got his start. He recalls his first day in Vern Weber’s gym class. Mr. Weber, the track and football coach at the time, saw how fast his new student ran the 100-yard dash and said, “You’ll run track.”
As a student, Penick bought quickly into the ideal of the “Gilmour Man.” He strove to become that ideal, and he is the proud embodiment of it today.
“Gilmour was a major blessing for me,” says Penick, who attended the school on an inter-racial scholarship. “At Gilmour, they were determined that a Gilmour Man would stand for something. It was the personification of a high level of integrity, a strong desire to do well and help others. Who I’ve become, it started at Gilmour.”
You got injured in the NFL and decided to get out. What did you do after that?
I got my MBA and became a financial consultant. I just retired a few months ago, from United Lending Partners. I still consult independently. I also buy and sell real estate. And I’ve been in the ministry since 1998, so I try to give back as much as I can.
Where do you live today?
I came to Dallas in 1985 for work and I decided I would never leave.
What about your family life?
I am married to my wife, Sandra, and have five kids. One boy and four girls.
How do you define success?
My youngest child is 23 now, and they’re dedicated to doing the best they can. That makes me proud. I have five kids I love. I have a wife I love. I have friends who care for me. That’s success. If you have the successes that are important in life, whether you have a lot of money or not, you have success.
What’s something you’ve learned?
People talk about “What is my purpose in life?” Your purpose in life is to help people. You’re not taking this other stuff with you. What you do in your lifetime is what you take with you forever.
Who influenced you most at Gilmour?
Mr. Weber was the greatest thing in the world. Mr. Brandt, our track coach for junior and senior year, he was instrumental in my life. Mr. Gale made sure I toed the line and got good grades.