As with any good coach, Pete Wesp has good pep talks in his arsenal. Right at the top of his list is schooling his athletes on the importance of developing a strong work ethic.
To get his point across, Wesp reminds his charges about “Corky,” his best buddy from high school days.
“You teach them about our tradition of working hard, constantly doing everything you can do to be the best you can be,” said Wesp, whose career took full circle as he’s now the athletic director and head football coach at Randolph High School. “That’s what Corky was all about.”
Wesp and Donn “Corky” McCorkindale were close friends and co-captains of the football team during their school years at Randolph High, on the United States Air Force base in Northeast San Antonio.
McCorkindale’s life was cut way too short when he passed away during a tragic Air Force training exercise in Louisiana in 1985. He was just 25 years old at the time. Yet even at such a young age, he had already left a mark in life, as those close around him will always know.
“He was our only son – it was terrible,” recalled his father, Donald “Don” McCorkindale, 90, noting his son was nicknamed “Cork” or “Corky” when he was born because he was a large baby. “He had such possibility, so much that he could’ve achieved.”
In a way, he has. His parents made sure that his legacy endured by establishing the Donn Kent McCorkindale Memorial Scholarship Trust at the San Antonio Area Foundation following his passing. Since its inception in 1986, the scholarship fund has awarded more than $17,000 to 34 college-bound students graduating from Randolph High.
The McCorkindales started the fund after a friend mentioned it would be a display of altruism, using donations received following Donn’s burial at Fort Sam Houston to give back to the community.
“I just wanted him to live on through the scholarship,” said Donn’s mother, Geraldine “Geri” McCorkindale, 86. “It keeps his name alive.”
Public and military service runs long and strong in the family – after all, parents Don and Geri first met in the 1950s in Cuba, where he was a service member on assignment for the Air Force while she worked at the U.S. Embassy in Havana.
They got married in Havana and later moved around various times as part of Don’s Air Force assignments, including Europe and South America.
The Air Force eventually returned them to Randolph in San Antonio and they decided to stay following Don’s retirement from the military.
They have been all about living life to the fullest, something they clearly instilled in their three children – Donn and his two sisters.
One of them, Michele McCorkindale Hilbing, was born and raised in San Antonio and also went to Randolph High, then going on to Texas A&M for undergraduate before returning home to complete her graduate degree at UTSA.
It makes her feel good to have a student scholarship in her dear brother’s name, whom she likened as essentially the embodiment of carpe diem.
“He never once let me down, just someone you knew you could always count on,” she said. “I can’t imagine anyone better as a role model for students to look up to – giving it 100 percent with grades, sports, friendships … 100 percent effort and sincerity.”
Wesp couldn’t agree more – his best friend was a natural-born leader. Wesp helped in the effort to have a plaque in the gym in Donn’s honor. He’s also part of the scholarship selection committee, making sure they fit the leadership profile set by “Corky.”
The most recent recipient, Jack Morrison, is well aware of whose legacy he now carries on his shoulders — it’s all about how to act altruistically in the long term, particularly for military members.
In a thank-you video to the McCorkindale family in gratitude for the scholarship, Morrison noted that his father had just retired from the Air Force following a 30-year career that took the family all over the world.
He’s now attending Texas A&M University, studying biology and with dreams of pursuing a career in dentistry.
“Thank you so much for your generosity,” Morrison told them. “It means a lot to me.”
It likely means as much if not even more to Don and Geri, knowing Jack is helping keep Donn’s memory strong – all he has to do is seize the day and make sure he gives it his all.
Click here to learn more how to achieve your charitable goals through the San Antonio Area Foundation.