Bill and Nancy Pettus Special Education Scholarship
Bill and Nancy Pettus are no strangers to education. Together the couple has a combined total of 55 years of service in public education and over 30 years combined service as members of the University of Wyoming’s College of Education Advisory Board. In addition, Bill (BA; MEd) served on the University’s Alumni Association Board for five years and the Distinguished Alumni Selection Committee for six years. He and Nancy are members of the Cowboy Joe Club and avid supporters of the UW Foundation.
The couple are Rawlins natives who lived next door to each other, married young and immediately headed to Laramie while Bill pursued his undergraduate degree. Both are amazed at the many changes on the University campus. They initially lived in a brand-new, fully furnished student apartment on Land Street and watched in amusement 50 years later as those structures were demolished to make room for more modern conveniences and changes at the school. Both chuckle as they remember that the rent at that apartment was only $42.50 per month. Though Nancy’s college experiences were later in California, she attended virtually every football and basketball game on campus and supported the University as a whole and was a member of the then existent Student Wives’ Club. She also happily attended with Bill University of Wyoming football bowl games in Arizona, California and Nevada.
Upon Bill’s graduation the couple moved to California where he began his career as a classroom teacher. It wasn’t long before he was told by fellow staff members that he had such empathy for his students that he should consider training as a counselor. He did this, but only after completing his Master’s in Secondary Education at the University of Wyoming. He received additional training in counseling, psychology, and administration at California State University, Fullerton and the University of California, Riverside. Nancy completed Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Cal State Fullerton and San Bernardino.
Bill and Nancy both spent a great deal of their careers working with at risk students. Nancy, as a probation officer, realized the majority of youth with whom she came in contact came from undesirable home situations and often had serious education deficiencies. As she entered the field of education she continued to focus upon those children in need of special assistance and later served as the Director of Alternative Education for all of Madera County in central California.
Bill, who was born with the absence of his right hand, has always been able to recognize the needs of those who were different. While teaching he was frequently assigned students who were struggling academically. As a result, he began taking classes in special education at the doctoral level to better prepare him professionally. The California School Psychologists Association named Bill Outstanding School Psychologist of the Year for his work in establishing a comprehensive special education program in Lake Arrowhead, California. During his career Bill served as a Director of Special Education, high school principal and assistant superintendent in Lake Arrowhead and ultimately as superintendent of the Mariposa County School District which encompasses Yosemite National Park in California.
Before and after retirement Bill and Nancy traveled extensively, but never left their penchant for education behind. Selected to participate in an Institute for Educators at Oxford University in England, the couple had the opportunity to visit several schools and observed how special programs were operated in that country. They visited schools in Ghana, South Africa, Cuba and Peru and took with them educational supplies, books and money to help support the teachers and students in those countries. While in Ghana they also participated in a polio immunization program where over 300 children were immunized by Nancy and Bill distributed malarial nets to the mothers of infants. Before visiting South Africa the couple arranged for used books and other materials to be collected by several Rotary clubs throughout the states of Wyoming and Colorado for distribution to schools in that country. While visiting Guatemala they assisted in the assembly and distribution of dozens of wheelchairs to individuals of all ages, an experience they say brought tears to their eyes.