West Memphis hands out inaugural Bill Kessinger scholarship

West Memphis hands out inaugural Bill Kessinger scholarship

Former Blue Devil and future Arkansas- Moticello football player Donte Perry is the first recipient of the award named for longtime former superindendent

WM School District For over 50 years Bill Kessinger was the face of the West Memphis School District, serving as superintendent from 1973-2013. His legacy will never be forgotten, but to further punctuate his stamp on the community, his family formulated a scholarship in his honor.

The first recipient of the Bill Kessinger Memorial Scholarship, which focuses on Blue Devil senior athletes, is football player Donte Perry.

Perry, an all-conference selection in 2017, will be attending the University of Arkansas-Monticello on a football scholarship.

Kessinger’s son, Mike, a 28-year employee of the WMSD, said the scholarship was an idea spawned from the family, including Bill’s wife Shirley, Mike and his sister Kathy.

“My mother and I thought the best way to honor Dad’s legacy here would be a scholarship in an athletic format,” said Mike. “We wanted to help some West Memphis Blue Devils who wanted to pursue an athletic career. (Perry) checked off every box we had.”

Perry was not only a lockdown defender in the secondary, but he led the Blue Devils in solo tackles with 61 to go along with 21 assists, 5.5 tackles for lost yardage and 1 sack as his team finished with a sparkling 10-2 record that included a berth in the Class 6A state playoff semifinals.

Kessinger retired as superintendent in 2013 and passed away in February of 2016. Thus, Perry had no chance to meet the chief Blue Devil. But he said he is well versed on the impact this giant had on not only education in West Memphis, but also its athletic program. “Everybody has told me he was a great man,” said Perry. “It means a lot to me to be the first scholarship winner. I want to thank the family for picking me to win this award.”

The scholarship is for $2,000 and it will help cover Perry’s entire first semester at UAM.

“The main reason our family is doing this is to honor my Dad’s legacy,” said Mike Kessinger. “Anytime we see that occurring then we know what we’re doing is right.”

By Billy Woods