C. G. Peregoy

Longtime Raleigh Educator Dies at 93

This article appeared in the Register-Herald on April 20, 1994.


A former governor and a current congressman paid tribute Wednesday to their High School Principal, who gave nearly 50 years of his life to education in Raleigh County.

C. G. Peregoy, principal at Woodrow Wilson High School for 33 years, died Wednesday morning in a Charleston nursing home. He was 93.

“He made a tremendous contribution to Beckley in education and community leadership,” said former Gov. Hulett C. Smith, who graduated from WWHS in 1934, Peregoy’s first year as principal. “He ran a disciplined but very fair school.”

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., graduated from WWHS in 1967, a year after Peregoy left to begin a three-year stint as director of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) programs for the Raleigh County school system.

“It has been said, A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. Truly, the world that Mr. Peregoy touched is better because of him, “Rahall said.” We should not always look to the future for the answers. Sometimes our solutions lie in the past. “We would do well to recall the lessons of C. G. Peregoy.”

Peregoy came to Woodrow in the fall of 1933, when it was a school of 800 students.

When he left in 1966, WWHS had a student body of 2,000.

During his tenure as principal, more than 11,000 students graduated from WWHS.

In addition to Smith and Rahall, many others from WWHS went on to enjoy distinguished careers, including Chris Sarandon, who became an actor, and Jon McBride, who became an astronaut.

“He was a very honest man and a very intelligent man,” said Jerome Van Meter, who became a coaching legend at WWHS during Peregoy’s tenure. If you asked him a question, he would answer you truthfully. It was a pleasure to work under a man from whom you could accept a statement as being the truth.

“Of all the school administrators I worked for, I don’t know of anybody I would rate higher than C. G. Peregoy.”

Another former principal recalled Wednesday that it was Peregoy who brought him to Raleigh County.

When I returned from World War II, I was (teaching) in Princeton, and Mr. Peregoy sent me a telegram to come over and see him about a job,” said Paul Vennari, “He put me to work at Woodrow, and I’ve been here (in Beckley) ever since.”

Vennari spent a semester at WWHS, then took a job as city recreation director. He then went back to teaching at Beckley Junior High and eventually became principal of Stratton Junior High. He is currently a member of the Raleigh County Board of Education.

“He was an inspiration to many, many people,” Vennari said. Personally, my heart is saddened by his passing. I feel he was on of the greatest educators of all time, not only in West Virginia but in the United States. “He was a great educator, a wonderful humanitarian, a tremendous gentleman and the finest and kindest family man ever.”

Peregoy was a small man physically. He developed scoliosis, or lateral curvature of the spine, after he was involved in a fall as a young boy, Van Meter said.

But he ran the 100-yard dash in college in 10 seconds flat, Van meter added. He was a baseball enthusiast. You could tell he loved sports.

“He was the biggest little man I’ve ever seen,” said Vic Peelish, a coach and teacher under Peregoy for nearly 20 years. “I don’t care how big you were, you had respect for him. If he called you to the office, you said, ‘Yes, sir.’ When he walked out into the hall, everybody straightened up.”

“You’ll never find another principal like Mr. Peregoy.”

Ruth Larew, a former teacher and guidance counselor at WWHS, echoed Peelish’s sentiments.

“There was absolutely no doubt at Woodrow Wilson High School who was the head man. she said. He possessed an air of command.”

Mr. Peregoy made an indelible impression on everybody who went to school there while he was principal and on everybody who worked for him. He was a man who understood systems and how they worked. He mastered systems and made them work. “He was an excellent administrator.”

Larew also noted that Peregoy, after he left WWHS to direct the ESEA programs, was instrumental in equipping the new Woodrow Wilson High School when it opened in 1967.

“He was an enormous help to the new high school,” she said. He really worked to get grants to equip the new school.

Peregoy graduated from Washington College in Maryland and earned his master’s degree at West Virginia University. He also did graduate work at the University of Cincinnati and Columbia University.

He began his career in education as a principal in Eccles in 1923. He was also principal at Trap Hill and Shady Spring before coming to Woodrow. In addition , he taught history, geometry, Latin, chemistry, bookkeeping and mechanical drawing.

He was one of the nation’s leaders in developing curriculum planning for secondary schools at Columbia in 1961. he also represented West Virginia at the White House conference on education.

Peregoy was involved in numerous civic activities, including the Red Cross, the Beckley Recreation Board, civil defense, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lions club, Masonic bodies and Moose and Elks lodges.

Peregoy retired in 1969. He spent most of his retirement in Beckley with his wife, Juanita, who survives him along with two daughters, both of whom also became teachers.

On Feb. 28, 1987, more than 400 of his former students, including Rahall and McBride, and others honored Peregoy at a dinner establishing a scholarship in his name.

Chances are Peregoy knew everyone in the audience that night by name.

“He had a magnificent command for putting names and faces together,” Larew remembered. “I think that was one reason why he had such good discipline. Everybody knew that Mr. Peregoy knew them. That was important. It’s hard to know everybody in a big school like Woodrow.”

And, Peregoy apparently remembered everybody long after they left school.

In a 1984 article, Peregoy recalled running into one of his former students at a local department store. The female graduate wanted to introduce her grandfather to her former high school principal.

“Mr. Peregoy, have you met my grandfather?” the girl asked.

Peregoy, tipping his hat, answered, “Met him? Why, I once spanked him in the seventh grade.”

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