By Nancy Price
Matt English was an athletic director, a husband, a father and a friend. Those who knew him remember him as a leader, a mentor, a role model and a father figure to his students. They describe him as focused, positive, passionate, caring, selfless, faithful, spiritual, motivating, classy and competitive.
He was also a fighter. For six years, he fought brain cancer not once, but three times. Each time it came back, he fought back even stronger. And he had an army of supporters right by his side.
On Monday, Dec. 10, English lost his battle. But his legacy will continue to live.
For the past 10 years, English worked at Beech Grove High School. He was hired as a science and biology teacher and coach for the boys’ basketball team. In 2012, he was named athletic director.
“When we had an opening for the athletic director, we did not interview anyone else,” said Dr. Paul Kaiser, Superintendent for Beech Grove City Schools. “We knew what he could do for his kids. He was always pushing people to be the best they could be. He had high expectations of himself and everyone around him.”
“He was a machine as far as his work ethic,” added Ryan Morgan, Beech Grove Middle School Assistant Principal. “Beyond his intensity and work ethic, though, Matt always knew how to get the best out of you. He had a unique way of building you up and letting you know that he believed in you.”
English also had a way of motivating everyone around him, whether or not he even knew them, according to Melody Stevens, Communications Director for Beech Grove City Schools.
“He always took the time to say, ‘smile for me’, or ‘you’re going to do great’”, she said.
Despite long hours during basketball season, English made spending time with his family top priority, including his wife, Angela, and daughters, Kayla, Taylor and Addison.
“He was a big family man,” Stevens said. “The life of an athletic director is very busy and all-consuming. He always made sure his family remained No. 1. He was always present with them and in the moment.”
Even after his diagnosis with cancer, English did not choose to focus on himself. He focused on others. He had a mantra that he lived by each day, called “We Before Me.” He gave to others – quietly. Stevens noted that a Facebook page, called Matt English’ Journey, was flooded with posts from students who recalled English helping them, whether that involved the athletic director transporting them to and from practice, making sure they had enough to eat or offering support and encouragement.
”He took care of their needs, physically and emotionally,” she said. “He was a father figure. He made sure they were taken care of. He was so wonderful to each one of them.”
English’s selfless spirit, even while he was physically drained from the toll of constant trips to and from the hospital while receiving treatments, inspired his peers to want to their greatest potential.
“Matt taught me how to become a better father, a better leader,” Morgan said. “In every area of my life I am better from the relationship I had with him. He really pushed me to get the most out of myself. He didn’t do it by preaching or anything like that… he did it through his actions, how he carried himself, how he pushed through adversity, his mindset.
“Even in his weakest physical moments, it was incredible to see the impact he had on people. He was completely sedated in the hospital and his entire family, his friends, his teammates, colleagues, coaches and his players gathered around him to join in his fight. It would get so crowded that the nurses politely told the group that there were several visiting rooms and that we didn’t have to wait out in the hall… by day two they gave up. No one felt like they had to be there. They wanted to be there, not just for Matt but for each other. Matt’s legacy is a true testament to his family and friends.”
“He was living for something bigger than himself,” added Danny Curry, Teaching Pastor for Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield, where English had been attending for the past four years. “He was not fighting for himself but for everybody else. He wanted to be a role model to those on the team and he lived that every day. He crammed into a lot of living maybe more than people who lived twice as long as him and that’s a big deal.”
In October, Beech Grove High School honored English’s legacy by dedicating a new gym floor to him with the words, “We Before Me”, along with “Matt English Court.”
The Beech Grove community is mourning the loss of a man who impacted, inspired and changed the lives of those around him with his strength, spirit and selfless behavior. English may have lost his battle against cancer, yet he remains a winner.
“He won by how he fought and how he inspired people,” Pastor Curry said.
“I take peace by knowing that he fought the good fight and that he loved Jesus and is now in in heaven,” Morgan concluded.
Visitation and funeral service information for Matt English
Dec. 14, 4 -9 p.m.
Beech Grove High School Gym
5330 Hornet Ave.
Beech Grove, IN 46107
Dec. 15, noon
Park Chapel Christian Church
1776 E. McKenzie Road
Greenfield, IN 46140
Washington Park East
10612 E. Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46229