Pensal McCray wasn’t the kind of woman to back down. So when the guidance counselor at her daughter’s Denver high school told her the honor student wasn’t eligible for any scholarships, McCray refused to believe there was no one out there who wanted to help.
In 1983 she and her husband Christophe started the Ethnic College Counseling Center to serve as an alternative source for guidance for minority teenagers. Since then, the center has helped 3,000 youths attend college. The ECCC offers tutoring, mentoring, scholarship help, and tours of colleges. McCray, who died January 17 at age 71 while organizing a tour of historical black colleges, is being remembered as “a giant among giants,” civil rights attorney Anne Sulton told Joanne Davidson of the Denver Post.
McCray’s daughter not only went to college, but earned her Ph.D. in Urban Technological and Environmental Planning from the University of Michigan, served as Fulbright Scholar at the Glasgow Urban Lab in Scotland, and is now an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin. “Our mother lived a very full life,” she told Davidson. “And she died doing what she loved to do. You just can’t ask for anything better than that.”