When her mother passed away suddenly during her first semester at Chico State, record-setting softball player Emily McEnaney relied on her coach, her team, and the independence and determination that her mother, a school teacher, and her father, a small business owner, instilled in her growing up.

“You don’t just stop and do nothing,” said McEnaney, who started her days with 6 a.m. practices, followed by classes, work, study hall, and hopefully enough sleep to do it all again the next day. “And, at the same time, you’re constantly representing something way greater than you”—including the generosity of a family she’s never met.

The additional financial strain her mother’s passing caused was lessened in 2013 by the Penland Family Softball Scholarship, which was established in 2012 by Wildcat softball hall-of-famer Betty Penland (BA, Physical Education, ’52, and Credential, ’53).

“To get something out of the goodness of someone’s heart, that feeling that somebody believes that I’m going to succeed—it means more than they even understand.”

—Softball player Emily McEnaney, on receiving the Penland Family’s scholarship

“You feel hope. You feel like you can do it and like it’s meant to be,” McEnaney said. “They don’t know you and they are helping you pursue your dreams.”

Prior to creating the softball scholarship, Penland established the Donald R. Penland Baseball Scholarship in 2009 to honor her late husband who was also a hall of famer. Penland’s four children, Don Penland (BA, Biological Sciences, ’75), Laurie Goodson (BA, Physical Education, ’77 and Credential, ’78), Joseph Penland (BS, Industrial Technology, ’82), and Robert Penland (BS, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, ’83) also contribute to the softball scholarship, making it a true Chico State family endeavor.

“My number one thing was to be around positive people and positive experiences. That’s what Chico did for me, that’s what softball did for me. You’re surrounded by people who become your sisters. I took care of them, and they cared for me.”

—Emily McEnaney, scholarship recipient

softball players smiling in a group, holding flowers for their senior celebration

Emily McEnaney (far right) and the softball teammates who became her Chico family. (Photo by Skip Reager)

“You really want to feel like you’re at home,” said McEnaney, who visited colleges around the country, thinking, like her parents, that softball would probably take her far from their Red Bluff home. They were all surprised when Chico State was her final
choice.

“My number one thing was to be around positive people and positive experiences,” she said. “That’s what Chico did for me, that’s what softball did for me. You’re surrounded by people who become your sisters. I took care of them, and they cared for me.”

As McEnaney moves into her fifth year at Chico State, she is incredibly proud to be the first Wildcat to receive the 2015 NCAA Degree Completion Award, which replaces the athletics aid she’s no longer eligible for, including the $1,000 Penland Family scholarship.

The award allows her to complete her international studies degree on time, work one less job, and explore activities and opportunities she’s never had time for.

“Thank you to every single person,” McEnaney said. “To get something out of the goodness of someone’s heart, that feeling that somebody believes that I’m going to succeed—it means more than they even understand.”