PEKIN — He's a cancer survivor.
He suffered numerous concussions during his days as a basketball player, preventing him from playing at the collegiate level.
He's an ultra-marathoner and a special education teacher.
He's Cole Stoner, the new Pekin athletic director.
Stoner will take the reins of his alma mater's athletic department July 1, succeeding Barry Gurvey, who resigned after four years as Pekin athletic director in January because he's moving to the Chicago area to be with his fiancee.
"It's always been my dream job to be the Pekin A.D.," Stoner said. "If it happened, I thought it would happen later than this in my education career.
"After Barry (Gurvey) resigned, I decided to apply for the A.D. job and at least go through the application process. When I see an opportunity to serve the Pekin community, I jump at it. I always want to give back because of everything that's been done for me here.
"Being named the Pekin A.D. at this point of my life is humbling."
Young, but passionate
Stoner is 34. When he begins his new job, he could be the youngest high school athletic director in the area. That doesn't faze him. Neither does his lack of administrative expertise.
"What I lack in age, I also lack in administrative experience," Stoner said with a laugh.
Then he became serious.
"My love and passion for Pekin community, especially when it comes to high school athletics, is rivaled by few," he said. "I will do everything I can to help our coaches and provide opportunities for our students. I've never felt alone in this community. I want our student-athletes to feel that way."
Superintendent Danielle Owens said she's glad Stoner applied for the Pekin A.D. job. He was one of three finalists who were interviewed in February by a selection committee that included Owens.
The school board approved Stoner's hiring Feb. 28.
"I don't know anyone who has met Cole who doesn't think the world of his personality," Owens said. "You can teach administrative skills. You can't teach personality, collaboration and rapport. Cole has those innate skills.
He's stepped down as boys cross country coach and as a boys basketball assistant coach, and he'll continue to teach through the end of this school year.
Stoner and his wife Kelly will be married for five years in May. They have a 2-year-old son Jameson.
This new athletic director job will be a family affair.
"Being a high school athletic director is a lifestyle job. I had a conversation with Kelly before I applied for the Pekin A.D. job, and we decided we're ready for that lifestyle if I got the job," Stoner said. "I can't wait to see Jameson and his friends at Pekin games."
Stoner said he's been job-shadowing Gurvey since being named Gurvey's replacement, and he plans to lean on Pekin coaches and others involved with Pekin athletics to get him up to speed with the athletic director's duties.
"Luckily, there are many coaches at Pekin who have years of experience," Stoner said. "Several Pekin coaches have already reached out to me and said they'll help with whatever is needed.
"On top of that, Cole is a hometown guy and he's taught and coached at our school. He knows our environment."
What is Cole Stoner's background?
A 2006 Pekin grad, Stoner has been a special education teacher at Pekin since 2011. During that time, he's been a Pekin boys and girls basketball, boys golf, boys tennis and boys track assistant coach, and the boys cross county coach since 2015.
"I have a great relationship with a lot of our coaches. I grew up in a coaching family. I see my dad in a lot of our coaches."
Stoner is the grandson of former Pekin boys basketball coach Marshall Stoner (1974-81) and the son of ex-Pekin boys basketball coach Joe Stoner (1996-2006).
Cole Stoner's basketball coach at Pekin was his father Joe Stoner. When he becomes the Pekin athletic director, Cole Stoner will have a spot on the organizing committee for the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament. Joe Stoner is also on that committee.
"I'm looking forward to working with my father in a professional role," Cole Stoner said. "I love our holiday basketball tournament. I'll bet I've only missed two or three of them in my lifetime."
Ready to get started
Cole Stoner has earned an associate's degree from Illinois Central College, bachelor's degree in special education from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, masters degree in teaching and learning from Illinois State University, and an educational specialist designation with an administrative endorsement from SIU-Edwardsville.
Don't look for any major changes in Pekin's athletic department or activities immediately after Cole Stoner takes control.
"I'm going to keep things simple at first," he said. "Just learn and serve."