Sunday, June 19, 2016

Money & Death at UNA: The Greg Engle Story


GREGORY K(eith) ENGLE, director of student life, was a man dedicated to the University of North Alabama. He had a smile and a "Hi” for everyone he met, limitless time for each student, and the gift to make every person feel special and important to this campus. Greg will be missed and remembered for many years to come by students, faculty, administration, and each individual life he touched. 1997 Diorama


Photo circa 1984

Gregory Keith Engle was born in Haleyville, Alabama, on October 17, 1964, to Herbert Ray and Carolyn Engle. Herbert died when Greg was just six years old, and Carolyn continued to live in the small Winston County town with her three children. Greg went on to graduate from Haleyville High in 1983 and the University of North Alabama in 1987.

After graduation, Engle immediately went to work for his alma mater as director of intramural sports and recreation; at the same time he began work on his master’s degree, graduating with an MS in Education in 1989 and becoming director of student services in 1994. During his tenure at the university, Engle also served as director of judicial affairs, director of fraternity affairs, and assistant to the dean of student life. By 1995, Engle had begun work on his doctorate at the University of Alabama and had opened the Tang Soo Do Karate School in Muscle Shoals. Gregory Keith Engle was a man on the move up the academic ladder.

However, Greg Engle’s personal life wasn’t quite as successful as his professional one. His first marriage to Susan Marie Perdue in late 1987 failed after a few years, and Engle later married one of the students with whom he had worked closely, Maria Claudia Hanao of Columbia. The South American beauty was tremendously popular with the university crowd and had been the recipient of the Turis Fidelis award her senior year.

An announcement of the late June 1996 Hanao-Engle wedding indicated Greg Engle was to receive his doctorate the next month, but for whatever reason, his graduation didn’t take place. Seven months later, Gregory Keith Engle was dead.

Between marriages, Engle was often rumored to have dated an inordinate number of the female students with whom he came in contact professionally; some rumors even included accounts of illegitimate children. Rumors about young and attractive male faculty or staff members at any university are always abundant; if the tales of Engle’s romantic exploits were true, the university never publicly cautioned him.

Besides the rumors of illicit romances, talk of Engle’s lavish lifestyle began to permeate the campus. How had Greg Engle funded air travel for approximately 15 students to JazzFest in New Orleans in the spring of 1995? When one curious student began to ask questions, he was told that Engle had left over money from his yearly student life budget which had to be spent—all during an era of strict financial constraints.

The revelation in 1996 that a Flor-Ala employee had misappropriated over $50,000.00 from that organization created a suspicious mood on campus, and when a rumor concerning Engle’s excessive spending came to the attention of UNA President Robert Potts, he announced an audit of all organization treasuries overseen by university employees. It was the beginning of the end for Gregory Keith Engle.

On the morning of Tuesday, February 4, 1997, Greg Engle missed an important meeting on campus. Co-workers attempted to page him, but received no answer. Worried about Engle whose wife was attending a conference in Tuscaloosa, a co-worker drove to the Engle home on Finley Drive in the Cedars to check on the 32 year-old UNA employee. After failing to get anyone to the door, the co-worker let herself in with a key she had previously been given and was immediately aware of noxious fumes wafting in from the closed garage. She managed to make her way to the garage and turn off the ignition of Engle’s vehicle before sounding the alarm

Responders quickly cleared the garage of the carbon monoxide and removed Engle’s body from his Jeep Wrangler. Lauderdale Coroner Myron Crunk stated the UNA employee had been dead for several hours when the body was found.

Word of Engle’s death spread quickly, and so did the questions surrounding it. Engle had last been seen alive at around 8:30 p.m. that Monday, and Florence Police had received reports of a prowler in Engle’s neighborhood during the night. A car window at the home next door had been broken during the same timeframe. Had Gregory Keith Engle been murdered? Engle’s body was sent for an autopsy, but the post mortem soon confirmed what those who had been at the scene already strongly suspected: Greg Engle had committed suicide.

UNA President Robert Potts officially reported Greg Engle’s death at 11:00 o’clock the morning his body was found; by the close of business that Tuesday, less than 24 hours after his death, Engle’s co-workers had established the Greg Engle Leadership Scholarship, a scholarship which exists until this day. The university arranged a special memorial service for Greg Engle and provided counselors on campus for several days after his death. The effect of Engle’s death on the UNA campus was so strong that President Potts ordered all U.S. flags lowered to half staff—an act that legally only a president or governor can command.

Besides his paid position on campus which offered him unlimited access to the student life budget, Engle had been an SGA sponsor and also worked with several other campus groups for which he volunteered in a fiduciary function. By the end of March, the initial audits had been completed, and one UNA spokesman indicated that while the exact amount might never be known, Engle had usurped over $100,000.00 for his personal use.

A later report on the UNA commissioned audits of the 171 campus organizations falling under its fiduciary umbrella was released in August 1997, and the examiners officially announced $39,000.00 unaccounted for in treasuries overseen by Greg Engle. As is often the case with a bad bookkeeper or a good embezzler, some sets of books are in such disarray as to prohibit an extremely accurate accounting. Nevertheless, the officially reported $39,000.00 was not a small amount, and the unofficial amount of $100,000.00 in 1997 dollars was a sizable chunk of cash; where did all the money go? That question has never been answered.

In February 1998, Engle’s widow Claudia petitioned the Lauderdale County Probate Court to declare her late husband’s estate insolvent, stating there weren’t enough assets to pay off his debts. In 2002, Claudia Hanao Engle remarried and now lives in Mission Viejo, Texas. Neither the university nor any of the groups which fell victim to Greg Engle ever recovered any of the missing money.


Gregory Keith Engle is buried in Littleville Cemetery in Winston County. His Find-a-Grave memorial page is filled with remembrances; here are two of them:

The sorrow remains, even today. Such a senseless end. I wish you could have reached out, but none of that matters now. You are gone and the pain I feel is mine alone to bear. You were a good Tang Soo Do instructor and friend. I think of you from time to time, but it is painful. The way you took yourself away from everyone still hurts. 

and

Gosh, Greg...it's really, really amazing how quickly time goes by...just ten years ago, we were such good friends-- and then the unthinkable happened and you chose to end your life, leaving behind a beautiful wife, lots of devoted Phi Mu hotties, and a bank account full of pilfered money. So sad. When I think of how close you came to getting away from Florence with all that loot, I still shed a tear...but don't worry, Greg-- I'll never forget the times we shared. 



Note: Special thanks to a UNA alumnus/writer for providing information incorporated in this article.