This article originally appeared in the winter 2017 issue of Harker Magazine.
Alumnus accepted his need for structure, discipline and went from rebellious teen to passionate police officer
Today, William Courchesne ’07 is a police officer with the Charleston Police Department, a cum laude graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and a married man. But if you knew Courchesne when he was a student at Harker (2003-07), that might surprise you.
“He was a wild child,” said Tony Silk, mathematics department chair and Courchesne’s freshman Algebra II teacher. “I remember Will very well as he was a unique student who brought so much to the classroom.”
Courchesne’s rebellious side was complemented by a sly sense of humor, which came out in a variety of ways, including addressing Silk by his first name. “I would be walking across campus and hear Will yelling ‘Tony!’,” remembered Silk with a smile. “I would remind him to address me as Mr. Silk, but I also understood that this is who he was.”
Silk, a former military man, found Courchesne’s antics amusing rather than frustrating and, as long as it didn’t disrupt the classroom, he was willing to allow him his freedom. It was this understanding and acceptance that connected Courchesne to Silk. “I kept coming back to him for advice,” recalls Courchesne. “He is a lot of the reason I went into the military.”
At Harker, Courchesne was on the yearbook staff, ran track and field, and participated in the Junior State of America. These activities helped Courchesne stay busy and focused. He remembers that he “wasn’t the greatest kid,” but he had an epiphany his junior year. He accepted that his academic record may not get him into a top-tier school, and realized that military school, in particular The Citadel, was a good option for him since he needed structure and discipline.
When he strode in to Silk’s office to ask for a recommendation, he was greeted with shock. Silk said he never would have connected Courchesne with the military. But then Courchesne explained that if there are strict rules and firm boundaries, he would commit to those rules.
“The summer before Will’s senior year, I visited a friend at The Citadel and realized that this would be a great fit for Will,” remembered Silk. “After he started college, we talked on the phone and he asked if he should refer to me as Commander Silk and I told him, ‘At this point, you can actually call me Tony.’”
The two stayed in touch and Courchesne even invited Silk to attend his graduation from The Citadel. Silk couldn’t make it, but Courchesne’s identical twin, Steven ’07, and his parents were there cheering him on. After graduation, Courchesne returned to California to pursue a career in business, which he had studied in school.
The economic downturn made job offers sparse, but a friend from The Citadel told Courchesne that the Charleston Police Department was always looking for strong candidates. Courchesne certainly qualified with his Citadel credentials plus his work in the California National Guard as a military police platoon leader, which is where he met his wife, Kristyne.
The two decided to start fresh in the South and have found a wonderful community. They got married in June 2017 just after Kristyne finished her undergraduate degree. It’s been a busy time for the newlyweds, but Courchesne is committed to his career in the police force. “Police work is an underrated profession,” he said. “My goal every day is to go work, keep the public safe and never have to use my gun.”
He recently went on a call to help a woman who was threatening to commit suicide. When the police arrived on the scene, she was clearly distraught and had multiple weapons. Courchesne and his partner calmly communicated with her and ultimately saved her life. This is the police work that rarely gets reported but is what being a police officer is all about for him.
“I want to help people and my career allows me do that every day,” said Courchesne.
Contributor Vikki Bowes-Mok is also the executive director of the community nonprofit Compass Collective.