MU announces $1 million gift to College of Education

Gift will create scholarships for MU elementary education students.

May 6, 2021
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144,

MU alumnus Gary J. Coles and Patricia McIntosh Coles have pledged a $1 million contribution to the University of Missouri’s College of Education. Announced during National Teacher Appreciation Week, which recognizes teachers around the country for their contributions to society, the gift will establish scholarships for MU students preparing to become elementary school teachers.

“We are extremely grateful for the Coles entrusting the MU College of Education with their legacy and generously expressing their love of education by assisting generations of future teachers,” said Erica Lembke, interim dean of the MU College of Education. “Their passion for education really shines through and their commitment to our college will support our students both now and in the future.”

This is a photo of Patricia and Gary Coles.

MU alumnus Gary J. Coles (right) and Patricia McIntosh Coles (left) have pledged a $1 million contribution to the University of Missouri’s College of Education.

Jackie Lewis, vice chancellor for advancement at MU, said the gift is a powerful recognition of the important work teachers perform.

“As accomplished educators themselves, the Coles know the importance of passing knowledge on to the next generation,” Lewis said. “With this gift, more students will be able to learn from the best while also developing the skills needed to pass their education on to the next generation. It’s our honor to share this wonderful news during Teacher Appreciation Week.”

Patricia Coles is a longtime school teacher and administrator, including several years of teaching at Columbia Public Schools in the 1980s. She served as director of Columbia Public School’s Title 1 reading program and founded their Title 1 math program. Title 1 is part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which aims to close the achievement gap between low-income and other students.

“Investing in education is investing in our future,” said Patricia Coles, who earned the National Parent Teacher Association Life Achievement Award in 2004. “The student-teachers we have at the University of Missouri are going to be teaching the children of the future and we want to give them any kind of help that we can.”

When Patricia Coles was in college, she went to the Mississippi Delta to work with students who had limited educational resources.

“It was an overwhelming experience for me, as the children didn’t have enough books or teachers,” Coles said. “I saw what their needs were and how they hungered for learning. That was when I realized I was going to be a teacher to try to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Shelby Johnson, a junior from Parker, Colorado, at MU majoring in elementary education, is the first scholarship recipient from the Coles’ gift.

“I am honored to accept this scholarship, and it will impact me by reducing financial stress and the worries of additional student loan debt,” Johnson said. “It is inspiring that the Coles are giving back in this way, and I am excited to become a teacher so that I can continue to serve others and impact the communities around me just as the Coles have.”

Gary Coles graduated from MU in 1981 with a master’s degree in business from the MU Trulaske College of Business and later returned to MU to teach classes in the MBA program. He was a senior research scientist at DuPont, an American chemicals company, and also served as the director of database marketing for the ‘Home and Health’ division of Reader's Digest Association before retiring in 2004.

“Education is the stem from which everything else grows,” Gary Coles said. “What we want to be able to do with our legacy is to ensure that students who may be interested in pursuing education don’t feel discouraged due to potential financial barriers.”

Editors’ note: To learn more about this scholarship and how to help sustain it for future educators, click here.

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