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MU College of Education Receives $1 Million Gift To Support Elementary Education Students

The University of Missouri’s College of Education received a $1 million gift during National Teacher Appreciation Week to support elementary education students.

At a ceremony on Thursday, it was announced that the gift from MU alumnus Gary J. Coles and Patricia McIntosh Coles will create scholarships for students studying early childhood education or elementary education. Students will have to show financial need to qualify.

Shelby Johnson is the first recipient of the Dr. Patricia McIntosh Coles and Dr. Gary J. Coles 1981 Scholarship in Elementary Education award and spoke at the ceremony.

The MU junior said she feels honored to receive the award as it aids her in pursuing her dream career in elementary education.

“Something that I've always wanted to do for my students is to really connect with them, help them grow into the people that we want them to be, inspire them to be lifelong learners and to just spark that joy of what a classroom can bring to them,” Johnson said.

Patricia Coles said she and her husband decided to aim their gift toward students who intend to become elementary educators because that is the level where learning begins in people’s lives.

“The elementary grades are where the foundation of all future learning is set,” Patricia Coles said. “If you feel good about yourself in those primary grades, then you're going to feel good about yourself the rest of your life.”

Jaqueline Lewis is the vice chancellor of advancement at MU and oversees university funding, alumni affairs and engagement to help increase university support. She said gifts like the Coles’ demonstrate that they care to change students’ lives.

“The Coles are tremendous examples and role models for aspiring educators,” Lewis said. “And their support actually provides access to a new generation of teachers that will really impact Missouri and beyond.”

Patricia Coles spent several years of her career as an educator and administrator, including being an educator at Columbia Public Schools in the 1980s. Her husband, Gary Coles, graduated from the university in 1981 with a master’s degree from the MU Trulaske College of Business and later returned to teach MU classes in the MBA program.

For more information about the Coles’ gift, visit MU’s College of Education website.