College Giving Up

Ed and Gwen Cole
Ed and Gwen Cole

Charitable contributions to colleges and universities rose more than 3% nationwide. Giving from individual donors drove the increase. In Nacogdoches Ed and Gwen Cole are big backers of Stephen F. Austin State University and Lon Morris College.

The couple never attended college. The Depression prevented that. Yet they recognize the importance of education. "We all have an obligation to reinvest in our future, the ones coming on right now," advised Ed Cole whose wise investments make him capable of being a significant contributor.

A family education trust for 80 nieces and nephews, along with numerous SFA scholarships are the Coles' investment.

The Coles love music. So much so that their contributions helped create the Cole Concert Hall. Now most contributors will never have a building named in their honor, but the Coles say the size of the donation isn't important." Gwen Cole recalled, "I had a friend say $100 scholarship meant her going to school or not several years ago, so it really doesn't have to be a big amounts because all those small amounts add up."

In 2004 SFA raised over 3 million dollars. The 2% rise was just below the national average. The school was 40 on a list of 54 Texas colleges that are tracked by the council for aid to education. ( ) Fundraisers are confident their ranking will be higher this year. SFA Vice-President of University Advancement Dr. Jerry Holbert said, "'05 is gangbusters. With only 6 months in the fiscal year we're about 1-million,400-thousand ahead of our total amount of '04."

SFA is planning to launch a five to seven year fundraising campaign. The goal and start date haven't been decided. Undoubtedly the Coles can be counted on for a contribution.

A candlelit dinner on a new coliseum floor is one of the Coles' most memorable thank you's from SFA. Their continued support may bring even more surprises.